My newest book, Faces, Places, & Days Gone By, is now available. The book contains over 100 historical pictures from my personal collection of Upper Peninsula images. The book is similar to what I’ve done over the years on this website with the historical pictures featured here. Each picture in the book features commentary and a look into Michigan’s past. Through the use of Stereoviews, cabinet cards, postcards and photo prints, there are photos from all corners the U.P. I will be carrying copies at my upcoming events including this weekend in Escanaba. This is one you won’t want to be without and it is suitable for all ages.
“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.
Arch Rock on Mackinac Island in 1893. It still looks pretty much the same to this day.
I recently came across a group of pictures from a trip to Mackinac Island in 1893. They were very nicely dated and location labeled. That is where it stopped. No one in these pictures are named unfortunately.
Taking the trip across the Straits in 1893.
Like we still do today, taking a boat across the Straits to get to Mackinac Island is a fun adventure. The women on this trip don’t look that happy. I wonder how many pins they needed to keep those hats on.
Finding some leisure time on one of the cottage porches.
A relaxing afternoon on the porch, these ladies are ready to enjoy the Island lifestyle. Dressed at the height of fashion, they seem ready for a Mackinac social event. Or maybe a walk around the Island. Possibly have a picnic.
Picnicking Victorian style.
No trip to Mackinac Island is complete without a picnic or two. Whether it is 1893 or now, it is or should be an important part of a visit. I love how the ladies in the picture are drinking out of china cups.
Arch Rock is an iconic limestone formation that has endured the weather as far back as memory goes.
Mackinac Island’s incredible beauty won it the distinction of being our second National Park and then Michigan’s first State Park. Arch Rock in 1893 looks much like the Arch Rock we see today. All across the island are beautiful rock formations that are the stuff of legends out of the mists of time.
Another porch shot of this group of ladies on Mackinac Island
After a day of exploring, it’s time to relax back at the cottage. Easing back with a fresh breeze across the Straits, is always an exhilarating way to end a day or visit to the Island of Mackinac.
For more information about Mackinac Island, check out these links:
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.
The shipwreck of the steamship Oregon washed ashore near Middle Island Point north of Marquette, Michigan. (Courtesy of Mikel B Classen Historical Pictures Collection)
Shipwrecks are always a fascinating subject but not all of them end up in terrible tragedy. Such is the case of the wreck of the Oregon which took place north of Marquette in Lake Superior.
The Oregon was a steamer freighter, one of the earlier incarnations of the freighters we see today. On October 15, 1905, it wasn’t ore she was carrying, but lumber. The Oregon was steaming west across Lake Superior when the wind began to pick up. The Lake Superior surf rose and the ship began a rough ride. Behind her was another ship that was being towed, an old schooner named S.H. Foster being used as a barge. They were on their way to Pequaming in the Keweenaw Bay.
Near Stannard Rock, almost the precise middle of Lake Superior, things were getting ugly. The schooner barge was pulling hard and the strain on the engines were getting intense. Captain Elliot, the skipper of the Oregon was a well seasoned sailor and was pushing his ship as quickly as he could. He knew the brewing storm would be one the Oregon might not survive if she were caught in the middle of Lake Superior.
The wind roared, the waves rose, and a steam pipe burst. It was the main steam pipe and it split open for two/thirds of its length. The Chief Engineer, Wellman, wrestled loose a length of chain and wrapped it as tight as he could. The repair was fragile and inadequate for the job ahead. The Engineer told the Captain exactly that the repair wouldn’t last and they needed to find shelter for the the ship as soon as possible.
Consulting his charts the Captain decided to head for Partridge Island north of Marquette. He was sure they could ride the storm out in what was then called Wahoo Bay, the inlet between Partridge Island and Middle Island Point. He reduced speed hoping that lessening the strain would make the repair hold until shelter. The schooner still trailed behind. Its skeleton crew of five men were keeping the ship on an even keel but that was becoming harder as the wind kept building with gusts hitting 48 miles per hour.
At 2 am Partridge Island loomed out of the blackness. Great granite boulders lined the passage into the island’s lee side. A danger frought passage in the daylight, it was a miracle of steerage that got them beyond the deadly rocks and reefs. Suddenly the ship lost power and a new problem arose. The ships propeller had tangled in a fish net. because of the blown steam pipe the ship didn’t have the power to tear free. The Oregon was at the mercy of the storm.
With no control the crew of the Oregon cut the S. H. Foster loose to fend for itself. The wind caught the Oregon broadside and washed it ashore. The schooner’s luck held when its anchor caught on a rock crevasse and held. She was in the lee of Gull Rock.
The Marquette Life Saving Station was notified and they loaded their equipment and surfboat onto a wagon and headed north. It was over seven miles to the wreck site and took them nearly two hours to get there.
When they got there they decided to wait and see what happened. Both ships seemed stable where they were, so they waited and watched ready to spring into action should events call for it. But both ships rode the storm out where they were. As the gale died, the lifesavers left.
The schooner was able to sail into Marquette while the owners of the Oregon, a Chicago company, hired the Great Lakes Towing Company to get the ship offshore and back into the water. The tug Wisconsin did the work and after 24 hours of pulling and jerking the tug got the Oregon free.
After an initial inspection, the Oregon was towed to Detroit and there she was dry docked. Her fate would be eventually decided as scrap metal. By some miracle, No one was hurt or lost on either ship during the entire incident. Captain Elliot would later claim it was the worst storm he’d ever been in during his years sailing the Great Lakes.
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.
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.
There were logging camps in every part of the Upper Peninsula. They are the stuff of north country legends and lumberjacks were notorious for their drinking and brawling. Most of the lumbering towns have their tales of bullets and blood.
Sawmill that was located near Skanee.
Logging covered the entire U.P. and in a decade, much of the thick pine forests were cut leaving behind them an ocean of stumps. The dense forests we see today are a testament to the recovery power of the natural environment.
Logging with horses near Escanaba
Horses did much of the work as the logs were slid out across the frozen ground in winter. It was a brutal job in harsh conditions. Many died in the pursuit of the lumber that went to build so many cities and homes.
A tow of ships taking lumber to market in the cities of the south.
A large portion of the white pine lumber went to help rebuild the city of Chicago after the great fire in 1871 where over 17,500 buildings were destroyed.
This is a recent video of me talking about my book Points North. It is a bit rough because my zoom hookup was sketchy. I did this for the U.P. Notable Books Club that is administered through the Crystal Falls, Michigan Library. It gets into a lot of the background on the book and some of the stories from the writing of this kind of book. People in this video are Myself, Evelyn Gathu, Crystal Falls Librarian and Victor Volkman, President of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association, UPPAA.
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.