The new cover for my book Faces, Places and Days Gone By, a Pictorial History of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
This new book will be released in the next few weeks. If you are a fan of the historical pictures I post on this site, this book is for you. I have opened up my collection of Upper Peninsula historical pictures to share with my readers over 100 rare glimpses into the U.P.’s past. Here’s what is already being said about the book:
Enjoy a Visual Trip to See How People Lived and Worked in the U.P. in
Classen’s pictorial history is the next best thing to a time machine, as we get a front-row seat in the worlds of shipping and shipwrecks, iron and copper mining, timber cutting, hunting and fishing and the everyday lives of ordinary folks of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula across more than 100 years. Faces, Places, and Days Gone By peers into our past through the lenses of those that lived and explored it. See what they saw as time passed and how the U.P. evolved into the wonderous place we know today.
From the author’s unique collection, witness newly restored images from long lost stereoviews, cabinet cards, postcards and lithograph engravings. Join us on a visual journey to relive some of those moments, and discover a unique heritage through those faces and places. From the Soo to Ironwood, from Copper Harbor to Mackinaw Island–you’ll never see the U.P. in quite the same way!
With his book Faces, Places, and Days Gone By, historian Mikel B. Classen has achieved a work of monumental importance. Drawing from his collection of archival photographs, Classen takes readers on a journey in time that gives rare insight into a vanished world. — Sue Harrison, international bestselling author of The Midwife’s Touch.
Mikel Classen’s Faces, Places, and Days Gone By provides a fascinating and nostalgic look at more than a century of Upper Michigan photography. From images of iron mines and logging to Sunday drives and palatial hotels, you are bound to be in awe of this chance to visit the past. — Tyler R. Tichelaar, award-winning author of Kawbawgam: The Chief, The Legend, The Man
Mikel Classen’s new book, Faces, Places, and Days Gone By, belongs in every library in
Michigan. And when I say every library, I’m talking about every public, high school and college storehouse of knowledge. — Michael Carrier, MA, New York University, author of the award-winning Jack Handler U.P. mystery series
It is my hope that everyone will enjoy these images of days gone by as much as I do. This edition is volume 1 for what I hope to be a continuing series so that others might enjoy having this collection too.
Grand Sable Falls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Grand Marais. Photograph by Mikel B. Classen
Grand Sable Falls is located on the eastern end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Though it is not the largest waterfall in the park, it’s beauty makes it one of the park’s premier sights. The falls are located a mile west of Grand Marais off H-58, a well marked parking lot is the trail head. The walk to the falls is short and not difficult. The 168 steps to the bottom provide different views of the falls on the way down and from here can be seen this 75 foot cascade in its entirety. The stream is surrounded by hardwoods of Maple and Aspen adding to the falls’ ever changing look with the seasons. This is an incredible autumn destination. During the Summer, look closely, Trillium and Lady Slippers can be spotted in the forest.
Trillium in Black & White. Photograph by Mikel B. Classen
This has always been a special place and marks the beginning of the massive Grand Sable Sand dunes. A small walk from the bottom of the falls to the beach, just a few yards, awaits one of the most spectacular views on all of Lake Superior. Standing there looking up at the immense sand dunes that stretch in an arc to Au Sable Point 15 miles away, is a moment worth walking to. As a suggestion, walk the shore back to Grand Marais from here. It’s a great alternative to the stair climb.
Lady Slippers are one of the wildflower wonders of the U.P. Photograph by Mikel B. Classen.
The eastern end of Pictured Rocks gets much less traffic than the west end at Munising. Grand Sable Falls is one of the overlooked attractions at the National Park. Missing this is a big mistake. This is a must-see for any trip into Grand Marais.
Historical Picture of Grand Sable Falls with visitors. Today, there are stairs. People and photographer unknown. From Mikel B Classen historical pictures collection
Special Note: This attraction is located within the National Park. It was announced that the National Park Service (NPS) would be instituting fees or requiring passes for park visitors beginning this year. At this moment it is unclear what that will be and how this will affect visitors to Sable Falls. I advise stopping into the NPS visitor’s center first to learn what the requirements are if any. Access has always been free and open before.
Where Grand Sable Creek meets Grand Sable Dunes at the shore of Lake Superior. Photograph by Mikel B. Classen
The outside of the Ambassador, like Dr. Who’s TARDIS, quiet and unassuming on the outside, but step through the door and a different and unexpected world is revealed.
Houghton, Michigan in the Keweenaw Peninsula is easily one of the truly historical cities in Michigan if not the midwest. Just driving down the streets takes one back 130 years. If it wasn’t for the cars, there wouldn’t be much difference. Many of the buildings are over a century old and still stand, used for businesses to this day.
Inside, many of the old buildings, the interiors have been modernized, but one is a marvelous step back into time. The Ambassador Restaurant is worth going to, simply to see the inside. It is colorful and antique while providing wonderful views. It is a place where the old town still lingers.
When walking into the Ambassador the colored lights and murals give a sense of wonder when coming through the door.
Built in 1898, the brick building is one block east of the Houghton Lift Bridge. From the outside, it almost seems like just any other place, but when you open the door, you step into a showcase of stained glass, murals, and woodwork. The back wall is lined with windows that provide expansive views of the Portage Canal, the Houghton Lift Bridge, and the city of Hancock, topped by the Quincy Mine hoist protruding into the skyline.
The back wall of the Ambassador is mostly window. The Houghton Lift Bridge can be seen through the window and the Jail Guard panel of the 3rd mural can be seen.
Though stained glass decorates the Ambassador throughout, it is the murals that adorn the walls and ceiling that capture the attention. The murals were originally painted as large oils on canvas and were commissioned by Joseph Bosch owner of the Bosch Breweries which were located in Houghton and Lake Linden. They were painted by a Mr. Rohrbeck and hung in the Bosch Brewery for several years. Eventually they came down and were hung in a bar that was east of the Ambassador called the Giltedge Bar. Prohibition struck and the murals were taken down and stored away. The Ambassador was a known speakeasy during Prohibition called Hole in the Wall.
This is the first mural which appears above the bar. The gnomes are brewing their beer.
When prohibition was repealed, saloons reopened or at least brought cocktails out of the closet, and began remodeling and redecorating the bars around town where the murals were rediscovered. Their next home was the Ambassador where they are now. The date of this is unsure, but it is believed it was in the 40s during a remodel.
This is the second mural that is across from the bar. The party is rolling and the drinking is heavy. Below it some of the stained glass windows are visible.
If looked at in the proper order, they tell a story. The first depicts gnomes brewing beer. They are stirring it up in a large cauldron like a witches brew. The second mural has the gnomes drinking the beer and partying hardy. The third shows them the morning after, hungover and spent, wiped out by their night drinking. A guard is outside so their drunk has ended with the lot of them locked up. This last mural has three separate panels and covers most of the west wall in the dining room. The artwork is superb and it is done with an obvious sense of humor.
This is the third mural which adorns the dining room wall. It is actually three panels, but it is so big i could only fit the middle one into a picture. The jailer panel can be seen in another picture.
The Ambassador is a restaurant that has also won some accolades. Back in the 60’s they developed their own pizza recipe and has since won a place in Pizza Magazine’s Pizza Hall of Fame. Personally, I never knew there was such a thing. But hey, who am I to argue, the food is excellent and not overpriced.
The bar back wall, the Portage Canal can be seen through the windows as well as more of the stained glass above them.
Never been here? That needs to be fixed. Any trip to the Houghton area and Copper Country, should include a stop here. It is a taste of “old” U.P. that is so much more than just a meal. I stop here and have a beer just to look at the place. It never gets old.
There’s even a poem about the Ambassador:
COME FILL A BUMPER
On or about nineteen hundred and two, Mr. Rohrbeck was given a job to do.
With brushes in hand and gnomes in his head, he created the masterpiece on the wall above.
First home for the paintings was the old Giltedge Bar, east of here, but not too far.
Streets were of dirt, sidewalks of wood, hitching posts for horses, business was good.
Beer for a nickel, whiskey for a dime, sandwiches a quarter any old time.
Prohibition was next, and became the law, the Ambassador, a speakeasy, called “Hole in the Wall”
Paintings were rolled and stored away, for twelve long years in the dust they lay.
At last came nineteen thirty-three, the law was repealed and Bacchus was free.
Saloons and taverns opened their doors, folks danced, sang, and drank spirits once more.
The old bar was hauled out of its storage place, and the paintings were hung on the walls they now grace.
The artist, long gone, would be proud if he knew, that folks still enjoy them as much as they do.
An early motorcyclist cruises through Manistique. I love the early biker clothing and the bike looks like an Indian.
I don’t have many of these, unfortunately. It is a very rare thing when I come across early vintage pictures of motorcycles here in the Upper Peninsula. As a biker, I personally enjoy early pictures like these and consider them a treasure when I find them. I currently have two which are quite fun. I thought I’d post them so everyone can get a smile.
The top picture was taken in Manistique and I believe the motorcycle is an Indian. I can’t positively identify it, so if someone can confirm this, I would appreciate it. This was taken as a postcard which has no date.
In the second picture there is a young girl wishing she could go for a spin on a vintage Harley Davidson. The name on the tank is clearly visible. This is from an album of vintage photos from Ishpeming. This little gem is a favorite of mine. We have all had that look on our faces the moment we sat on a motorcycle.
An Ishpeming girl tries an early Harley on for size. Looks like a pretty good fit. I’ll always wonder if she ever got to take it out.
I thought these would be fun since summer is upon us and the time of year to enjoy our motorcycles is now. Ride safely and be careful out there.
For those that don’t want to follow the link I present the review in its entirety below.
True Tales: the Forgotten History of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula by Mikel B. Classen.
“Even Michigan natives who know just a little about the Upper Peninsula are aware of how unique it is geographically and historically. It is a beautiful, wild, rugged, sparsely populated peninsula full of unforgettable scenic wonders that is equaled by its unique and often strange history. This work by Mikel B. Classen is a great introduction to the often remarkable and memorable history connected to the U.P. that in all honesty weren’t forgotten by the general public. They are historical stories they never even knew about.”
“Among my favorites is the account of the last stagecoach robbery east of the Mississippi which took place in the U.P. The robber called himself Black Bart and killed one passenger and wounded another. Then there’s the Great Lake pirate who operated all over Lake Michigan from his base in Escanaba. I thought I knew all the relevant facts about the Ontonagon Boulder. I didn’t. It was a mass of pure copper the Native Americans worshiped, but the Hell with their beliefs. The boulder was transported to Washington where it was misplaced and lost for years. The boulder was the spark that lit the Copper Boom in the U.P. The author also writes of the prominent settlers to the U.P., throws in the odd shipwreck, and relates the story of a couple of castaways on Isle Royale. The two survived a winter on the island by eating bark, roots, and berries. The husband went crazy from hunger and his wife feared she was next on his menu.”
“Those who consider history boring need to read this book before doubling down on their misplaced judgement. The book is jam-packed full of interesting and arresting true stories tied to U.P. history. All I can say is, another volume please.”
If you are interested in purchasing True Tales, it can be picked up on Amazon or it can be ordered through your local bookstore.
We all like to take a walk in the woods. Trees towering over our heads and the wonderful smell of pine needles as the sun fights through the dense leaves creating the dappled light of the deep forest, is unlike anything else. Then add in some of the oldest trees in the Midwest, the legendary White Pines that were sought to near extinction by the lumbering companies. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan there is such a place.
The Keweenaw Peninsula has no shortage of trees, their presence is everywhere their roots can gain a hold. Tall pines and oaks line the ridges and valleys throughout. Though breathtaking in their own right, 150 years ago much of the forest was removed for the progress of man and very little of the original forest remains. What we see now is the offsprings of the original wilderness. But, in a tract of land near Copper Harbor, Michigan, a small part of that original wilderness remains.
The Estivant Pines is one of the last stands of old growth pines left in the State of Michigan. Deep within the 500 acre tract which is administered by the Michigan Nature Association, are the much sought after towering old White Pines. There is a double loop trail that winds beneath these monsters of the wilderness making this walk in the woods unforgettable.
The first trail loop is 1 mile long and is called the Cathedral Grove loop. This hike goes through hardwoods and then meanders through 500 year old giant White Pines. Some of them are 125 feet tall. It is hard to comprehend the majesty of these trees until one is standing beneath them, looking up seemingly touching the sky.
The second loop, the Bertha Daubendiek Memorial Loop is 1.2 miles long. Bertha was the founder of the Michigan Nature Association. Pine, maple and oak grow along this trail with one of the pines having germinated as far back as 1695. Hiking both trails is about 2.5 miles, none of which is very rough. There are some ups and downs, but not overly strenuous.
Other attractions of the Estivant Pines is over 85 identified species of birds make the tract their home. This place is a bird watchers paradise. Also, this is a hiking only trail so meeting vehicles on the trail such as bicycles, isn’t happening here. There has been a recent boom in bicycling in Copper Harbor and many of the trails around the area are now multi-use.
To get to the Estivant Pines, drive to Copper Harbor in the Keweenaw Peninsula. In Copper Harbor, turn on 2nd street. This road will turn into Manganese Road. Follow this for 1.2 miles. On the left just out of Copper Harbor is Manganese Falls, it is well worth checking out. Turn left on Clark Mine Road. Public access to Lake Manganese is to the right, a beautiful spring fed lake, also worth checking out. Continue on Clark Mine Road for approximately 1.2 miles and turn right on Burma Road. Another half mile and you are at the parking area for the Estivant Pines.
This tract of land was originally owned by Edward Estivant who was from Paris, France. It was originally 2400 acres when Estivant purchased it. He eventually sold it to the Calumet Hecla Mining Company in 1947. Then in 1968 it went to the Universal Oil Company who purchased the land for logging and proceeded to cut 300 acres of it. The Michigan Nature Association stepped in and bought 200 acres of the remaining old growth in hopes of preserving a small portion of it. Local citizens worked with them to raise funds and organized a “Save the Pines” campaign. Even local school kids fund raised. In 1973 the Estivant pines was created. Since then more of the tract has been purchased and over 500 acres of the original 2400 is now in the hands of the Michigan nature Association.
The Estivant Pines is open to hiking and snowshoeing. This is a day use area, so there is no overnight camping of any kind. There is no cost to hike other than time. It is a worthwhile experience to walk among these old giants and is something that shouldn’t be overlooked while in the Copper Harbor area.
I received a note that pointed me to a review of my book Points North. It was from the Midwest Book Review and written by Carolyn Wilhelm. I really thought it was nice so I wanted to share it here.
Oh, this book helped me reminisce about the days when I could do primitive camping, hear loons, see wildlife, go canoeing, and enjoy the outdoors with relative privacy. It covers history, fishing, boating, hiking, walking, camping, with detailed location information in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.). How many camping spots, a few or many? Tents only, or are recreational vehicles allowed? Are canoes or motorboats allowed? Is the fishing good? Is the park or camping area away from roads and noise? Where should a family go for a good day trip? What animals are usually seen around the campsites? Is it a good location for photographers? Where do the seniors stay? Are there accessible trails for those who need them? Where can people who want a grueling climb and a sense of accomplishment find a spot for that type of exercise?
Details like this are usually only known by locals. This illustrated travel guide lets us in on these secrets not usually shared to have the best vacation possible for a single day or longer. Classen must have spent many years experiencing all the U.P. offers and kindly shares this off the beaten path information.
Points North is an award winning book; Best Independent Publication 2020 – Historical Society of Michigan, U.P. Notable Book – Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association; that details 40 different destinations across all areas of the U.P. To purchase Points North, click here.
The display I created in the entrance case at Bayliss Library
For those of you that like the history that I post, must realize I have a sizable collection of Upper Peninsula historical items. Many of these are pictures that often are posted here, but I do have other items as well as some picture haven’t made it here yet.
2022 Great Michigan Read – The Women of Copper Country
Here’s a chance to check some of these items out. In conjunction with the Great Michigan Read – The Women of Copper Country, at Bayliss Library here in the Sault, I have displayed some Copper Country history in the glass case at the entrance of Bayliss Library.
Stereoview pictures of the Italian hall Disaster in Calumet, shipwreck and local scenes.
These will be on display throughout the month of February. If you are in the Sault, stop by the library and take a look.
I have just finished the rough version of my new book. It is off to the publisher awaiting publication. Whew! It always feels like a long haul when you finish a book. Though I feel all of my books are worth a read, this one is special. If you are a fan of this website, then this book is for you.
In this book the romance is gone. It tries to show many of the true hardships and facets of trying to settle a frontier that was sandwiched between three Great Lakes. There are stories from across the Peninsula from first hand accounts to revelations from the news of the time. As always there are heroes and villains. There are feats of great good and dirty deeds of the worst kind. There are adventures of the most extraordinary men as they struggle for the riches of the U.P. well before gold was discovered in California. There are accomplishments of those that braved the wrath of the Great Lakes in leaking ships and frozen waters. The intensity of storms killed thousands on land and lakes. Over 200 died in one season just between Marquette and Whitefish Point. Often the Edmund Fitzgerald is memorialized, but few remember the hundreds of wrecks before it. You will find some here.
These pages are populated by Native Americans, miners, loggers and mariners that consisted of Germans, Italians, Finns, Swedes, French and English. People came from everywhere looking for their personal promised land. Some to raise families, some to avoid the law or to start a new life. Some to get rich no matter what it took. The Upper Peninsula frontier called to all.
This book is the first installment in what will be a larger work that chronicles the rare and forgotten stories that make the history of the U.P. what it is. Through research and investigation I hope to bring back many of the tales that time and historians forgot.
The U.P. of today was created by individuals that rose up to meet challenges that broke lesser folks. Their mental and physical stamina was that of finely honed athletes accomplishing feats unheard of in the modern world. They hacked homes out of a dense wilderness and raised families with danger at every turn. Many of these feats have gone unsung throughout history and through this book many come to light.
It is my hope that the stories contained within this book not only celebrates the struggles of the individuals that first braved this formidable and raw land , but honestly portrays their efforts to overcome the incredible obstacles that stood in the way of the beloved peninsula we now know. It was once a very different place.
Discovering a ghost lake in Mackinac County, Michigan.
Writing and photos by Mikel B. Classen
I hit the road today, with no particular destination. That means I’m really susceptable to signs pointing to nearly anywhere. It happened in Mackinac County. The sign said “Brook Trout Pond Landing.” I really do stick my nose into just about anything, so I headed down the two-track the sign indicated.
This is my first view, that made me go “What Brook Trout Pond?”
I drove about a quarter mile and there was a cul-de-sac that was still a bit mucky from the early season. I could see a small stream running, so I treked down the hill to the water, expecting to see a trout pond of some size. Off to my right there was a large opening in the woods.
The valley of the lost trout pond, it must have been more like a lake.
Across the way is a vast plain of what once was a lake. Apparently, whoever made the sign was using the term “pond” loosely. It fascinated me to think that all of this, not long ago, was under water. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that somewhere out there a dam broke. Likely the entire expanse was at one time created by beavers damming up the small stream that now wound through the former lake bed.
At one time, keeping its head above water, this rise would have been an island in the lake.
As I looked across the still boggy lake bottom to the far side, I saw a small hill with live trees on it. It had been an island at one time. The ghost lake had been vast and would have been great to paddle. I could see lunch on the island. With a brook trout population spread out across this large a tract, this would have been teeming with waterfowl.
This is the spring that fed the now ghost lake. It flows as it always has.
I turned around and headed back. I followed the creek up stream for a few yards and came to a small pocket of water. I looked around to see where the stream went and quickly realized I was at the beginning, the source of what had been everything around here, a wonderful fresh water spring. I looked back at the stream winding through the brown of the dry lake bottom, running clear and cold. If the probable beavers get to work on the dam break, maybe in a couple of years, this could all be back to what it was. That is how nature works after all.
The forest surrounding the ghost lake is thick and lush, but the ground is boggy and hard to walk through.