2009.10.14 Our best landmark

Written by David Green.


I seem to be having a lot of difficulty getting things accomplished these days. Stories unwritten, photographs untaken, columns unimagined.

It sends me to the archives at midnight on a Monday in search of words from the past.

A few years ago—20 to be exact—I wrote about a dilemma regarding historic city landmarks. Some changes have occurred in the past 20 years that make this column a little historic itself.

Nov. 15, 1989

We received a call from a fellow last week who wanted to arrange for a photographer to take a picture of a Morenci landmark. Anything come to mind?

The stately Salisbury Hotel went up just 100 years ago, but it came back down 80 years later. Stair Auditorium was the landmark of Morenci for decades. The showplace was built in 1908, but lasted only about 60 years.

The old three-story Morenci Roller Mills would have made a nice picture. It stood for 109 years before its demolition to make room for a truck parking lot.

The old city hall/fire department/jail house of a hundred years ago was somewhat majestic with its twin towers overlooking main street, but those towers are nowhere to be seen.

I’ve seen photos of the impressive mausoleum at the cemetery, but state officials condemned the building in 1954, just 46 years after it was erected. Don’t worry; the bodies were buried.

This isn’t easy finding a landmark in a city where all the good stuff has been torn down. I suppose these buildings are gone mainly because that’s what they were—old stuff.

The old brick factory and the cider mill were leveled. The Union Street school is gone, as well as two older high school buildings.

Morenci’s first hospital still stands here on North Street, but it doesn’t look so impressive with the awnings down and the fancy iron work missing from the overhang. It didn’t help any when the drunk driver ran into the front of the place last summer with her car.

It’s been suggested that the old Ohio Dairy Company on Mill Street might make a good landmark photograph. It doesn’t look all that interesting architecturally, but it’s been a prominent fixture since 1902. It’s commonly referred to as Parker Rust Proof, and the building will soon become an empty landmark due to the loss of local ownership.

We’re not getting anywhere with old industry and public buildings. How about a residence? Any good landmarks there?

Elizabeth Thompson tells me the oldest house in town—or at least a portion of it—stands over on Centre Street. It was built in 1846 on Cawley Road, moved to the corner of Walnut and North Summit in 1872, then transported to Centre years later.

Perhaps the second oldest house is now located at 134 E. Locust St. where the Terry Sharp family lives. It was built in 1850 as a hotel and tavern, then moved 12 years later. Due to renovation, these places don’t look like they could be the oldest structures in town.

Maybe they really aren’t. Harold Hall thinks his brick home at the end of Summit Street might be the oldest. As the homestead of the old Stephenson farm, Harold has it placed at about 150 years.

When I think of landmarks, I turn back to my list of items on the Morenci Tour that I give out-of-town guests. Jack Smith, for example, is always on the agenda if his store is open, but I don’t think we should photograph a living resource who might pack up and move to Illinois some day, leaving us once again without an important feature.

Giant trees are often known as landmarks, until they fall, and we supposedly have the state’s largest dogwood at the cemetery. It’s also part of my tour, but dogwoods aren’t all that big and the photo wouldn’t be too impressive.

I always take people past the sewage lagoons when I lead the tour. Lagoon: a shallow body of water, especially one separated from the seas by sandbars or coral reefs. Believe me, those are not sandbars protruding through the surface and they definitely aren’t coral reefs, but this may be all we have.

When they come to take the landmark photograph, I’m going to direct them out past the hospital to the lagoons. What better choice to represent the people of Morenci. After all, there’s a little bit of all of us out there.

  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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