Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Shiawassee County Michigan + 3

We hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving Holiday.  If you don't live in the USA, then we're hoping that you have or have had a great weekend.

…continuing with our late summer road trip to Michigan and beyond.  In this post, Laurie and I were with my cousin Nathan and his wife Janice, finishing our exploration of Shiawassee County Michigan and specifically the city of Owosso.  We also touched on a couple other historic places closer to their home in Fenton Michigan.

Owosso has 20 homes separately listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as 3 Historic Residential Neighborhoods.  There are another 10 listings on the National Register including 2 commercial districts.  With one exception, we stayed with individual historic homes…

The Nathan Ayres House is located at 604 North Water Street.  The style is Italianate and that distinctive 5-sided bay on the front of the home certainly adds architectural interest.  Ayres was a brick mason by trade and by 1883 he was well-off enough to build this brick home.  Nathan’s daughter, Effie, taught in the Owosso school system for many years and was subsequently promoted to Principal at the city’s Central School.

This is the Benjamin Oliver Williams House.  It is located at 628 North Ball Street in Owosso.  Benjamin founded Owosso in 1836 with his brother Alfred.  The brothers worked to recruit settlers and manufacturers to the area.  In 1838, Benjamin built this small L-shaped wood framed Greek revival style house on West Oliver Street.  It was moved to Ball Street sometime after 1868.  Local craftsman and painter Henry Daniels purchased the home from Williams some time prior to 1876.

The George Pardee House is a bit newer than the previous two as it was built in 1906.  George Pardee was one of Owosso’s most successful lawyers.  To say that this home at 603 North Ball Street is eclectic might be an understatement.  It is Romanesque Revival inspired but it isn’t easily defined.  Note the rough-faced poured concrete block façade, the Ionic columns on the porch and then of course, there is that five-sided, three story tower.  It’s safe to say that the Pardee home was built to project an image of wealth and success.

Just down the street from the Pardee House, the Leigh Christian House can be found at 622 North Ball Street.  Leigh Christian was the son of a successful merchant named Daniel Christian and Leigh was part of the business.  He built this mixed styles home in 1895, with architectural elements of Queen Anne and Georgian Revival on display.  Leigh eventually became the sole proprietor of the family’s store…changing the retail focus to emphasize apparel and household goods.  Leigh and his family eventually moved into his father’s second home, the Goodhue-Christian House which is located in Owosso’s Oliver Street Historic District.

The Christian-Ellis house is located at 600 North Water Street in Owosso.  This is the home that Leigh Christian’s father Daniel built for the rest of his family in 1895.  In 1885 Daniel had opened a large dry-goods business in town.  It was the first real store in Owosso.  By the beginning of the 1900s, it had evolved into the city’s first true department store.  Looking at the house, one can see some of its Georgian Revival features such as the Doric columns on the porch and the paired rounded arch windows on the second story.  But the overall design is best described as transitional…with both Queen Anne and Georgian elements.

When Daniel Christian moved to his new home in what is now the Oliver Street Historic District, this house was purchased by J. Edwin Ellis, the President of the Independent Stove Company which Ellis had moved to Owosso from Detroit in 1908.  Ellis became very involved in Owosso’s social life and he served as the city’s mayor between 1941 and 1947.

This is the Alfred Williams House.  My photo didn't come out well enough to publish, so I captured this one from the Internet.  This one and a half story Greek revival home was built ca. 1840.  As you might recall from my notes about the first house listed in this post, Alfred and his Brother Benjamin were the founders of Owosso.  Alfred started the first general store in town, the Williams Brothers Trading Post.  He also dammed the Shiawassee River in 1836 and had a millrace built to channel the water power and establish the town’s first mills.  Initially this home was on Oliver Street and it was moved to 611 North Ball Street ca. 1900.

This 2-story, 3-bay brick Italianate home was built by Herman Frieseke in 1870.  Herman and his brother Julius operated a local brickyard which became quite profitable.  The front porch of the home has been altered and that ugly large concrete block addition at the back of the home certainly detracts from the home’s appearance.

The house is not known as the Hermann Frieseke House but rather as the Frederick Frieseke Birthplace and Boyhood Home.  Frederick was born here in 1874.  At a young age he showed quite an aptitude for art and, after elementary school, his parents sent him to the Art Institute of Chicago for further training.

The first painting shown above is a self-protrait by Frederick Frieske and the second one ia titled "Girl in Blue Arranging Flowers" and he painted it in 1915.  After finishing his studies at the Art Institute of Chicago, Frederick moved to Paris where he studied under Whistler.  Frederick was an impressionistic painter who spent most of his life in France where he was an influential member of the Giverny Art Colony.  He is especially known for painting female subjects, both indoors and out.  He was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, the highest honor bestowed on artists by the French government. 

Frederick Frieseke’s paintings are owned by many and varied art museums, both in the USA and abroad.  Examples include the Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the St. Louis Missouri Art Museum.  In Washington D.C. his works are on display at the Corcoran Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  His works sell for between $20 and $300 thousand dollars each.  To learn more about the artist and to view a variety of his paintings, just go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Carl_Frieseke.

The Elias Comstock Cabin is located at the corner of Curwood Castle Drive and John Street in Owosso.  That's Laurie standing at the front door waving at me.  Built in 1836, this 20’ by 30’ one-room cabin is the oldest residence that is still standing in the city.  I love that stonework at and around the hearth.

Elias was born in New London Connecticut in 1799.  In 1824, he moved to Michigan with his parents.  He taught school and in 1835 he moved to the newly established community of Owosso.  He was the city’s first real settler.  He was a successful merchant and in 1837 Governor Lewis Cass appointed Elias as the county’s Justice of the Peace.  Over the years, he also served as the Township’s Supervisor, a Judge of Probate, County Judge and Associate Judge of the Circuit Court.

Over time, the Comstock family added a series of frame additions to the house.  Eventually, that single room cabin became the living room and it was completely covered by a frame exterior.  In 1890, the home passed on to the first of two other families.  But in 1920, the Standard Oil Company bought the property and began demolition of the house…only to discover the old log cabin preserved inside.  The Daughters of the American Revolution then led an effort to preserve the cabin and in 1969 it was moved to its current site.

Yes indeed, it is a small castle!  Curwood Castle was built along the banks of the Shiawassee River by author James Oliver Curwood in 1923 and 1924.  It is a romantic version of a Norman Chateau.  Curwood used this as a place to greet guests and as a writing studio in his hometown of Owosso.  He actually lived nearby with his family on the other side of the river.  The exterior of the castle is made of yellow stucco which contains decorative, randomly placed fieldstones that Curwood chose himself.

The photos shown above are intended to give you an idea of what the interior of Curwood Castle looks like.  There are 3 levels in total but I wasn’t going to climb those steep narrow spiral staircases.  The first interior photo almost looks like a hunting lodge…deceptive in that in his later years, Curwood became a zealous conservationist.  I included that painting just because I liked it…

After his death in August of 1927, his will bequeathed the Castle to the City of Owosso.  Currently it is a museum operated by the city.  Each year the city hosts the Curwood Festival to celebrate the life and works of James Oliver Curwood. (1878 – 1927)   

So why the fuss over an author that most of us have never heard of?  James Curwood spent much of his early life out of doors, touring the south on a bicycle at a young age.  He attended the University of Michigan for a couple of years and then went to work as a reporter and later, as an editor at the Detroit Tribune Newspaper.  But in 1907, he returned to Owosso to focus on writing and int 1908, he published his first novel. 

Curwood was an action-adventure writer.  Many of his books are based on adventures in the Hudson Bay area of Canada, the Yukon or Alaska.  In total he published 28 adventure/nature novels, 2 collections of short stories and 3 other books, one an autobiography.  At least 180 movies have been based on or directly inspired by his novels and short stories.  James Curwood became quite wealthy as an author and at the time of his death he was the highest paid author (per word) in the world.  Old timers and movie buffs may know some of the actors who appeared in the movies made after the silent film era.  They include Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Charles Bickford, Rin Tin Tin (1, 2 and 3), Ann Sheridan, John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Buster Keaton, Hugh O’Brien, Neve Campbell (in 1995) and American Olympic hero Jim Thorpe.  And then there was Lois Maxwell, who was “Miss Moneypenny” in the first 14 James Bond movies.  To learn more about James Oliver Curwood, you can go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Oliver_Curwood.

Moving on from Owosso and Shiawassee County…

Our next stop was in Fenton Michigan.  The Fenton Railroad Depot is located at 207 Silver Lake Road and it’s been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983.  William Fenton and Robert Leroy founded Fentonville because they believed that a proposed railroad line would run through the settlement and in 1856, the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee did just that… 

The new brick depot was built in 1882 replacing an earlier wood structure that burned down.  The new depot served as built until 1923 when a fire destroyed its roof.  The roof was rebuilt to make the depot as it is seen today.  The depot served the railroad until 1974 when it was purchased by the City of Fenton.  Today it serves as offices for Southern Lakes Parks and Recreation.  The interior of the building remains intact…

Our last stop for the day was in the city of Holly in Oakland County Michigan.  Holly’s Union Depot was completed in 1886 to replace a wood frame depot that had burned down.  This depot was built by the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railroad to serve as a Union/shared depot for that line as well as the Flint and Pere Marquette which intersected here.  This late Victorian style depot served as Holly’s railroad passenger station for 80 years.  It appears to be deserted at this point in time.

Holly’s first white settler arrived in 1831 and the town was incorporated in 1838.  The village was initially called Algerville and then Holly Mills.  The real growth of the town began with the arrival of the railroad.  The interior of this new depot was paneled with Norway pine.  Each railroad had their own ticket booth and the depot had 2 waiting rooms, one for women only and the other with a lunch counter…an unusual feature for a small-town depot.  However since the station served 2 different railroads and had many transferring passengers, the lunch counter could thrive.  At the height of the railroad era, it was common for over 100 trains per day to pass through Holly. 

I found this old photo on line which shows the Holly Union Depot with a Grand Trunk Western passenger train dropping off and picking up passengers.  It isn’t clear how long this depot served the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad and its successors but it served rail passenger traffic on the Grand Trunk Western until about 1964. 

Of special note, it was at this depot in 1908, that prohibitionist and axe wielding Carry Nation arrived via train on her crusade against “demon” rum.  That fact ties nicely into the history of the last historic building that we photographed during our day of exploration.

The Holly Hotel was first known as the Hirst Hotel.  Located at 110 Battle Alley in Holly Michigan, this Queen Anne style hotel was built in 1891 by John Hirst in order to cater to the heavy flow of railroad passengers passing through the town.  With the finest and largest dining room in the area, the hotel rapidly became the social center of the community.  Joseph Allen purchased the hotel in 1912 and renamed it the Holly Inn.  In 1913, a disastrous fire destroyed the second and third floors.  Allen immediately rebuilt the hotel but in a more modest style.  He renamed it the “Allendorf Hotel”, a take-off on the name of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

But in 1978, the hotel suffered another destructive fire.  This time a local resident bought the building and restored it, rebuilding the roof and tower to the original 1891 design.  The building reopened as a fine restaurant in 1979 and every state governor since that time has dined here…as did President George H.W. Bush in 1992.  However, on June 21, 2022, fire destroyed multiple other buildings in downtown Holly, and the Hotel Holly again suffered significant damage.  It is scheduled to reopen in the summer of 2023.

Prohibitionist Carry Nation arrived in Holly on August 29, 1908.  The Hotel gained significant notoriety when axe wielding Carry and her Pro-Temperance supporters invaded the hotel.  Carry began smashing whisky bottles with her ax and her supporters attacked bar patrons with their umbrellas.  The owner of the hotel had Carry arrested… It had to be quite a crazy scene!  In recent times, the Holly Hotel celebrates Carry Nation’s visit every years with special menus, a re-enactment of her visit…and best of all, special reduced prices on alcoholic beverages. 

This is an early photo of the Hotel.  This was taken after the fire in 1913 when the hotel had been rebuilt more in a more modest style and before it was once again rebuilt in 1978 to resemble in the original 1891 building.  

For those of you who are into ghosts and hauntings, the Holly Hotel is the place for you!  Among the spirits are Mr. Hirst himself, Nora Kane, the Ghost in the Kitchen…perhaps a little girl, Leona, the Hirst’s dog and a “mysterious Native American”.  Plenty of disembodied voices, Nora Kane’s perfume, Mr. Hirst’s cigar smell and more have been noted.  Fun times for true believers in the spirit world!  You can check out the Holly Hotel when it reopens this coming summer.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog site!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Friday, November 25, 2022

A Meal in Owosso Michigan – Greg and Lou’s: A Great Find!

Before we left Owosso and Shiawassee County Michigan to return to Fenton and my cousin Nathan’s home, we stopped for a late lunch/early dinner.  As is my practice, I’d done a bit of research and had picked a likely restaurant for our late afternoon meal.

I chose Greg and Lou’s Restaurant for 3 reasons.  First of all, it was rated well by the different rating services…either #4, #2 or #1.  The service where this restaurant was rated #1 included an extremely high number of reviews…over 1,600!  Secondly, the menu provides a lot of choices for diners, reminiscent of the corner neighborhood Greek owned restaurants scattered around the Chicago area.  And finally, the pricing is very reasonable given our current bout with inflation.

The interior of Greg and Lou’s Restaurant is down home cozy…like an upscale diner.  Seating was comfortable, not too crowded.  Laurie and Janice were about to find a place to sit at our table at the center right of the photo.  The décor is a bit dated but everything was clean and actually, the décor lends itself to the image of a local traditional family restaurant.

Note the pie rack at the center of the photo…as well as the baked goods on the check-out desk.

Laurie decided to start out with something she never has at home, (I don’t like onions) and she rarely encounters it on the menu when we eat out…a nice crock of cheesy French Onion Soup. (Cup $3.49/Bowl $4.29) It was very good and I had a happy wife!

For an appetizer to be shared by the table, I ordered the Fried Clam Strips. ($6.29) They came with tartar and cocktail sauce…the latter being my preference.  Nathan and I had eaten a few clam strips before I remembered to take the photo.  This was the first batch of quality fried clam strips that I’ve had since we took our trip to New England in 2018. 

Janice ordered the Walleye Fish Dinner. ($14.99) This large fried walleye filet came with a side salad, a roll and her choice of potatoes or rice pilaf.  She chose the French fries.  She was very happy indeed with her choice of entrees.

I can assure you that you will not find Walleye on any menu near where we live in East Tennessee!  It is one of our favorite fish.  There are a total of 18 different seafood and fish related items on Greg and Lou’s menu.

Note: The seafood/fish entrees can be ordered deep fried, pan fried, baked or charbroiled.

Laurie also decided to go for fish as her entrée.  She chose the Lake Perch Dinner. ($14.99) As with Janice’s meal, Laurie’s entrée included a side salad, roll and her choice of potatoes or rice pilaf.  It had been several years since Laurie had perch, or for that matter, even had seen it on a menu.  The last time would have been during a trip to Wisconsin.

Other seafood/water related items on Greg and Lou’s menu include Bluegill ($16.99), Deep Fried Smelt ($11.99) and, Frog Legs ($13.99).

FYI…Greg and Lou’s menu includes 17 appetizers, 4 chicken wraps, 6 hamburger options, 3 chicken baskets, 6 chicken dinners and 20 sandwiches of all varieties.

Nathan and I chose the same thing for our dinners…the Four Piece Fried Chicken Dinner. ($12.99) We could have gone with the Two Piece Dinner ($11.59) but what the heck!  Our dinners came with a side salad, a vegetable and a choice or potatoes or rice pilaf.  The only difference between our meals was our choice of potatoes…hash browns for me and French fries for Nathan.  It was a lot of food for the money and the quality was there as well.  I love fried chicken!

I had struggled with my dinner choice for a moment or two after I noticed that Greg and Lou’s serves Breakfast all day.  It is my favorite meal.  How about a 14 oz. Prime Rib with 2 eggs, hash browns and toast for $16.59!

The menu goes on and on.  In addition to everything else I’ve mentioned, Greg and Lou’s offers 11 different dinner salads, pasta, pork chops, steaks, prime rib, beef liver, a hot roast beef sandwich and more…

Whoops!  I almost forgot dessert! (This is a 'borrowed' photo) We were far too full to follow these meals with dessert but we did succumb to temptation and we took 4 slices of Banana Cream Pie back to Nathan and Janice’s home for later that evening.  Like everything else, the homemade pie was very good.  Greg and Lou’s offers a fair number of dessert items and baked treats with 3 different cakes, 7 different pies, a turtle brownie sundae, giant pecan and cinnamon rolls and sugar cookies.

This restaurant was opened in 1983.  The current owners bought the restaurant in 2014.  He had worked there as the chef beginning in 1987 and his wife worked there beginning in 1994.  Whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it right.

Greg and Lou’s Family Restaurant is located at 1460 North Michigan Highway 52 in Owosso Michigan.  They are open daily from 6:30 AM until 8 PM, except on Fridays and Saturdays when they’re open until 9 PM.  Phone: 989-725-9601.  Website: https://www.gregandlous.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Shiawassee County Michigan (2) – Steam Railroading Institute

…continuing with Laurie and my exploration of Shiawassee County Michigan with my cousin Nathan and his better half, Janice.  This is part of Laurie and my late summer 2022 road trip.

I didn’t have a good photo of the Steam Railroading Institute’s Welcome Center so I ‘borrowed’ this aerial view from the Institute’s website.  The Welcome Center is based in a freight warehouse which used to be serviced by the Ann Arbor Railroad.  The age of the building hasn’t been determined but another building rested on the current foundation toward the end of the 1800s.  The best guess as to the date this concrete block building was constructed is sometime in the 1920s.  During our visit, rolling stock filled the yard area...

As you’ll see in subsequent photos, the Steam Railroading Institute occupies quite a large site in Owosso...basically a large part of a former rail yard which included a roundhouse and a turntable for use with the locomotives.  The goals of the Steam Railroading Institute include public education as relates to steam era railroad operations in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region.  Of course, this effort includes maintaining the skills and technology needed to maintain steam locomotives.  The best way to maintain those skills and to educate the public is to operate steam locomotive related equipment and by providing the public with the experience of steam locomotives in operation. 

In addition to the information desk and a number of exhibits in the Steam Railroading Institute, there are quite a few exhibits, photos, etc., plus gift items and as you can see above, there is room for group or class presentations.  I love this quilt showing the Institutes locomotives!  At our home I have a large hooked rug that my mother made for me a long time ago depicting a steam locomotive crossing the prairie with bison and Native Americans included. 

FYI, one of the most popular attractions at the Institute is the 7.5 inch Gauge Miniature Railroad off to one side of the railyard near the river.  These one-eighth scale trains began operations back in 2009.  Passengers welcome!

During our visit, both of the Institute’s steam locomotives were undergoing major overhauls.  Shown above it Pere Marquette steam locomotive #1225 up on blocks with the wheels missing…something I’d never seen before.  This locomotive is undergoing some of the most extensive mechanical work it’s experienced in over 70 years. 

Pere Marquette #1225 is the largest locomotive in the Steam Railroading Institute’s collection and it is one of the largest operating steam locomotives in the state of Michigan.  Of course, given my “luck”, neither of the Institute’s steam locomotives were operational when we visited.

Locomotive #1225, a 2-8-4 ‘Berkshire’ type, was built in October of 1941 by the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio.  This locomotive was used for 10 years, hauling freight for Michigan factories and farms…obviously including war materials during WWII.  This is one of 39 of the locomotives of this type that were built for the Pere Marquette Railway.  Eventually, this model of the ‘Berkshire’ steam locomotive was used by over a dozen railroads to haul freight and maximum speed and minimal cost.

As you can see by the logo at the bottom of the photo above, which shows locomotive #1225, this is yet another photo I borrowed and am republishing for the ‘public good’.  That winter scene is why we moved to Eastern Tennessee and warmer weather.  

The Pere Marquette steam locomotive is 101 feet long and with its tender, it weighs 401 tons.  It takes about 8 hours to generate a full head of steam in the boilers.  The tender holds 22 tons of coal and 22,000 gallons of water.  The engine gobbles up a ton of coal every 12 miles and it uses 150 gallons of water per mile.  In today’s dollars, the cost of the locomotive totaled $2,500,000.

Pere Marquette Locomotive #1225 continued in service until it was retired in 1951 and replaced by diesel locomotives.  In 1957 it was saved by a Dodge Motor’s Vice President who also served as a Michigan State University Trustee.  He viewed the locomotive as a real piece of machinery for engineering students to learn from… Eventually #1225 made its way back to Owosso and the former Ann Arbor Railroad’s steam back shop.  By 1985, it moved under its own power after 34 years in a static state. 

Owned, maintained and operated by the Steam Railroading Institute, Pere Marquette #1225 is listed on the National Register of Historic Structures.  It also gained fame for its role in the 2004 Christmas movie classic, “The Polar Express”.  Its blueprints were used for the movie locomotive’s image and its sounds helped bring the animated train in the film to life.

These are the ‘missing’ wheels…including the drive wheels…for Pere Marquette Steam locomotive #1225.  They are huge.  Our guide told us that they had just come back from being reconditioned at a facility in East Tennessee near Chattanooga.  Reconditioning these old steam locomotives is quite challenging as there are very few companies who are capable or equipped to complete the varied tasks.

Railroad round tables were designed to ease the task of ‘parking’ locomotives in a repair shop or roundhouse. 

The round table at the Steam Railroading Institute was built in 1919 with a 90-foot length.  It was installed for the Pere Marquette Railway at the engine/locomotive terminal in New Buffalo Michigan.  It served that 16-stall/workstation roundhouse until operations were ceased at that terminal in 1984.  The Steam Railroading Institute relocated it to Owosso and the Institute uses it to turn the equipment, provide service to the back shop…and of course to demonstrate its use for visitors.  When the Institute purchased the round table, they added 10 feet to its length, which made it easier to handle Pere Marquette Locomotive #1225 and other large pieces of rolling stock.

I also borrowed this photo from the Internet.  This is the second steam locomotive owned by the Steam Railroading Institute.  Chicago and Western #175 was built in 1908 by the American Locomotive Company.  Until the early 1950s, this locomotive hauled freight and passenger trains from rural Wisconsin to the iron-mining area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It is a 4-6-0 ten-wheeler, a late example of the standard dual-purpose locomotive of the early 1900s.

The Chicago and North Western Railroad and others ordered 395 locomotives similar to this one.  However, #175 is one of the 40 most modern of the group.  With its 63” driving wheels, this model locomotive was known to exceed speeds of 60 miles per hour.  #175 is the only Chicago and North Western locomotive in Michigan and it was the last steam locomotive to operate on that railroad before it was retired in 1957.  The Institute bought #175 from the Mineral Range Railroad in 2017 and it was moved to Owosso. 

Just my luck… The Steam Railroading Institute is in the process of rebuilding the wheel and running gear of the Pere Marquette #1225, followed by a complete rebuild of the CNW #175.  The Institute will finish restoring #175 following the return of #1225’s return to service.  Donations are needed for both projects!  Check out the needs at https://michigansteamtrain.charityproud.org/Donate.

In addition to the 2 steam locomotives, the Stream Railroading Institute possesses a plethora of other equipment and parts/pieces of equipment.  To me it looks like the first photo above is of a steam locomotive’s firebox and boiler area.  In any case, it is eye-catching…

Rolling stock includes a General Electric 25-ton Switcher used for moving Pere Marquette #1225 around the facility as needed.  It’s much simpler to use the diesel powered switcher than firing up the boilers to relocate that big locomotive somewhere else in the railyard. 

In addition the Institute owns 2 Pere Marquette Parlour or dome lounge cars, 6 Canadian National coaches, a Pennsylvania Railway coach, 2 Santa Fe Railway Hi Level coaches, an Amtrak Diner car, a Northern Pacific Railway diner car, a U.S. Army Kitchen car and 2 Pullman Sleeper Cars, one from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and the other from the Northern Pacific Railway.

As Nathan and I wandered around the rail yard and rolling stock service and repair area, I noted this Grand Trunk Railroad Electro-motive GP-9 Diesel locomotive hiding in the background.  This unit was built in 1954 and it was among the first dozen diesel locomotives ordered by the Grand Trunk.  Originally number as GTW 1752, in 1956 it was re-numbered as #4428.  It was retired in 1992.  Since retirement from GTW, #4428 has had a number of owners.  I don’t know if the Steam Railroading Institute owns #4428, but I did find a photo of this particular diesel locomotive pulling the Institute’s ‘North Pole Express’ Christmas train and they will be using a Diesel locomotive during this holiday season.

The Steam Railroading Institute is located at 405 South Washington Street in Owosso Michigan.  Phone: 989-725-9464.  Check out their website at https://michigansteamtrain.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and for following us on our late summer roadtrip!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, November 18, 2022

Exploring Shiawassee County Michigan (1)

…continuing with the family visit portion of our late summer road trip to Michigan and beyond.

The morning after our family get together with Nadine, Sherman, ‘wee’ Nathan and Lulu.  I wandered into Nathan and Janice’s cozy living room and found the king of the castle ‘chilling’ in his chair with a cup of coffee.  So I grabbed a cup and sat in the chair on the other side of the fireplace.  We were like two large bookends…

After breakfast, Nathan, Janice, Laurie and I hit the road to Shiawassee County Michigan.

Our first stop was at Durand’s Union Station.  Originally this was a busy Grand Trunk Western Railroad and Ann Arbor Railroad station.  Built in 1903, it also served as a local office for Grand Trunk Western.  Today it is owned by the City of Durand.  It is leased by Durand Union Station, Inc., a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the preservation of the depot and its adjoining property. 

This unique railway station is situated at the junction of Canadian National Railway’s mainline interchange of the Flint and Holly Subdivisions.  In addition, both the Great Lakes Central Railroad and Huron and Eastern Railway operate neat the depot.  The depot is very popular with rail fans from across the USA due to its unusual and striking architecture.  Note the pop of color with the presence of that Grand Trunk Railroad caboose...

Grand Trunk Western decided to close the Durand Union Station in 1974 because of declining traffic.  This spectacular building was scheduled to be torn down, but the city of Durand filed for an injunction to stop the demolition.  The City purchased the depot in 1979 for $1.00.

Amtrak restored service through the depot in 1974.  Today Amtrak provides daily intercity passenger rail service on the “Blue Water” route between Chicago Illinois and Port Huron Michigan.  In 2021, Amtrak reported passenger boarding’s that totaled 5,824 in Durand. 

The Durand Union Station also is the home of the Michigan Railroad History Museum, an educational and entertaining source for Michigan’s expansive railroad history.  In addition, this depot is home to the Durand Union Station Model Railroad Engineers, Inc.  They maintain a model railway display in the old mail/storage room in the depot.  For more information go to http://durandstation.org/michigan-railroad-history-museum.html.

I came across this old photo on-line and I just couldn’t resist including it in this post… As I’d mentioned earlier, this handsome depot served both the Grand Trunk Western and the Ann Arbor Railroads.  Those rail lines actually crossed right at the station.  The station was partially destroyed by fire in 1905 but it was quickly repaired.  Given the scene depicted in the photo it’s not hard to believe that at the peak, the Durand Union Station served 42 passenger trains, and 22 mail trains and another 78 trains passed through Durand each day.

This is another photo borrowed from the Internet that shows Grand Trunk Western Steam Locomotive #6319 arriving in Durand.  It was the town’s last steam-powered passenger run.  The date was March 17, 1960.  Interestingly, despite Durand’s important as a major rail hub, with such an impressive depot, Durand has never had a large population.  At the peak of railroading in 1930, the town had a population of 3,031.  As of 2020, Durand is home to 3,507 residents.

In a Kiwanis park near Durand’s Union Station, we noted this old Grand Trunk Railroad locomotive on static display.  It was accompanied with what appeared to me to be a former baggage car, as well as an old signal control tower.

This is steam locomotive #5632 back in the days when it was still in use.  Three of these Class K-4-b Pacific type (4-6-2) locomotives were built in 1929 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for Grand Trunk Western’s passenger service.  The locomotive and its tender weigh about 255 tons.  The tender could hold 10,000 gallons of water plus 16 tons of coal.  Locomotive #5632 was operational well in the 1950s.  It was donated to the City of Durand in 1961.

Despite much effort, I cannot determine when this early Grand Trunk Railway Passenger Depot or the adjoining Freight Depot was built in Owosso Michigan.  I do know that as of 2015, the passenger depot was being used by the local Elks Lodge.  As you can see, it’s fairly intact at least on the outside.  It’s very unusual that I can’t find any information about this apparently abandoned depot…

I did learn that at one time Owosso was home to 3 different railroad stations for 3 different railroad companies.  They were: Ann Arbor Railroad (route from Elberta Michigan to Toledo Ohio); New York Central aka the Michigan Central Railroad (Bay City Michigan to Jackson Michigan) and of course, the Grand Trunk Western (Muskegon Michigan to Detroit Michigan.

I also learned that the first train to reach Owosso was in 1856 on the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee division of the Grand Trunk rail system.  A second line, once referred to as the Saginaw division of the Michigan Central Railroad opened in town in late 1862.

FYI, the city was named after Chief Wosso or Wassa, an Ojibwe leader in the Shiawassee area.  In the 1950s, a major Montgomery Alabama newspaper reported the Owosso was a “sundown town”, where African Americans were not allowed to live or stay overnight.  Reportedly, there were 4 such towns or cities in Michigan.

This is the Shiawassee County Courthouse.  It’s located in Corunna Michigan.  This handsome structure was completed in 1904 in the Classic Revival style.  It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the building continues to function as the seat of county offices and it is an active courthouse.

Shiawassee County was first organized in 1837.  It was named for the Shiawassee River.  The Native American definition for Shiawassee is “river that twists about”.  Another source reports that a European fur trapper in the area asked the Native Americans for direction to their reservation.  They answered in their own language, saying “Shiawassee”, which meant “the river straight ahead”. 

During World War II, the U.S. Government set up 25 Prisoner of War Camps in Michigan.  One of them was called “Camp Owosso” and it was established at a local dirt race track.  Prisoners were kept in tents with cement floors.  A kitchen, showers and toilets were also built.  In May of 1944, 200 veterans of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps arrived at the camp.  By July of 1944, 375 prisoners were being held at “Camp Owosso”.

National attention was focused on Shiawassee County when 2 of the German POW’s escaped from their work assignment and made their way to a spot where 2 American women were waiting for them with a car.  They sped away but the next day they were found hiding in a ‘thicket’.  The Germans were returned to the camp and the 2 women were prosecuted in federal court and served time in prison.

That’s all for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave