Eastern Michigan State Fair – 1883
195 Midway Street
In 1883 the Imlay City Driving Club was formed and a track was leveled off for buggy races. A year later the Imlay City Agricultural Society was formed. The first Society-sponsored fair occurred on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, October 7-9, 1896. The Agricultural Society included Lapeer, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties. The south half of the current fairgrounds had been purchased for $1,000. Admission to the first fair was 25 cents and it was all horses and buggies.
The inaugural Fair Board officers were T. B. Keyworth, president; Nelson Haskin, vice president; William Swan, secretary; and D. S. Marshall, treasurer. Directors serving a one-year term were William Sleeman, Will Elliott and J. P. Egglestone. Serving two-year directorships were Issac Willis, George Jones, M. J. Haskin, Jim Sheppard, Fred Pennington, N. W. Stock and D. V. Yerex.
During the years 1919-1921, the fair grew due to the arrival of the Royal Oak Booster Club who chartered trolley cars on the Interurban line from Detroit. On a daily basis, three or four trolleys holding 50 people each were brought to the fair. At that time the midway was in the middle of a racetrack. A “Bowery” (dance hall) was also on the midway. The fair included a baseball field, a duck pond, chickens, and rabbits and in the southwest corner of the grounds were the horse, cattle and sheep barns and pigpens.
In 1933, the Lapeer County Agricultural Society was chartered by the state and operated as the Lapeer County Fair. In 1951 the Lapeer County Fair was renamed by the State Fair Board as the Eastern Michigan Fair. In 2012 the Eastern Michigan Fair was renamed and is now known as the Eastern Michigan State Fair.
The Imlay City historical museum is owned and operated by the Imlay City Historical Commission, which collects, preserves, and interprets the heritage of Imlay City and the surrounding area, and instills an appreciation of local history through exhibits and educational programs. It is located in the historic Grand Trunk Railroad Depot at 77 Main Street in Imlay City. The museum is open April through December on Saturday afternoons and staffed by volunteers.
The museum is divided into thematic sections that transport one to different segments of the area’s history. Whether it is doctor’s office equipment, memorabilia or vignettes of bedchambers, or a sample parlor filled with period furniture, visitors have plenty to peruse. Other sections are devoted to everything from music ephemera, to kitchen goods to radios, and personal grooming items.
Another fascinating area brings local soldiers up close and personal. Veterans from various armed services and wars are presented through mannequins wearing their uniforms. Visitors can also examine the personal items and equipment the soldiers used. Visitors have the chance to delve deeper into the history of the area through detailed panels that highlight various people and events. The museum honors the area’s agricultural heritage with a display of hand tools in an annex building. Through that exhibit visitors can truly understand and appreciate the hard work and sweat that it took to build Michigan’s farms.
Although open only on Saturday afternoons, the Imlay City Historical Museum is worth a stopover. Nearby is a restored Grand Trunk Railroad caboose and dining car. The depot museum still welcomes visitors today, as it did during the heyday of passenger railroading, but in a different sense—it is now a place remembering history instead of making history.
The depot is listed on the State Register of Historical Sites.
In 2012, with the generous support of the Four County Community Foundation and the Lapeer County Community Foundation, the Imlay City Downtown Development Authority organized the building of a train viewing platform on Depot Drive. The platform acts as a reminder of the tremendous importance of the railroad to Imlay City’s founding, growth, and future. Today, train enthusiast of all ages love to sit and watch the trains go by.
Ruth Hughes Memorial Library
211 North Almont Avenue
The library in Imlay City was established by the Women’s Study Club at a meeting in October of 1921. Money for the project was raised by putting on three plays in the town’s opera house. All the work was donated along with a large number of books and furniture.The first library opened its doors in January 1923 at the town hall on the corner of Fourth and Almont Avenue with 450 books.
After a few moves, a new building was built at 213 East Third Street to include the library and the township office.
In 1989 a new library was built from a generous trust left by Ruth Hughes. Ruth E. Hughes was born in Imlay City on October 24, 1898. After graduating from Imlay City High School in 1916, she attended and received her first degree from what is now Eastern Michigan University. After teaching in a country school for a while, she attended and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1926. Ruth spent the rest of her career teaching fourth and fifth grade for Center Line Schools, retiring in 1962. Upon her death in March of 1985, her Trust was read:
All the remainder of the trust property I bequeath to the Library of Imlay Township for the building of an Imlay Township Library in the name of Ruth E. Hughes. Some $350,000 was given to construct a library building. That building, the Ruth Hughes Memorial District Library, was dedicated and opened on January 27, 1990.
Those who knew Ruth say she was a gentle lady who loved motivating children to read. She generously donated money to build a library in the city where she was born, where there had been no library when she was a child. Her wish was for future generations to benefit from such a place in their community.
Frank Vlasic moved to America in 1912 to build a better life for his family. After saving every dime from his $2 a day car foundry job, Frank established a creamery business in Detroit. He eventually turned it over to his son, Joe.
Joe expanded the family milk and cheese business into selling Polish pickles spiced with garlic and dill. During WWII, his supply of pickles dried up so Joe started testing a new idea: selling Polish pickles in glass jars. Joe couldn’t keep up with the demand and the Vlasic Pickle brand was born.
Joe’s son, Bob, joined the company after the war and became General Manager of the Vlasic operation which still included the creamery. Its first plant was built in Imlay City, MI.
Twenty-eight new, large tanks were installed for the making of sauerkraut and contracts were made with farmers for cabbage acreage. In addition, Vlasic contracted with farmers for about 500 acres of cucumbers which supplied receiving stations of the company located at Kingston, Deford and Hemans, in addition to Imlay City. The cucumbers were all processed at the Imlay City plant. In 1945 Patzer had an 80 by 120 foot building for receiving cucumbers, and was constructing another of the same size. In 1946 they constructed an additional building 80 by 300 feet to be used exclusively for packaging of product. They were employing 25 employees, with plans to add more.
The pickle empire really began in Imlay City when Joseph Vlasic bought the Patzer Food Products Company in 1957 and two years later created Vlasic Foods.
Joseph Vlasic retired in the 1960’s and his son, Bob, took over direction of the company, which was sold to the Campbell Soup Company in 1978 for $33 million.
The plant has expanded to 10 times from its original size. The Imlay City facility encompasses more than 457,000 square feet and spans 190 acres. The company employs 850 people during its peak season.
In 2017 the company “America’s #1 Pickle” and marked its 75th year. Vlasic pickles are now distributed throughout the United States and Canada, as are a variety of other products offered under the brand. The Vlasic brand currently (2019) is owned by Conagra Brands.
In 1933, per capita pickle consumption was 2.09 pounds. By 1974, consumption grew to 8 pounds. Joe and Bob became so successful at pickles that they dropped the milk and cheese business entirely.
In 1974, a wisecracking Vlasic Stork flew out of American television screens with the message that crunchy “Vlasic is the best tasting pickle I ever heard!”
Thank you to the Vlasic website for supplying portions of this article.
United Methodist Church – 1879
210 North Almont Avenue
In 1870, thanks to the generosity of Charles Palmer (Imlay City’s founder), joint union services were held in the Bancroft Hotel ballroom by the Congregationalists, the Methodists and the Baptist.
The Imlay City Methodist Episcopal Church had its beginnings when Rev. Laing of Attica held services in the village some time before 1879. These church services were held in the schoolhouse that was located on Bancroft Street but were later discontinued.
Then, in October of 1879 the Methodist Episcopal Church of Imlay City was organized with Rev. Francis Berry as pastor. A small chapel was built in 1879-80. A lumberman named Henry Woodry is reported as the builder and he also served as one of the first trustees.
The church is in the Gothic Revival style and is commonly referred to as Carpenter Gothic. One of the common features of this style is the buttressing. The church features beautiful stained glass windows. A large circular Rose (or Catherine) window is found on the western wall of the building, which is the common placement for such windows. Its purpose is to create a “heavenly light” that symbolizes the presence of God in the church.
In 1882-83 the present brick church was erected at a cost of $2,500. There were 57 members at that time. The cornerstone was laid April 23, 1882 by Rev. Thomas G. Patten. During its first 30 years there were 16 different ministers.
The building has served as a house of worship for many families through the years. An addition was made to the church in 1931 with materials and labor donated by church members and the efforts of the Ladies’ Aid.
In 1939 the Methodist Protestant and Methodist Episcopal united and the church became the Imlay City Methodist Church. By the late 1940s Sunday school classes were being held in every nook and cranny, and four new classrooms were added.
The exterior of the church was covered with the present Perma-Stone in October of 1957 at a cost of $8,400. By the year 1964 the big cast iron bell in the tower was badly cracked and considered dangerous. It was removed in pieces.
In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches merged, and the name changed to the Imlay City United Methodist Church.
The church has weathered the many years virtually unscathed except when lightning struck the bell tower in 1973 with an estimated damage of $2,400. New pews and carpeting were installed in the sanctuary in 1975.
In 1982 the sanctuary was “turned around” and a two-level addition north from the existing building constructed. The project expanded the sanctuary seating by 55-60 and created a large foyer. The new addition contained a nursery, crib room, fellowship hall, seven Sunday school rooms, an access ramp, offices for pastor and secretary, four restrooms, and additional storage space.
First Baptist Church – 1876
404 North Almont Avenue
As early as 1858 a religious society of the Baptist was organized in the Deneen schoolhouse in Imlay Township. In 1870, thanks to the generosity of Charles Palmer, joint union serves were held in the Bancroft Hotel ballroom by the Congregationalists, the Methodists and the Baptist.
On November 8, 1871 a group of people assembled at the schoolhouse to organize a Baptist Church in the village of Imlay City. In February of 1872, they purchased a lot at the corner of Sixth Street and Almont Avenue. They commenced the erection of their church that spring of 1872. The building was dedicated August 6th. This was the first building in Imlay City for religious purposes. Rev. J. E. Bitting was called to be the first pastor. A week after the dedication it was decided to borrow $400 to build a parsonage at 465 North Almont Avenue.
The church building was constructed for a cost of $2,692.12 and is two stories high with ample basement. The audience room is tastily finished in pine and black walnut, and seats about 300 persons.
By the year 1960, the lack of space and the need for alterations became acute. In the fall of 1960, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Anderson offered to give their home on south Almont Avenue to be used as a parsonage, providing a new church be built. The offer was accepted and in June 1963 property on Weston Street was purchased and construction of a new church started on May 10, 1964. The first service was held in the new church September 20, 1964 and the dedication was held October 18, 1964. In February of 1964, the Baptist voted to sell its church building and fellowship house on Almont Avenue to the Nazarene Church.
At a membership meeting held on October 21, 2009, it was decided to bring to conclusion the ministries of 137 years of the First Baptist Church in Imlay City with dignity and respect due to dwindling membership. The church closed December 13, 2009.
First Congregational Church United Church of Christ – 1876
275 Bancroft Street
The First Congregational United Church of Christ building is of the Gothic Revival Style. The pointed arch transom panel above the entry door and the hooded windows are common in the Gothic Revival style that defines the Congregational Church. The front façade has a center window grouping of three windows that were common for churches designed in this style. Another distinguishing characteristic of this style was the use of vertical board and batten wood cladding that was used to express the versatility of the structure.
The Congregational Society was the second to form in the village of Imlay City, which took place early in the fall of 1870. The Sunday school was organized October 16, 1870, with William Townsend, superintendent. In 1872 the school divided, a portion forming the Baptist Sunday school. By invitation of the society, Congregational Council was called which met September 3, 1872 and organized the First Congregational Church of Imlay City. The Society first held services in a small schoolroom. Afterward by the kindness and generosity of Charles Palmer, services were held in the ballroom of the Bancroft House (since burned). After the erection of the public union school building and through the kindness of the school board, services were held there until the completion and dedication of the present spacious church edifice on February 3, 1876. The church was built in 1877 at an original cost of $885 and the parsonage was built a year later – at a cost of about $1,319.07
The church’s pipe organ was dedicated in 1905. Florence Marshall was the first organist. It was built to the exact specifications of the Detroit Fort Street Congregational church organ at a cost of $1200. The tracker action old and faithful (more or less) instrument was retired in 1972. The church also still has the original contract for its construction by the Votteler-Hettche Organ Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Later a computerized organ was purchased.
Below is a portion of a poem written by Mrs. Nelson Haskin in 1972 and it reads:
We’ve got an organ in the church—very finest in the land;
It’s got a thousand pipes or more, its melody is grand!
And when we sit in polished pews and hear the master play,
It carries us to realms of bliss, unnumbered miles away.
It cost a cool twelve hundred and it’s stood the hardest test;
We’ll pay a thousand on it, and the Ladies’ Aid the rest.
In 1957 the church voted to join the United Church of Christ, the newly formed denomination that merged the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian churches.
The parsonage was erected in 1881 and the parish hall addition in 1955. The exact date of the bell tower hasn’t been documented but the bell is inscribed with the date 1893, manufactured by the McShane Bell Company.
The Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Imlay City was organized by a group of Irish settlers who came to this area in the early 1850s. The first mass was said by Father Vallandingham of Mt. Clemens at the Martin Heenan home in 1852. This Heenan home was located near the junction of south VanDyke and Hunters Creek Road. The next priest to visit the area was Father Theophilus Buyse of Swan Creek, who said mass at Peter Hannan Sr.’s home on South Blacks Corners Road in 1854. During this time plans were made by the thirty Catholic families to build a church and this was completed in 1867.
(1867-1894 – The First Church)
This first church was a small wooden structure, painted white and located on Blacks Corners Road at the site of the present Mt. Calvary Cemetery. Land was donated for the church from the farm of George Quirk, Sr. and Mr. Morris of Pontiac donated the timber off the Hulsart farm for its construction. Men of the parish did the actual construction. A board fence enclosed the churchyard and hitching posts were provided for the horses and oxen with their lumber wagons and carriages. Priest came once a month from Lapeer.
The interior of the little church was mostly white as the walls were white plaster, and the pews were natural unfinished wood. There was no sacristy – the sanctuary was the entire width of the building. The confessional was enclosed in red curtains and was back of the communion rail on the left side of the church. A few chairs inside the railing were for the alter boys, Tom Hughes, Jim McKinney, Joe O’Neil, Bob MacGillis, and Ted Hannan. An L-shaped round oak stove provided the heat. The one alter was painted white and often was decorated with flowers of the field and woods brought by children. On special occasions an organ was borrowed from the Patrick O’Neil family and an organist came from Lapeer. Later an organ was purchased. At this time the cemetery was in back of the church. In 1893 Bishop Foley named Father Francis C. Kelley pastor in Lapeer and plans were made to erect a new church in the village of Imlay City.
(1894 -1970 – Sacred Heart Church)
In 1894, at a cost of $7,500, a new church was erected on Main Street in the village of Imlay City. It was of brick and fieldstone, with a spire and stained glass windows. The “miter stone” on the front surface of the church was found in the field stone brought in by farmers. In 1927 Father Ording was serving Imlay City, when a rectory was built adjacent to the Main Street church. He was the first pastor to live in it. Until 1927 the pastors came from Lapeer to serve this parish.
In 1924 the church was partially destroyed by fire and re-built.
(1970-Present – )
On December 2, 1972, the present church was built and the Main Street structure demolished. The new church was attached to the existing parish hall. This new sanctuary could accommodate 500 people. Nearby is the house that was originally the home of the Victory Noll Sisters who taught religion in several neighboring parishes as well as Imlay City. A new rectory was constructed in 1974. The parish is proud of its part in donating land for the construction of the beautiful Sanctuary at Maple Vista, a residence for ambulatory seniors of any denomination.
Christian Reformed Church – 1965
395 North Cedar Street
In the spring of 1923, three Holland families from Hudsonville moved to Imlay City to work in the celery fields of the Belle River Celery Company. In 1922 the first celery was grown here. In 1924 another family was hired by the celery company, making four families with seventeen children.
At that time, Rev. J. R. Brink, Home Missionary of Classis Grand Rapids East, was asked to come to Imlay City, and if possible, start a mission station. This was done, and on March 29, 1925, the first service was held in the town hall.
In 1927 a new development was started for gardening and in the spring of 1928, twelve more families moved to Imlay City from Hudsonville, Kalamazoo, Grant, Zeeland and Byron Center, making a total of sixteen families, twenty-six confessing members, sixty-six members by baptism, and ninety-two souls in all. Services were then held in the Congregational Church. On March 28, preparations were made to organize, which took place on June 11, 1928. Membership papers were filed, and a nomination was made for elders and deacons. The Elders chosen were: Mr. H. J. Steigenga, Mr. John Stryker, and for Deacons Mr. H. Ettema, Mr. J. Bax. Rev. Van Halsema installed the officers and wished the congregation Godspeed.
Services were then held in the Methodist Church as the Congregational Church was being remodeled. Housing of the pastor became a problem as rents were increasing and no vacant houses were to be found. The congregation then decided to buy the property on Main Street, which extended to Cedar Street (M-53), the site of the present church building.
By 1938, the congregation numbered thirty-seven families and was continuing to grow, and yet they had no church building of their own. It was then decided to purchase an old church building four miles northeast of town. Realizing this could be only a temporary solution for a growing congregation, meetings were held and plans made to erect a new building on the M-53 site. Work was begun in the fall of 1940 and completed the following summer. Dedication services were held August 13-14, 1941.
In 1947, a need was felt for a better parsonage. Plans were made to erect a new parsonage on the lot adjacent to the church property. Work was begun in 1947 and completed in the spring of 1948.
By the early 1960s it again became apparent that the congregation was still growing as the sanctuary was filled to over-flowing and Sunday school facilities became inadequate. It was then decided at a congregational meeting on June 22, 1965 to build a new church.
On August 2, 1965 a groundbreaking ceremony was held. The contract had been awarded to Case Construction Company of Flint and the cornerstone was laid during a brief ceremony the following Thanksgiving Day. This second structure completed in 1966 is still being used today. More classrooms were added in 1992. Located near the main entrance is a structure that houses the original bell that was in the bell tower of the 1941 building and rang before each morning and evening service.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church -1951
200 North Cedar Street
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church began as a mission congregation formed in the year 1889 in Goodland Township. Reverend Guetzlaff, Sr., of Capac was the pastor. At that time there was a difference of opinion as to the location of the church, resulting in building two churches. St. Paul’s was built at the present site and Emmanuel at the corner of Brown City and Bowers roads.
The Goodland and Imlay churches were served by pastors from Capac. Pastor Loeb organized the purchase of a new organ in 1893. For the first 30 years, services were held in German. There were 54 communicants as late as 1919. Three people were confirmed in the first class in 1914. Between 1920 and 1925 the Ladies Aid Society was formed. A young people’s Bible Class and a Luther League were formed under pastors F. Engelhart and A. Guetzlaff, Jr.
After 1925, Pastor W. E. Sund united the two churches. Some of the members of St. Paul’s were among the 40 baptized from Emmanuel.
On February 14, 1951 the church burned to the ground. Plans for a new, larger and more beautiful house of worship were formed and a ground breaking service held. On February 7, 1952 the present structure was dedicated with 243 confirmed members. Over the years a bell choir was created, a clown ministry developed and a scholarship fund established.
In 1957 the house near the church was purchased and is currently used as a day care center. The congregation acquired property north of the church for future expansion. In 1989, a outdoor pavilion was constructed and the houses north of the church removed.
In 2002 a beautiful new addition was completed which allowed for more programs for the community, a food pantry, and many more activities. In 2006 Faith Gardens was opened as a preschool and daycare center.
Walter Walker and John Coope founded the storehouse and elevator known as Walker & Coope Elevator in 1874. Various improvements were made from time to time, until the firm was running two fire-proof elevators that were sheathed first with fire-proof paper and then covered with corrugated iron, having a total capacity of 60,000 bushels of grain.
The firm later known as Walter Walker & Company, dealt in grain, salt, coal, lime, brick, sewer pipe, drain pipe and other articles. Their business constantly increased and was one of the leading institutions not only of Imlay City but the entire surrounding country as well. The elevator was still in operation as late as 1976.
John Coope disposed of his interest in the Walker & Coope Elevator in 1889 due to ill-health and retired to Pasadena, California. However, he returned to Imlay City in 1890 to pursue other business opportunities.
Walter and Robert Walker, Sr., came to Imlay City in 1873. The elevator was built on the south side of Third Street behind the present American Legion Hall, and known as building A. The railroad placed a spur close to the back door of the elevator for loading grain. Large quantities of grain were purchased from farmers all over the area and shipped out in car lots. (Building A in later years was demolished.) They built a large storage elevator on the east side of south Main Street where wool purchased from farmers was stored.
The Schonfeld Brothers (Jack and Harold) later purchased the storage building known as building B.
Dr. Martin’s House and Office – 1906
243 East Third Street
Dr. Philip Edgar Martin, was born October 6, 1870 in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada. He was one of three children, the others being George, who died in 1903, and Jackwho died in infancy.
Dr. Martin was educated in the public schools of Lindsay until the age of 12. He then attended Upper Canada College of Toronto, a preparatory school, and Trinity College of Medicine in Toronto. He studied a year at the Detroit College of Medicine, graduating in 1891 at the age of 21.
Immediately after graduation he located to Orion, Michigan, where he married Jessie M. Anderson. In 1899 he moved to Imlay City and in 1906 built the home located at 243 East Third Street. The home also served as his office where he continued the general practice of medicine until his untimely death in January of 1929 when he was killed in an automobile accident north of town. He is buried in the Orion Cemetery.
The building was later purchased by the Churchill family who also lived in the house and operated an insurance agency in the front portion and enclosed porch. Today, Churchill Insurance still operates from the main floor.
Dr. Martin’s House and Office
243 East Third Street
J. Krusen was one of Imlay City’s pioneer merchants, establishing a drug store in 1872, carrying “drugs, medicines, paints and oils.” In 1875, after the village was incorporated, he served as assessor for a few years. In 1884 Mr. Krusen moved to Larned, Kansas.
Dr. George W. Jones was Imlay City’s first physician, coming to Imlay City in December of 1873. Dr. Jones first office was on the second floor of the N. J. Krusen Drug Store. He was a successful practitioner and often made calls on horseback. He was very active in the life of the new community. In 1873 he was elected the first village president, a position he held many years. He was postmaster for 12 years, and a promoter and founder of the Imlay City Fair Association.
In later years his office was at various locations in the downtown area including 126 Third Street and the Haskin Block on the south side of east Third Street.
John Borland, Sr. was born in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1832, and came to the United States in 1852. He settled in Romeo, MI, in 1860. Later, learning of a new town on the railroad, he moved his family to Imlay City, opening a general store in November of 1870; the first place where goods were retailed. This pioneer merchant ran a first class general store. He sold his store in 1870 and started a private bank, naming it the Lapeer County Bank. It was organized as State Bank No. 24 on February 8, 1886. He built this building on the corner of Third and Bancroft streets in 1886.
The building was described in an early publication as follows: “The building is a fine two-story brick…..the main entrance being directly on the corner. It is a finely constructed edifice, and adds materially to the appearance of the village…..The office is an elegantly finished apartment, roomy, and perfectly adapted to its uses. It is finished in oak, beautifully paneled and veneered in birdseye maple trimmings. It is lighted by triple windows arched with stained glass. To the right of the counting-room is the private office, fitted up plainly and yet appropriately in accordance with the general design. …..the vaults are absolutely safe, a fact of no little consequence to those who make deposits therein of valuable papers or articles.”
In earlier years, the second story of the bank building was used as an attorney’s office, dressmaker’s shop and dentist offices. A doctor used the rear of the lower level as his offices.
The bank prospered and became an asset to Imlay City. Mr. Borland’s two sons, John Jr. (Jock) and William were bank assistants and they continued the operations of the bank after their father’s death in June of 1919. The Great Depression forced banks to close in Michigan in 1932. A new bank was then organized and opened on April 26, 1935, known as the Imlay City State Bank. On May 1, 1985, Security Bancorp of Southgate completed consolidation plans with Imlay City State Bank, and it became Security Bank of Imlay City.
E.E. Palmer/Rathsburg & Muir Bookstore -1929
151 East Third Street
In 1888, Edward E. Palmer started a variety store in this building at the corner of Bancroft and Third streets. The store sold school books, supplies and various other items.
In 1901 he sold the store to Frank Rathsburg, who had been a clerk in a general store in Almont. After selling his business Mr. Palmer devoted his time to farming, developing the Belle River flats east of town, known as Riverside Farm. The farm was later operated by the Belle River Celery Company. Mr. Palmer later moved to Long Beach, California, where he resided until 90 years of age. Upon his death he was returned to Imlay City for burial.
Frank Rathsburg was an active citizen. He was secretary of the Imlay City Fair Association, promoted the Detroit Urban Railway, helped start the local Chamber of Commerce and aided in promoting the Earle Memorial Highway, the new M-53.
In 1902 Will Muir, who had been clerking in the Nelson Haskin store (located on Third Street) for two years, bought an interest in the store. The Rathsburg and Muir firm was then formed with Walter Schoof and Fred Linekar as clerks. Mr. Muir sold his interest in 1919 and entered the insurance business.
Later, Walter Schoof bought Mr. Muir’s interest in the store and it became the firm of Rathsburg and Schoof. The firm of Rathsburg and Schoof continued until 1929 when the store was completely destroyed by fire. Mr. Schoof then opened a wallpaper, paint and home furnishing store on Almont Avenue which he ran until 1936 when he became postmaster for the next 20 years.
E.E. Palmer/Rathsburg & Muir Bookstore
151 East Third Street
Marshall/Bowen’s Men’s Clothing- 1905 149 East Third Street
On April 14, 1898, Joseph S. and David S. Marshall, pioneer merchants, opened a men’s furnishings store at the southeast corner of Third Street and Almont Avenue. The Marshall Clothing Company operated as such until March 9, 1914, when G. M. “Mate” Bowen purchased the Marshalls’ interest and changed the name to Bowen’s Clothing Store. The business earlier had moved into this location, a new building, in 1905. This site was formerly a wooden structure occupied by the Stock & Bolton Harness Shop.
In May of 1944, Mr. Bowen, after 46 years in the clothing business, sold his store to Carlton and Gerry VanWagoner. Mr. Bowen continued to work in the store. Mr. VanWagoner retained the name of Bowen’s Clothing Store. Carlton VanWagoner followed in Mr. Bowen’s footsteps as both men were active in Rotary, the Congregational Church, Boy Scouts, and many community organizations and projects.
The building was modernized in 1949 by Mr. VanWagoner and saw a face-lift of the storefront that consisted of baked enamel on steel.
In 1971, Carlton VanWagoner retired and sold the business to Jack and Angie Riley. It was then known as Riley’s Men’s Wear and another face lift was made consisting of a barn wood facade. Riley’s closed in 1982 and various businesses since that time have occupied the building.
Marshall/Bowen’s Men’s Clothing 149 East Third Street
The first Imlay City post office was located at Blacks Corners, a small settlement two miles northwest of Imlay City. The post office then moved into the village of Imlay City and was located at the southeast corner of Third Street and Almont Avenue. From there it moved two more times until 1923 when Myron Fancher erected this building on Almont Avenue to be used as the Imlay City Post Office. Currently, the United States Post Office is located at 310 East Third Street.
Early postmasters were (in order); E. E. Palmer, Dr. Egglestone, Dr. George W. Jones, Morrice Braidwood, Jack Brewer, Mrs. Guy Washer, Earl (Pete) Secor, Walter Schoof, Grace Matthews and James Robb.
In the 1950s this building became the Metzger Shoe Store. The lower level of the building, accessed by an outdoor stairwell, at one time contained a beauty shop, a barber shop, and a coffee shop.
Myron Fancher came to Imlay City in 1903. He was a funeral director until his retirement in 1945. He was the manager of the local telephone exchange from 1909 until 1928. He also built the buildings that housed the A&P store and the Fancher and Smith Funeral Home located along this section of Almont Avenue
C. Shaw built the McKinley Hotel in 1889. It has been known by many names over the years such as Hotel Mack, the Bossenberry Hotel, the Seidell Hotel and the Imlay City Hotel.
The McKinley Hotel is of the Italianate Style. The tall narrow windows, the wide projecting cornice with brackets, and the hooded windows are typical of the Italianate Style, which was common for urban buildings and homes during the 1860s and 1880s.
The lobby of the current business was the original lobby of the hotel where guests would register. There is a loose panel in the woodwork on the side of the stairway in the lobby where bartenders hid alcohol during Prohibition. The hotel contained a dining room, kitchen, bar, restrooms, and a dance hall with a stage for a band. Behind the hotel is a cement block garage that was used as an ice storage building.
There were 16 separate rooms upstairs and one bathroom that was shared among all the hotel guests. It had a single bathtub, toilet and sink.
The taller window on the front of the building was formerly a doorway to go out onto the second level deck. Ropes were nailed to the deck floor to every window to be used as a fire escape. Legend says someone used one of those ropes to hang him or herself by jumping out the window. Subsequent owners of the building have had many experiences on the second floor where a ghost has been sensed. Believe it or not!
Masonic Lodge 341 of Free and Accepted Masons was inaugurated on August 6, 1876, and the first meetings were held in the third story of a wooden building located on the west side of Almont Avenue, north of Third Street. Lodge was held in the Almont Avenue hall until January of 1887 when the Masons moved to Haskin’s Hall located on east Third Street.
Early in 1888, the lodge, at their own expense, moved into the J. C. Lamb building on Main Street and in February of that year, celebrated the opening of a new lodge room with a banquet and social party. This remained their home for 25 years, until April 1, 1913, when the lease, having expired, was not renewed. The Imlay City Order of Eastern Star was formed in 1900. (OES is an organization originally for women who were a daughter, widow, wife, sister or mother of a master Mason.)
On February 27, 1912, with the idea of building a hall, a lot on Third Street was purchased from Charles Hazelton for the sum of $1,000. To start the building project, 493 certificates were sold at $10 each and with interest to be four percent and payable in ten years.
Ground was broken on April 20, 1912, and the building of the new Mason hall begun. Volunteer workers donated their labor freely when building the basement. John Forsyth, local carpenter, and his helpers finished the building on April 5, 1913. The first meeting was held April 30th, 1913. The 4,000-square foot Masonic Hall included a large lodge meeting room, a kitchen, dining area and another smaller congregating area. The basement level contained a bowling alley.
Later, the committee found it had over built for the money that was available and a real estate loan was taken for $4,500 and a note given. In 1938 the note was paid in full. The Masons vacated the building in 1990 just before the charter for Lodge 341 was relinquished. For several years after the Masons occupancy, the building was used as a banquet hall.
Imlay Township Hall & Library – 1951
212 East Third Street
This building was used as the Imlay Township Hall and Library until 1985 when a new facility was built across from the township cemetery on Fairgrounds Road for township offices. The building then remained the Imlay Township Library until 1989.
At a meeting in October of 1921, the Women’s Study Club began discussing the idea of a public library in Imlay City. They began to raise money by putting on three plays in the town’s opera house. The first library opened in January of 1923 at the town hall on the corner of Fourth and Almont Avenue with 450 books.
In 1927, a 1/8 mill tax was passed and the library became a part of Imlay Township. After ten years the library was moved out of the town hall and into Dr. Braidwood’s office at the corner of Almont Avenue and Fifth Street. It stayed at this location for two years and then moved to a building behind the Lapeer County Bank building on Bancroft Street. It resided there for 16 years until 1951 when a new building was built to include the library and the township office. The building was constructed by Frank Wiegersma. The library resided there for the next 39 years.
In 1989 a new library was built from a generous trust left by Ruth Hughes, a native of Imlay City. The dedication of that building was held in January of 1990, naming it the Ruth Hughes Memorial Library. Library business continues today on that original site, the corner of Fourth and Almont Avenue.
In 1998 the building was sold to the Harry F. Hovey American Legion Post 135 for use as their headquarters.
Imlay Township Hall & Library
212 East Third Street
In the year 1887, Charles Palmer established a private bank, with Harry E. Palmer, his son, as head cashier. This private bank operated in a wooden structure further to the west on Third Street
In 1895, Mr. Palmer built this neat and spacious two-story brick building on his lot on Third Street, next to Walter Walker & Company’s elevator lots. The building was constructed of red pressed brick with Brear stone trimmings. It was constructed in a thorough manner throughout. In 1887, the Imlay City Times newspaper reported, “The plans of the building are a credit to our thriving little city, architecturally and otherwise.” The first floor was built for the growing banking business.
The building was wired for electric lights and was well-lighted, not only from the front but the side as well, and was finished in the latest modern style. Arthur Hudson of Almont completed some of the fine carpenter work. The bank opened for business on December 20, 1895. A Mosler burglarproof safe in the latest pattern, screw door, and triple time lock was installed. The next year, in 1896, Mr. Palmer had the bank building papered. It wasn’t until 1913 that the bank placed a set of safety deposit boxes in their vault for the use of their patrons.
Several businesses occupied the second story at one time such as an attorney, an art studio and a doctor. On June 26, 1896 Dr. Stanley Large, a dentist, opened his office over the bank and remained there for many years.
Dr. David V. Yerex built this building in 1882 as a carriage and wagon repository. It was the first door west of what was then Dan McGillis’ Bancroft Hotel. It is 24 x 40, two stories high. Newspaper accounts of 1914 indicate the building received a new coat of paint in that year.
Dr. Yerex came to this vicinity about 1860 and for a time was employed by his uncle, James Harrington, who kept the Imlay Hotel on South Blacks Corners Road. After attending the Medical University of Toronto and Bellevue Hospital in New York City he came back to the area and practiced medicine. He moved to the village some time around 1877. He had large land holdings and farms in Goodland and Imlay townships.
In earlier years Dr. Yerex allowed a portion of the building to be used by the Ladies Library Association for ice cream and cake fundraisers.
In 1896, Mrs. F. Korst managed a restaurant in this building. In 1911 the building was used as the Star Restaurant, with the proprietor being S. C. Titus. For many years it was Ray’s Bar, and most recently the Front Row Tavern.
In January of 2007 the building suffered a fire which damaged mostly the second floor. It was renovated the next year.
The coming of the railroad in 1870 was pivotal to Imlay City’s founding and economic progression. Imlay City’s original wooden depot was built in 1870 for the Port Huron and Lake Michigan Railroad, and contained separate waiting rooms for men and women. The PH&LM Railroad, later became known as the Chicago & Grand Trunk, Grand Trunk Railroad (GT), and the GTW (Western). Since 1987, the railroad has been operated by the Canadian National Railway system, which dots the southern Lower Peninsula landscape.
Early in 1872 passenger traffic at this station was reported to be 4,000 tickets being sold for travel from Port Huron to Imlay City There were as many as four eastbound and four westbound trains daily. After a fire in 1917, the original depot’s partial ruins were used for ten years until a new depot, a sturdy brick structure, was built in 1927 by the Ellington Miller Company of Chicago at a cost of $11,667. Passenger trains made regular stops in Imlay City for 101 years ending in 1971. The depot was then used for storage by GTW.
The depot sat vacant for a few years until 1976 when the City of Imlay City began negotiations with GTW and obtained a 99-year lease on the building and property. The City in turn leased the building to the Imlay City Historical Commission for use as a museum in 1978, with all restoration and repairs performed by volunteers. In 1988 the City reached an agreement with GTW to purchase the building and property for $5,000. Today the lease continues with the Imlay City Historical Commission for use as a public museum.
The Martin Block emerged from a piece of land that was purchased in the late 1800s by A. F. Martin, a local druggist and owner of the Palace Drug Store. He also purchased a three-foot strip of ground fronting on Third Street from Joseph S. Marshall to add to the site.
Construction on the building began on May 9, 1890. The new brick block building was 28’ x 70’, two stories high with a plate glass front and a cellar. The building was a modern structure and an ornament in the town.
Lumber for the construction came by rail from Kingston, MI. The finishing lumber was ash and the result was some of the finest grained lumber imaginable. The building had a tin roof. The plate glass for the new block was shipped by train from Cleveland, Ohio and placed by a man who came from that city to take charge of the installation. The glass was of the finest quality and Mr. Martin paid about $400 for the material. The furnace was first class and also heated the second floor rooms. The rooms above the store served as the residence of Mr. Martin’s family and were large and well-lighted.
J. Landers, an attorney and banker, first occupied the store with a full line of dry goods, boots, and shoes. Later stores that occupied the Martin Block were Ballentine’s Grocery, Blashill’s Jewelry and Mrs. E. F. Milbourne, Milliner. In 1933 Sam Coscarelli, an Italian immigrant, opened Coscarelli’s Party Store and three generations of his family ran the business. The Ruiz Taqueria then occupied the building until May of 2016, when the building suffered a devastating fire. Renovations were extensive as the new building owner wanted to ensure historical accuracy and save this important downtown Imlay City gem.
E.E. Palmer, brother of Imlay City’s founder Charles Palmer, built this home in 1903 during the Victorian Era. The house was later owned by the John Worthy family. This property was somewhat of a small farm in early years since there were no surrounding houses. The remnants of a foundation for the slaughter house can still be found on the property. (The Worthy family owned a meat market in the downtown area.) In later years the house was divided so as to contain a small apartment on the second floor. At one time the house contained many pocket doors and still retains the original beautiful fireplace.
Edward Palmer came to Imlay City in 1870 to manage his brother Charles Palmer’s hotel, the Bancroft House. That hotel burned in 1873. Edward Palmer was appointed the first postmaster in Imlay City in 1874. In 1888 he started a stationery and variety store, specializing in school supplies and school furniture. He later was a partner in a furniture business known as Buck & Palmer. He sold the store in 1901 to Frank Rathsburg who had been a clerk in a general store in Almont. Palmer served as postmaster for many years and as a village trustee. He was also the first to run the telephone office, a state line, as in the early days there was no exchange.
After selling his business he devoted his time to farming, developing the Belle River flats, east of town, then operated by the Belle River Celery Company. When he conducted the Belle River business it was known as Riverside Farm.
The street known as Grove Street was in earlier days known as “Palmer’s Grove” and was a tree-shaded area where residents picnicked and the GAR would encamp during celebrations.
Mr. Palmer married Catherine Kellogg Farley (born March 10, 1849, died March 5, 1928 in California) in Imlay City on November 13, 1875. Mr. Palmer died in Long Beach, California where he had retired and his remains were returned to Imlay City and interred in the Imlay Cemetery.
Charles Palmer built this Gothic Revival home in 1906 for his son, Harry. Mr. Palmer had Railroad Street, which ran diagonally through the block, closed off to build at this location. Harry was president and head cashier of People’s State Bank; the bank his father founded. There was a two-story barn behind the house where the family car was stored.
Harry Edward Palmer was born on March 6, 1869 in Port Huron, Michigan. He died August 14, 1944 in Detroit, Michigan. He married E. Louise Bramen on June 28, 1906 in Flint, Michigan. They lived in Imlay City and Ann Arbor. Harry and Louise had five children, Charles Edward, William Bramen, Harold Bruce, Dorothy Louise (married Frederic Harrington) and Harry Douglas. All five children were born in Imlay City.
Harry owned a large farm at the edge of town where he grew onions, later to become celery farms. He was active in the Masonic Order, the Zach Chandler Club and Republican politics. He also served as director of the Agricultural Society for a period of time.
After the failure of banks across the state in 1932, Harry Palmer left the area and settled in Ann Arbor. The property went into receivership. The home was rented in the late 1930s to Dr. Kenneth Dick and then in the early 1940s to Dr. Glenn Smith. Both practiced medicine from the house. The property was then purchased in 1941 by William Muir for $3,600 and later transferred to his brother Allen Muir.
Muir Brothers Funeral Home was established in 1946 by father Allen Muir and his sons Paul and Grant. Paul later established a funeral home in Lapeer. In 1962 an addition was placed on the south side of the home which contained a new chapel and restrooms as well as a casket room and lab in the lower level. In 1982, Robert Muir, son of Grant, took over the business and operates the funeral home today. In 1994 an outdoor and indoor ramp were added to the north side of the house. The upstairs served as living quarters for Grant’s family until 1980 and from 1982 until 1988 it was the living quarters for Robert’s family.
This home was constructed by Dr. David V. Yerex during the Victorian Period (1837-1901) and reflects the revival of Gothic Style architecture. This style is commonly referred to as Carpenter Gothic and the house adapts the Gothic element of steep gables. Carpenter Gothic is characterized by its profusion of jig sawn details, made possible by the invention of the steam powered scroll saw. The stained glass transom over the front door contains the name “Yerex.” The house for many years was divided into two apartments; fortunately the elaborate grand staircase was never painted over and was easily restored. The current owners completed major restoration of the entire home back to its elegant style in about 2009. They rebuilt the original wraparound porch and built a carriage house in the rear of the home.
Dr. Yerex was born in Picton, Prince Edward County, Ontario, on April 21, 1845. He came to this area about 1860 and for a time was employed by his uncle, James Harrington, who kept the Imlay Hotel on South Blacks Corners Road. In 1864 he went to Toronto, where he attended the normal training school and the medical university of Toronto. He completed his degree at Bellevue Hospital, New York City.
In 1869 he came back to the Blacks Corners area and began his practice, moving to the Imlay village some time around 1877. He served as superintendent of the county poor house, as village president, and as moderator of the school board. He had large land holdings and farms in Goodland and Imlay townships. One of the early settlements in Goodland Township was founded in 1874 and named Yerex Corners, located at the corner of Armstrong and Blacks Corners roads, near Dr. Yerex’s farm.
Dr. Yerex died on August 27, 1906 at Harper Hospital from shock, an hour after an operation for removal of a cancer of the colon. His wife, Minnie (Burghardt) Yerex, died one year later on February 3, 1907. Their son Hugh was sent to Boston to live with an uncle. Dr. Yerex’s obituary states, “A widow and one son, Hugh aged about 15 years, survive him and are left in comfortable financial circumstances.”
This Craftsman Style house is unofficially a copy of a kit home. It was a plan sold by Montgomery Ward around 1920-22 and the design was called “The Carlisle.”
The lot on which Charles Whitkopf, a carpenter by trade, built this home was part of Charles Palmer’s original plat, and has seen ownership by a number of pioneers to the Imlay City area. Robert McRoy, a wealthy farmer and justice of the peace in the area, constructed a beautiful home on parts of lots 8, 9 and 10 in 1884. It was one of the grandest homes in Imlay City at that time. The fate of the house McRoy built and lived in on the northeast corner of Fifth Street and Bancroft Street has not yet officially been discovered. However, it is likely that it burned, as bricks and charred fragments of pottery have been found by nearby homeowners while digging to plant landscape material.
Museum volunteer Tom Whitkopf states, “Based on the story told by my father, Forest “Fricky” Whitkopf, my grandmother, Mabel Whitkopf, liked the “Carlisle” built around the corner at 465 Bancroft Street and wanted that floor plan. My grandfather, Charles Whitkopf, took the floor plan, reversed it, and built the “Carlisle” for his family in 1922. In 1929 a sun-room addition was constructed on the west side of the home, directly off the living room.
“Originally the house had a cistern from which water was hand-pumped in a mud room area inside the back door. The kitchen had no sink and dishes were washed in large metal basins. There was a laundry chute for dropping clothes to the basement laundry room on both upper levels of the house. The house was heated with a huge coal furnace in the basement. Additionally, a wood burning kitchen stove had a reservoir for heating water and an oven that baked the best sugar cookies in the world.”
The kitchen also featured a built-in ironing board. The dining room included pressed board wainscoting that is still in its original condition, as well as the front door with beveled glass. Most of the woodwork is still original.
Taking a close look at the two houses, one can see the similarities, but Charles Whitkopf did make one change. He raised the roof on the back of his home with a dormer style roof line. The staircase in the Bancroft Street home has a very low ceiling. The stairwell design is a climb of six steps, reaching a landing and turning to go up the last six steps. A six-foot tall person would hit their head in that landing area. Tom indicates, “My grandparents had five sons and I know one who for sure was over six feet tall.”
The house remained in the Whitkopf family from 1922 to 1965.
The Hiram Wells house is in the Gothic Revival Style. It is a good example of the Romantic Style that was typical from the mid-1800s until the late 1800s when the New Republic rejected many of the architectural styles of the Colonial period. It is characterized as Gothic Revival due to the pointed arch entryway door and window and the Gothic window on the second floor, as well as the series of high-pitched gables on multiple sides and the one-story front porch.
An interesting characteristic is the drip mold over the windows and two-story bay window and elaborate paneling on the front entry door. The stone columns of the porch are uncommon to Gothic Revival; yet suitable due to the vertical expression that was characteristic of this type.
The house has historical significance as the home of a prominent Imlay City merchant and civic official, Mr. Hiram C. Wells. Mr. Wells served in the Civil War and was captured outside Macon, Georgia in 1864 and held prisoner for nearly a year at the notorious prison at Andersonville. He came to Imlay City in 1871 and established a flourishing furniture dealership, which included coffins.
The house is also known as the Braidwood House. When Dr. Charles Braidwood lived here there was a separate building that sat on the northeast side of this house and served as the doctor’s office. A pathway connected it and the doctor saw patients in this outbuilding. The building was later moved to Dryden.
Dr. Braidwood died in 1934 and some time after that Mrs. Braidwood split the house into two living spaces, with the renters entering their quarters on the north side of the house. When inside the house one can look back and find that the pattern of the front doors makes a cross. It’s unclear if this is by design or by accident, but it is a curious feature of the house.
The carriage house in back originally consisted of a structure that encompassed the two bays closest to the alley. It is said that Dr. Braidwood did keep a cow in the carriage house for a while.
The founder of Imlay City, Charles Palmer, built one of its grandest houses in 1890.
The Charles Palmer House, built to replace an earlier residence, is a painted, two-story, Queen Anne residence framed and sheathed in wood. The home displays many design elements traditional to the style including asymmetrical massing and fenestration, a variety of window shapes and sizes, a complex roof-line of hipped and gabled shapes, and a rich overlay of shingled, carved, incised, turned and jig-sawed wood ornamentation. Inside the home features its original, U-shaped staircase, front and back parlors and decoratively plastered ceilings, leaded glass windows, paneled sliding doors, and several fine fireplaces. The home remains largely intact except for the addition of bathrooms and modernization of the kitchen inside, and outside in the back, the construction of an enclosed porch and attached garage.
The Charles Palmer House is one of the two finest Queen Anne houses in Imlay City. It is also significant as the home of Imlay City founder Charles Palmer, the foremost character in the community’s early history because of the associations with the key events of settlement, platting, and early economic development. The house is inspired by the work of Imlay and Walter Beech who were developing the community of Almont. Charles Palmer purchased two hundred forty acres at a point between Capac and Attica in Lapeer County, surveyed and platted the tract, and began selling home sites. In June of 1870, he started construction of the Bancroft House, a railroad hotel that opened for business on August 17, 1870; just two days after the railroad began service to the community that Palmer named Imlay City. Although his first construction burned to the ground in 1873, Palmer’s influence on the town’s development continued after his death on May 3, 1916. He established and served as president of the Charles Palmer Banking House of Imlay City, served as a village trustee, worked as a school board member for twelve years, and helped organize the local Congregational Church. In architectural terms, his former home reflects Palmer’s prominence in his community and is a landmark of the Queen Anne style in Imlay City.
Richard Murphy/Walter Walker House
430 S. Almont Avenue Circa 1883
This home was built between 1883 and 1884 during the late Victorian Period. It is a two-story, red brick, Queen Anne home that displays many design elements traditional to the style including asymmetrical massing and fenestration, a variety of window shapes and sizes, a wide front porch, elaborate barge board, and a complex, multi-gabled roof line. A large, two-story, red brick addition dating from around the turn of the century stands to the back of the house. The home’s interior, apparently enriched at the time the addition was built, remains intact in floor plan and finishes. A red-painted wood barn with a gable roof and vertical siding is located at the back of the property and is original to the house.
The house is notable as the home from 1896 to 1923 of local grain elevator operator Walter Walker, a leading businessman in Imlay City in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Walter and Sarah Walker secured the house in May of 1896 as the result of a trade with carriage and wagon builder Richard Murphy and his wife Arabella. (The Murphys then moved to the Walker house on Main Street.) The Walkers made extensive repairs and in August moved into the house.
The Richard Murphy/Walter Walker House is one of the two finest Queen Anne houses in Imlay City. It is listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places.
Joseph T. Messer House
215 Sixth Street Circa 1895
This three story house with full basement was built in 1895 by Joseph Messer toward the end of the Victorian Era (1837-1901). It does not contain many of the features of a Victorian home such as towers, turrets and bay windows; however it does feature decorative trim.
The winter before Joseph Messer was going to start building a new house he employed Jim Sheppard as sawyer and Duncan Burke as helper to saw out all the brackets used around the house at the second floor line. These brackets consist of three pieces fastened together. Mr. Sheppard made most of the trim out of boards Mr. Messer selected at the sawmill. When the owner of the sawmill, Mr. Marshall, would run some extra nice clear logs he would tell Mr. Messer and they would pick out the best wood and put it away to season for use in the house. The door trim and baseboards are oak and one bedroom is finished in solid bird’s eye maple.
The interior is finished in native hardwoods butternut, bird’s eye maple, red oak and ash. There is a beautiful red oak open stairway and hardwood floors throughout, including the third story attic. Jim Sheppard did the design work, the plastering, and nearly all the mason work. Duncan Burke and L. Smith Messer did the labor work. John Howland was in charge of the painting.
The house has a full basement with an outside entrance. The upper level of the basement wall is brick but below ground level is stone. The basement under the whole building is eight feet in the clear. It is all divided off into apartments for coal, vegetable and storage rooms. In the center was a large Beckwith furnace which kept every room warm.
The main entrance is at the northeast corner. In the rear are the sitting and dining rooms, all connected by double sliding doors. There are a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom on the first floor. The second floor is divided into large, light and airy sleeping rooms with closets to every room. There is also a stairway leading to a large attic on the third floor. The house was wired for electricity. Originally there was a porch on the west side of the house with an entrance into the kitchen and steps down toward the barn.
Joseph Messer was a partner of J. C. Lamb in the firm of Lamb & Messer. Mr. Lamb and Mr. Messer formed the partnership in December of 1889. In 1892 that partnership was dissolved, and the business was then known as J. T. Messer and Company. This general merchandise store was the largest store in Imlay City and in all its departments carried the heaviest stock of goods. In fact, it was looked upon as an assemblage of large stores under one roof. They sold general merchandise, dry goods, groceries, and hardware. It also contained the Imlay City Exchange Bank. There was a tin shop upstairs over the store run by a Mr. Bentley. Mr. Bentley made all the tin ware sold in the store (pails, buckets, dippers, roasting pans, etc.) and people traded eggs, butter, hides, wool, hams, salt pork, apples, and maple sugar for store merchandise.
It is believed that this Arts & Crafts style house was built around November of 1913 for Dr. Stanley Large. Built-ins were the hallmark feature of the Arts and Crafts Era homes. Built-in cabinets allowed the furnishings to be part of the architecture, ensuring design unity and economic use of space. The fireplace was the symbol of family in the movement, so this home features a dominant fireplace in the living room and a large exterior chimney.
The house retains many of the original interior features such as a coffered ceiling in the living room, built-in bookcases on either side of the fireplace, original oak flooring, built-in china cabinet in the dining room, and the original built-in deacons bench in the foyer. The home’s porch features thick square cobblestone columns.
In 1969 the Hatfield family purchased the house. They later built an addition onto the rear of the house and enclosed the front porch.
Dr. Stanley Large was born June 25, 1873 in Listowel, Ontario and came to Imlay City in 1896 after graduating from the Dental School of the Detroit College of Medicine. He married Effie Jones, daughter of Dr. George Jones March 7, 1900. He opened dental offices over the People’s State Bank on Third Street in 1905. He was a long-time dentist, businessman and civic leader in Imlay City.
In 1922 Dr. Large brought John DeHaan from Hudsonville, Michigan to clear 10 acres of muck land east of the city. He experimented with growing celery. This was so successful that in 1928 Dr. Stanley Large, along with G. Fred Butler (his brother-in-law) and Harry E. Palmer formed the Belle River Celery Company, which helped to open up the Imlay City muck lands. Later 10 Dutch families from the Zeeland and Kalamazoo area were hired to come to Imlay City and grow celery. Mr. Butler and Dr. Large also had the Ford automobile agency here, and were later in the insurance business.
Dr. Large and Mr. Butler, along with some other investors, built the gasoline station and restaurant at the corner of M-53 and M-21 known for many years as Hi-Speed and later operated by Pure Oil Company. Dr. Large was on the Fair board many years and was long-time President of the organization. He was village clerk at the time the village hall was constructed in 1902.
This was the home of Dr. George W. Jones. It was built in 1872 and appears to be in the Italianate style. It has been partially restored by the current owner, and originally contained an open porch on the south side, which is now enclosed. The original porch contained a railing along the upper roof and the entire front lawn was enclosed with a decorative wood fence.
The ornamental tree on the south side of the house is a Catalpa tree, only one or two known in Imlay City. It is a flowering tree and has large bean pods that turn brown and drop in late summer. The largest living Catalpa tree is on the grounds of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing and was planted in the year 1879. There is one in England that is 150 years old.
Dr. Jones came to Imlay City from Port Perry, Ontario in December of 1870. He was the first doctor in Imlay City when the population was only 100. During his career he presided at over 1,900 births. He and his family lived in this house for 58 years, until the time of his death. His son-in-law, C. F. Butler, then purchased the house and lived there for many more years.
Dr. Jones served in mnay important civic positions, including:
52 years as chairman of the board of trustees of the Congregational Church
12 years as postmaster under four different presidents
30 years as surgeon for the Grand Trunk Railroad
62 years a member of the Masonic Lodge
He was one of the founders of the fair association.
He was a member of the county pension board and the school board
The James F. Fairweather/Jacob C. Lamb House, built between 1871 and 1874, is a two-story, wood frame, Gothic Revival structure. An L-plan front section with a tower-like projection containing the principal entrance is located in the angle of the L. The front is divided into three bays, which recede from left to right. A front-facing gable displaying ornamental barge boarding caps each. The bay windows date from a later, nineteenth-century modernization of the home but present a pleasing array of fluted pilasters, narrow double-hung sash, and brackets. Changes in the home’s foundation from cut store under the original two-story section to field stone under the first single-story back addition and concrete bed under the garage document the construction of the two additions in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the brick foundation under the porch reflects an improvement rather than an addition. The home is also a fine example of Gothic Revival residential architecture and one of only a few Gothic Revival-inspired homes in Imlay City.
The significance of the James F. Fairweather/Jacob C. Lamb House (later the Hovey and then Cheney house) stems from the commercial activities of both its principal owners and the political activity of Jacob Lamb. Fairweather was an early dry goods merchant who helped establish the commercial base of the community during the 1860s and 1870s when the arrival of the railroads, the start of lumbering, the early development of the Thumb area’s road system, and the initiation of regional marketing of local farm products first spurred Imlay City’s growth. With the homes’ purchase by Jacob Lamb in 1879, the house became associated with a man whose involvements in produce and dry goods marketing, grain and wool brokerage, agriculture, banking, and state politics made him the key figure in the community’s period of “boom” growth that lasted into the early twentieth century.
This cut stone house was built in 1929 for Dr. D. W. Crankshaw, a physician and surgeon, who practiced out of the home. Lumber for the construction of the house was stored in a barn in Mayville as it became available and until it was needed.
Verner Crankshaw, cousin of Dr. Crankshaw, was the carpenter that built the frame and did the woodworking for the house. It is uncertain who the stone mason was that worked with Verner. However, longtime residents suggest the name of John Bax, Sr. as possibly being the stone mason on the house and having a hand in the work. John was a muck farmer who lived on Shaw Road and also worked at the foundry. He did stonework as a hobby. It is known he worked on the “wall” around the house
The main hall closet and the closets above and below were originally designed to house an elevator. The window sills were marble and all of the interior doors were solid wood. The front door was large and at least three inches thick.
The second owner of the house was Grand Trunk Railroad station agent George Oille and his family. Mr. Oille sold it to Dr. M. C. VanConant. Dr. VanConant was told that the papers and plans for the house were hidden behind the heart shaped stone in one of the chimneys. It is not known if this story is a myth or if the original plans were really there. Blueprints were in the possession of the current owners, the Lambs, and placed in a safe. Unfortunately they were destroyed by a fire that incinerated everything in the home’s three levels on February 20, 2014. All but the beautiful stone walls were destroyed in the inferno that ravaged this iconic landmark of craftsmanship and history. The unattached garage and dental clinic were not affected.
Duane Wesley Crankshaw was born on September 8, 1887 in Rich Township, Lapeer County, and graduated from Mayville high school. He taught school in Huron and Lapeer counties until enrolling in college at Albion. After a year he transferred to the Medical College at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, receiving his B. S. in 1911 and M. D. in 1913. After graduation, he moved to Lawrence, VanBuren County, where he practiced medicine until the outbreak of World War I. He entered the Army Medical Corp with the rank of Lieutenant, and was discharged in 1919 with the rank of Major.
Dr. Crankshaw then opened his practice at Hadley, Lapeer County, later locating at Imlay City on Almont Avenue and then to his new stone house on Capac Road. He resided there until the outbreak of World War II, when he returned to the U. S. Army Medical Corp, serving until 1946 when he retired at Chamblee, Georgia.
In 1947 he moved to Lake Placid, Florida where he practiced until retirement, rendering 63 years of service. He is featured in a mural on the side of the medical building in Lake Placid. Major Duane Wesley Crankshaw, U. S. Army, M.D. died on March 1, 1977 in Arcadia, Florida and was buried in Lake Placid, Florida.
The parcel of land on which this home sits was originally bought by Anson Parsons and was part of 160 acres purchased from the United States government for $1 in 1837. Charles Palmer purchased the land from Mr. Parsons and platted the village of Imlay City in 1870.
Mr. John Coope, who was a partner in the Walter Walker & Company grain elevator and a wealthy businessman, built this home in 1892.
The house features an ornate carved fireplace mantel, and carved woodwork of oak and white pine. The dining room features beautiful French doors. Beautifully crafted designs are hand carved into the railing of the staircase and the molding surrounding the windows and doors. Even the door hinges are worth looking at, as each one is graced with its own artistic design. The upstairs bedrooms all have working transoms over the doors which allows air to flow in from the hallway. Two of the rooms feature small washing sinks in the corner.
While sitting in the parlor it is possible to look through the doorways of the sitting room, den and bathroom to the opposite end of the home. Views such as these provide a unique charm to the house, and give it a feeling of great depth.
The structure boasts four dormers, each uniquely designed with a different style window and exterior scroll work. Today the home is still reminiscent of the days when John and Ursala Coope were the owners.
After acquiring the house in 1974, the new homeowners decided to tear out a wall, and in so doing, discovered it had been installed later and was not part of the original design. The only other renovation that has been done on the property was the replacement of the carriage barn in the backyard.
John E. Coope was born in 1851 in Blackinton, Massachusetts and in 1878, at the age of 27, came to Imlay City and embarked in the grain business with Walter Walker.
He was one of Imlay City’s most valued citizens, coming to the town when it was yet in its infancy. Mr. Coope not only acquired a fortune but was instrumental in building up a business that was an important factor in Imlay City’s prosperity.
Mr. Coope served as village trustee, school board trustee, and director of the Lapeer County Bank (Imlay City). He was a delegate to the state Prohibition convention and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and attended its encampments. He was also a member of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Masons and took his degree at Detroit. He traveled extensively for both business and leisure.
In 1889 Mr. Coope disposed of his interest in the Walker & Coope Elevator due to ill-health, and on March 9 he left to retire in Pasadena, California.
In May of 1890 Mr. Coope and family returned to Imlay City and occupied a rental house.
In February of 1891 he underwent a surgical operation whereby part of his skull was chiseled out and removed. An aperture one-inch square was formed. The inner surface of the skull was found to be in a diseased condition. He suffered a long recovery from the surgery.
In 1896 Mr. Coope lost all of his property through speculation in grain options. In his downfall he also involved Walter Walker for quite a large amount on account of Mr. Walker endorsing notes for him. The amount of loss to Mr. Walker, while of a considerable sum, in no way affected his elevator business, as he was able to meet it and continue his business without interruption. Mr. Coope was also indebted to the Lapeer County Bank but the bank held securities to cover the indebtedness.
The family moved to Detroit and on June 1, 1909 Mrs. Coope gave possession of the house to G. Mate Bowen
This Farmhouse Style home with wraparound porch was built in 1929 by (it is believed) Hiram Barnes. At some time an addition was built onto the rear of the home. Farmhouses were built for need rather than design, often featuring functional porches as a transitional space creating a much more informal and inviting exterior.
The original front section of the house contains heavy beams with square nails. The addition appears to be simply built on stumps. There are three bedrooms and one small bathroom on the second floor. Previous owners completely restored the original porch columns.
Mr. and Mrs. Barnes had two children, Rowland and Mabelle (Mrs. Roy Ogden).
244 East Third Street
Arla Slogar & Linda Dyball, artists
Commissioned by the Imlay City Downtown Development to depict the history of Imlay City, the two artists created a mural featuring Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones came to Imlay City on December 23, 1870. He was the village’s first physician and village president. Also pictured are the Fairgrounds, the first school built in Imlay City (Fourth and Calkins Street), and the Water Tower. The Hands of Unity represent the Imlay City pioneers who were of many ethnic backgrounds; German, Dutch and Mexican migrant workers. The Muck Farmlands continue to be an important economic factor to the Imlay City region. Celery, iceberg lettuce, and blueberries have all been crops grown in the muck.
244 East Third Street
Arla Slogar & Linda Dyball, artists
Charles Palmer was the founder of Imlay City. Mr. Palmer selected this locality as a likely produce market between Attica and Capac. The mural depicts the importance of the railroad to Imlay City’s history. Lumber, livestock and produce have also been important commodities exported from Imlay City. The First Town Clock was installed on the Town Hall’s tower in 1903.
This house has the potential to be classified as a Queen Anne Style home but the use of masonry and the heavy use of stone at the window heads and sills are more characteristic of another Victorian era type of house called Richardsonian Romanesque.
This is characterized by many of the same elements as Queen Anne but this style always employed masonry with large window openings. Note the same use of some of the Victorian era elements such as the front corner tower and the high-pitched hip roof and the one story entry porch. Henry Hobson Richardson was an architect in Boston whodesigned houses during the 1860s – 1870s, and in 1888 his work was published. By the 1890s his style was widely associated with Victorian homes. The Richardson Romanesque homes were more expensive to build than the typical wood frame Victorian home, and for this reason were not as common.
520 South Almont includes other Richardson Romanesque features such as the over scale dormers on the third floor and the heavy stone and pre-cast band at the base of the house. The scale of all of the design elements of this house is exaggerated which gives the home a distinctive appeal.
The house was built for David J. Marshall, son of Charles Marshall, in 1900. The Marshalls were of Scottish ancestry. In 1894 David graduated from the University of Michigan law school and then practiced in Pittsburgh for 13 years. In 1908 his father convinced him to return to Imlay City and take over the management of the flourmill with his brother Frederick. Davis was a prominent Mason and active member of the Congregational Church.
The house for a number of years was divided into a two-family structure. When the current owners purchased the house in 1982 it had fallen into great disrepair, and their restoration continues today. The entryway staircase had been completely walled off and has since been restored. The fireplace and over mantle have been replaced with styles more appropriate to the era of the house. The fireplace in the second floor bedroom has also been re-worked. There are pocket doors, which remained untouched over the years and hidden away in the wall. The house features oak woodwork, which has been refinished, as were most of the floors in the house.
The third floor is currently used as the family’s recreation room. The Marshalls used it strictly as an attic where they stored their trunks. They traveled extensively in this country and abroad. Mr. Marshall had one of the first short-wave radios and the copper wire for the antenna was run through brackets near the ceiling and is still in that room.
There are two garrets in the third floor, one on the front of the house, and one above the stairway. There is a third garret that is unseen on the south end of the third floor. You can notice that garret on the south roof line of the house.
The Michaels House is of Queen Anne Style and was built in 1907 by Edward Michaels. Edward Michaels entered the lumber business in Capac in 1895, and in 1901 with his brother Louis purchased the Imlay City lumber business of John Marshall. He purchased his brother’s interest in 1910 and continued the business until September of 1937, when he sold the lumberyard to Mulhall Lumber Company of Owosso.
Edward Michaels was born in 1862 and married Miss Rose Martin in 1895. He died in August of 1938.
The Michaels House is a fine example of a Victorian home. Some of the characteristics of a Queen Anne Style are the dominant front-facing gables, the asymmetrical face and the front facing one-story porch. Towers are found on several styles of homes of the Victorian period, but typically on Queen Anne homes the towers were placed on the front corner of the home.
The interior of this house contains plaster moldings around the edge of the ceilings. Most of the light fixtures in the lower level are reproduction; however the staircase and upstairs rooms are all original.
The fireplace is a coal fireplace and the depth of the fireplace is only about one foot—insufficient depth for a wood fire. When the house was purchased in 1988 the ceilings had all been stripped down to lathe and covered with Celeotex board. It was removed and the lathe taken down, entirely new wet plaster ceilings were then installed.
All of the oak moldings, paneling, doors and floors are original to the home and contain geometric patterns. One of the unique features of this house is the stained glass window in the staircase landing. Much of the glass in the house is either leaded glass or cut glass. There are five bedrooms upstairs and servant quarters with a separate stairway leading down to the kitchen. The kitchen has been totally re-done. All of the doors were sanded and refinished to their original state and the cabinets are consistent with what was in the home originally.
I painted the Grain stacks because they are a significant landmark of your city…and like many others they are a symbol of the industrious efforts of farmers through centuries. Unfortunately they seem to be an endangered species and will soon be removed (as may of those in Lapeer).
77 North Main Street
Jacqueline Piechowski, artist
The farmland scenes I passed everyday when I drove over to paint (in downtown Imlay City). I have flown over these jewels of the landscape for years, driven through them, got lost in them. They are America in it’s best.
395 East Third Street
Jacqueline Piechowski, artist
For this piece I wanted to use pure abstraction from two of my favorite artists. Piet Mondrian, and Jackson Pollock were two artists that broke all the rules of conventional art-making in order to make art that made themselves happy before anyone else. Love it, or hate it it makes you think.
For my last piece I wanted to create a landscape in the style of Fauvism, which is characterized by bright, vivid colors, and bold outlines. I wanted to chose a picture I had taken myself, and this is based on a photograph I took with my husband on our honeymoon. Fauvist believed that that bold color could give the viewers more feelings and emotions than any amount of finely drawn realist emotion. I have always been drawn to the bold use of color and I have to agree that it makes my heart happy to be in the presence of vivid color.
When I teach I often tell my students that you have to embrace what makes you unique and use that in your own artwork. In the background of this piece are quotes from different artists that are meaningful to me. “Creativity takes courage” “A work of art is a scream of freedom” “Curves are so emotional” “Color possesses me.” “Art is anything you can get away with” and “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break ’em like an artist.” To me, if you can embrace these things in your own artwork and about yourself you can find a freedom in all that you do.
211 North Almont Avenue (inside)
Sarah Opperman, artist
I have always loved giraffes. I have always found it amazing that such awkward looking creatures were so graceful and elegant. When I was 16 I took all of I teach my 2nd grade students about giraffes every year, and we talk about all of the giraffe facts they know, and when we’ve covered everything the students know I get to tell them my favorite giraffe fact. I wonder if you can guess what it is?
When given the idea of wings as a photo op for the community, my initial thought was monarch butterfly wings. They migrate through the area and are a butterfly that young and old can identify with. I wanted to push the idea of community engagement even further by giving the monarch’s wings more depth and dimension by using fabric soaked in plaster to build up the edges of the wings. The splatters help to bring movement to the wings as well to create a interactive experience.
The idea was to recreate the idea from many years ago when I painted the fence as a sign for the pool when I was in high school. I painted an octopus, a very cartoon octopus. With this octopus I wanted to give it more action and purpose. I varied the types of paint that I used to have texture and shine to the piece. I want the viewer to feel like they need to reach out and touch the suction cups and ink.
When first presented with opportunity to create permanent works for downtown, I immediately was drawn to creating for the Mulefoot (now Hiram’s Tavern). Having lived down the road from the Romines, and gone to school during the same time creating a work for them seemed like the ultimate awesome idea. I chose a pig to go along with their pig logo, but knowing that they enjoy outsider art and art that doesn’t always follow the norms, I wanted to make the pig bold and command attention- which is what I feel like they have accomplished with their restaurant and dining experience as a whole.
Perhaps my favorite thing to do it paint seascapes. I love taking details of what I image the sunset or sunrise to look like and then creating my own unique seascapes. I have only been to the sea once, but it has been something that has had my attention since I was little. I start most of my seascapes from a photo I find and then run with the colors in the photo to make my own version of either calm, turbulent, or treacherous waters.
150 North Main Street (back of building)
Eryn Gartley – artist
This was the first painting I finished of my five works for Imlay City’s, Art in Action. While bowling, maybe a year ago, I realized I had never drawn anything bowling related. Bowling has been a big part of my life the last few years, and to not have incorporated it into my art took me by surprise. First, I did a mini-canvas similar to this work as a project for my high school art class my senior year and when the DDA hired me, my first idea was to expand upon that mini bowling picture.
“Ode to Georgia,” is summed up in the title. It’s a painting like works a famous artist named Georgia O’Keefe, painted. I have always been a fan of O’Keefe, and I wanted to do a work similar to her extreme close-ups on flowers. I then took the idea and instead of lots of tiny details like in Georgia O’Keefe’s flower works, I wanted an image that would stand out with bold colors. I wanted to create an eye catching image that instantly made people think of flowers, but not one type in particular.