Looking Back

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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Published August 15, 2017

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Grosse Pointe Shores might soon have a distinction that its fellow Pointes don’t share.

City officials hope to learn in the coming weeks whether the City Hall building at 795 Lake Shore Road will receive recognition by the Michigan Historical Commission. Designed by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn and completed in late 1915, the building was honored earlier this year by the Grosse Pointe Historical Society.

“I’m hoping in the fall, we’ll get word” about the state designation, Mayor Ted Kedzierski said.

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Published August 14, 2017

FERNDALE — On Aug. 12, 1917, Oakland County Deputy Sheriff Albert Anderson lost his life at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Nine Mile Road.

Anderson, who had just finished a shift at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, and who had a real estate business in Ferndale, had gotten off the interurban railway car at around 12:40 a.m. when he noticed a suspicious person near a business at the intersection.

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Published August 11, 2017

WARREN — It was a simpler time. Warren was a growing frontier settlement. The Wiegands were a pioneer family, farming land that would eventually become part of the General Motors Technical Center.

Born to German immigrants on Dec. 13, 1872, Frank Wiegand Sr. would give much of his life to his wife, Cyrila, and to their eight children. The rest he gave to the Warren area.

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Published August 9, 2017

WARREN — Warren’s history was written by many residents. But right now, it’s being researched and recorded by just a few. 

The members of the Warren Historical & Genealogical Society are hoping to change that.

The group is inviting any current or former residents with an interest in the history of the city and the families that settled it to join them.

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Published August 2, 2017

TROY — The over 160 quilts that will be featured in the “Threads” exhibit at the Troy Historic Village offer a glimpse of history and art pieced together and stitched in textiles. 

The quilts will be exhibited in the Caswell House, the General Store, the parsonage, Old Troy Church, Troy Town Hall and the main building Aug. 7-18 at the village. 

Loraine Campbell, executive director of the Troy Historic Village, said the quilts will be draped on furniture, quilt racks and beds. 

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