Looking Back

Published September 22, 2017

On Aug. 27, 2017, when the doors of the Gibraltar Trade Center closed for good, we marked the end of another era for the property that was once home to the Mount Clemens Race Track.

The site was part of Harrison Township until it was annexed by Mount Clemens. The track opened around 1900 and featured year-round horse races and parimutuel betting. When horse racing on ice and betting were banned, the track turned to auto racing.

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Published September 21, 2017

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — There’s no doubt about it: Harrison Township is growing.

According to a 2000 census, the population of the lakefront community stood at 24,461. The number of people residing in the township increased to 26,004 by 2008, and as of today, the community is more than 27,000 strong, with population estimates over the next two years to exceed 28,000.

With that increase in the population comes an increase in construction, both commercial and residential.

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Published September 19, 2017

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — When Tom Carnaghi joined the Lochmoor Club 14 years ago, he knew it was the place to be based on how quickly he felt welcome.

“You walk in and you know everybody,” he said. “People here care about each other. They like to have fun.”

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Published September 18, 2017

BIRMINGHAM — As far as female trailblazers go, the city of Birmingham has one of the best.

Back when Birmingham was still a village, Martha Baldwin was a force to be reckoned with. She founded the public library, became a public servant in a male-dominated realm, and created a Village Improvement Society that advocated for the installation and beautification of sidewalks, which included a ban on spitting chewing tobacco in public — a ban she personally enforced.

Oh, and she refused to wear a corset too.

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Published September 18, 2017

Betty Anne Knudson, of Waterford, speaks during the full military honors ceremony for Nathaniel Squire, an American Revolution patriot and first Utica settler in 1817, at the Utica Cemetery Sept. 17. Knudson is Squire’s second great-granddaughter.

Officials unveiled the memorial grave marker from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for Squire, who served in the American Revolution, during Squire’s full military honors ceremony. Ten years of research had gone into proving that Squire is buried in the Utica Cemetery, since records do not reach that far back.

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Published September 14, 2017

Children’s birthday parties weren’t always about cake, pizza, sugary drinks, and high-energy fun and games.

During the Victorian era, birthday parties were balls thrown by the rich to show off their affluence and to teach children etiquette lessons — which hardly sounds like something any 6-year-old would look forward to.

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Published September 12, 2017

ROCHESTER — High school students and teachers pose for a 1908 group picture in the Harrison Building, at Wilcox Street and University Drive, currently the site of the Rochester Community Schools administration building.

The history of Rochester-area schools dates to 1827, when a law was passed requiring townships with 50 or more families to employ a schoolmaster for three months of annual schooling. The earliest archival records for the Stony Creek No. 1 Fractional School are dated 1841, according to Rochester Hills Museum records.

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Published September 12, 2017

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — A.H. Peters Funeral Home — the two-story building with the impressive landscaping — has been a staple in Grosse Pointe Woods for 60 years, but the business has existed for much longer than that, and it turns 100 this year.

To mark the centennial milestone, staff will hold a celebration from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 16 on the grounds of the funeral home, located at 20705 Mack Ave. at Vernier Road.

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Published September 11, 2017

This circa 1960 aerial photo is of the manufacturing facility that became the Ford/Visteon plant in Shelby Township. These buildings, designed by Albert Kahn, were constructed by the Packard Motor Car Co. beginning in 1951 and were used to assemble and test J-47 turbojet engines. After Packard went out of business, Curtiss-Wright bought the facility in 1958 and also used it to test military jet aircraft engines. In 1961, the plant was sold to Ford Motor Co. By 1962, Ford had moved its automotive trim operations to this facility from Highland Park.Read More

Published September 11, 2017

In 2013, while co-teaching an anthropology class on Apple Island for Western Michigan University, I became interested in the vacation habits of the Campbell family, who occupied the island from 1856 until the first quarter of the 20th century. I decided to use the Campbell family and their experience on Apple Island as a focus for my dissertation work. Amongst the many artifacts we found that helped us cobble together the history of the Campbells were kaolin pipes, commonly referred to as clay pipes.

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Published September 11, 2017

UTICA — At 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, Nathaniel Squire, a Revolutionary War patriot who was one of the first people to settle the land that is now the city of Utica, will receive full military honors after 185 years at the Utica Cemetery.

Ten years of research have gone into proving that Squire is buried in the Utica Cemetery, since records do not reach that far back. The ceremony will include the unveiling of a memorial grave marker from the U.S. Department of Veterans, along with the pomp and circumstance associated with honoring military service.

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Published September 5, 2017

ROCHESTER — In the first half of the last century, most of the city’s houses of worship were located on Walnut Street, and residents called the avenue “church street.”

Included was St. Andrew Catholic Church. In the early 20th century, Rochester’s Western Knitting Mills had trouble keeping Catholic workers in their employment for longer than a few months. The community had no Catholic church, leaving many devout Catholic workers no choice but to leave in search of other employment.

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Published September 1, 2017

BIRMINGHAM — There’s nothing like a good birthday party.

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center will celebrate its own 60th anniversary Sunday, Sept. 10, during a special edition of the monthly free Sunday @ the Center event. The whole family is invited to come have some fun with all-ages art activities, giveaways and, of course, cake.

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Published August 25, 2017

It is thought that the idea of the carousel grew out of the sports in which knights in the Middle Ages participated. With the invention of mechanical power, a moving carousel was possible; the first steam-powered “mechanical roundabout” debuted at a fair in England in 1861.

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Published August 22, 2017

ROCHESTER HILLS — The history of Avon Township’s fire department began in 1946, when residents of the Brooklands neighborhood realized that Rochester’s fire resources were too far away.

“We forget how rural these areas were,” Rochester Hills Museum Director Pat McKay said. “Twenty-five men got together. The guys had come home from the war.”

The Brooklands men — who lived off of Auburn Road, near John R — held chicken dinners to raise funds and volunteered their time.

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Published August 21, 2017

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Leaders at Way Elementary School, in Bloomfield Township, want the community to “go way back” with them as they celebrate their 50th anniversary with a festival full of games, attractions and refreshments.

Opening in 1967, the school has taught thousands of young students in the Blomfield area. The event will take place 6-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, on the school grounds. Current and former students, teachers, staff, administrators, parents and community members are invited.

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Published August 17, 2017

In the 1800s, Harrison Township and the surrounding areas consisted primarily of French strip farms that produced crops like wheat, corn, barley, oats, buckwheat and potatoes. The township also produced 22,270 pounds of marketed pork. By 1942, when this picture was taken, many of the farms were gone, but Bob Lagalski was still tending the family pig farm. Today the land is the home of L’Anse Creuse High School. Special thanks to Fred Pankow for passing along this photo.

— Marie P. (Ling) McDougal, Harrison Township historian

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Published August 17, 2017

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — The building that was once an elementary school and later housed L’Anse Creuse Public Schools’ administrative offices is gone.

Demolition of the two-story structure, formerly located at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and L’Anse Creuse Street in Harrison Township, began on July 28 and was completed the first week of August, followed by some cleanup.

Now the next stage for the site of the former Jefferson Elementary School and adjoining properties is underway.

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Published August 15, 2017

ROCHESTER — Residents, business owners, elected officials and administrators in Rochester came together to unveil a 20-foot-tall sundial in celebration of the city’s bicentennial Aug. 12.

City Beautiful Commission Chair Lynn Marie Oates said former City Councilman Steve Sage, who previously served on the CBC, came up with the idea for the sundial about six years ago. His idea was put on the back burner for a number of years, until the City Council issued a request for proposals asking for ideas for a monument to commemorate the bicentennial.

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Published August 15, 2017

The John Warrenner farmhouse — occasionally spelled with one “n” — was built along Ryan Road between 14 Mile and 15 Mile roads by Warrenner’s family in 1868 and 1869.

Although the building was empty for many years, in the 1990s the Eckert family refurbished the exterior of the building and has since made it part of Eckert’s Greenhouse. The left photo is the building before restoration; the right photo is after restoration.

— Photos and information provided by Debbie Vercellone

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Upcoming Events

Sterling Heights
Charity celebration dinner
6-11 p.m.
Penna's of Sterling
Royal Oak
Stagecrafters to perform 'Bug'
8 p.m.
Stagecrafters Baldwin Theatre
Madison Heights
All-Scale Train Show
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
UFCW Local 876 Hall
Shelby Township
Lunch and skate with Moana
9 a.m.-noon
The New Rink Skating Center
Eastpointe
Family dance fundraiser
5 p.m.
Love Life Family Christian Center

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