History’s Gem of the Month
March 2010: The Story of Grand Marais, Part 2
The city had many fine civic clubs and organizations. Among these were the Kenningston Club and the Grand Marais Club. A fine opera house was built and it was frequented by many famous actors of the day. The Grand Marais Cornet Band was a favorite not only in Grand Marais but in the surrounding counties as well. The band was presented by the city with a fine bandstand, which stood near the Community Methodist Church. There were numerous unions for the local employees such as the Longshoremen and the Modern Woodmen of America. A unique club house, the interior of which was completely paneled in birch, was erected between the present Green Shingles and Goupille Service Station. Many memorable social events took place in this club house. The building caught fire and was totally destroyed along with many other establishments in the fire of 1905.
Education was by no means neglected in the midst of the boom. A frame high school and three elementary divisions were built, all four schools having a total enrollment of over nine hundred students.
New industries moved to the village at this prosperous time. A small cigar factory was begun by Thomas Regan. [NOTE: The cigar factory building is now the Gitche Gumee Museum.] His “closed Tuck” cigar was a favorite. The Walker Hardwood Veneer Plant, known as Birdseye Walker, was built where the village baseball diamond is now located. This plant was later turned into a stave factory. The large pine mill owned by the Alger-Smith Company was by no means idle. It was running twenty-four hours a day and turned out 150,000 feet of choice pine lumber during that time. The two band saws and the two circular saws of the mill were kept running constantly. The Cook, Curtis, and Miller Company built a large, modern hardwood mill which had a capacity of ten million feet of lumber annually. A shingle mill was also begun, and one of the earliest mills of the town, that of C. Coon, was sold to Charles Stone and continued operations.
The leading hotels of the town, such as the Wabash, Nettleton, Grand Marais, Carpenter House, and the Bay View, were doing a fine business. Grand Marais was then as now, a tourist and hunting center. As the passenger train made only one run into the village daily, many salesmen were required to stay overnight at the hotels. Hotel Nettleton was a favorite lodging place for these men because of the fine fish dinners served there by its proprietor, Bill Nettleton.
To comply with the needs of the people, the large three-story Bay View Hospital was moved at this time from Oscoda, Michigan, to Grand Marais and reassembled opposite the Community Methodist Church. Doctors Wier and Anderson were its proprietors and surgeons.
Grand Marais could boast, too, of an up-to-date water system. In the spring of 1896, water works had been laid at a cost of $25,000. Previous to that time, however, the town was dependent on Mr. Peter Beaulieu who had delivered water at a consumer cost of twenty-five cents a barrel. A few years later, the Alger-Smith Company enlarged its electric lighting plant, wired the town, and furnished current at a moderate cost.
By 1897 the town had begun to settle down. A description of Grand Marais in the Grand Marais Business Directory, published here by Doig and Wood in 1897, reads as follows:
Grand Marais is a flourishing young town of three thousand industrious inhabitants, nestled on the flats at the foot of a steep terrace surrounding Grand Marais Harbor, an inlet on the south shore of Lake Superior, one hundred miles west of Sault Sainte Marie and eighty miles east of Marquette, and connected by the Manistique Rail Road with the Duluth, South Shore, and Atlantic Rail Road at Seney, Michigan, the former company having its terminus, car shops, and load offices at this town. The great natural resources and advantages of the town were dormant until 1894, when the Marais Lumber Company purchased their property from the Grand Marais Mil Company, after which they enlarged, rebuilt, and refurnished with first class machinery, having one of the best saw mills in the upper Peninsula, with a cutting capacity of over 150,000 feet of timber per day, this company shipped forty million feet of choice lumber the past year. In addition to the car shops and large mill, Grand Marais had a shingle mill owned by George W. Cowell, a square timber mill, and Hale, Booth, and Company, and Endress Brothers deal extensively in fish, the three concerns employing upwards of two hundred men. The town has a large number of business houses, every business being represented by practical and experienced men who all work together for the interests of the people of their thriving young town. The land companies have been diligent in their efforts to advance the town, and sell property at reasonable rates and on easy terms, giving poor men a chance to make homes. The town has many nice business buildings, three churches, and the largest and best school building in the county, well furnished and the instructors are first class and up to date teachers. Besides being a lake town having a safe harbor, Grand Marais has first class railroad communications, having regular daily trains to Seney and return. Naturally Grand Marais is a resort town, giving first class fishing and hunting as well as some of the grandest scenery of the country within a few miles of town. In addition to the above natural advantages, this town is backed up by the largest tract of agricultural land in the Upper Peninsula, which is being sold to settlers at very reasonable rates and on easy terms.
The harbor was a busy one—as many as forty-eight large craft have been counted in the harbor at one time. Passenger and freight steamers were making weekly runs between Grand Marais, Duluth, Marquette, and other lake ports. The United States Coast Guard established a life saving station at the harbor in 1899, with Benjamin Trudell in command.
To be continued……
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Gitche Gumee Museum.
E21739 Brazel Street
Grand Marais, Michigan 49839