New signs map out Gladstone’s history | News, Sports, Jobs

R. R. Branstrom | Daily Press
Gladstone resident Jesse LaRose and dog Queen pause to take in a historic structure on Wisconsin Avenue. Built in 1900 and once owned by Northwestern Cooperage and Lumber Company President J. Paul Bushong, this building — now Skradski Funeral Home — is one of several in town to feature brand-new informative signs.

R. R. Branstrom

GLADSTONE — A local committee that has been working to produce signs to mark historically significant residences and businesses within Gladstone has seen the successful installation of 10 such signs and continues to plug away at more. Members of the group say they felt it was important to record and preserve information about people and places that impacted the area and developed Gladstone in its early days so that citizens and visitors, especially younger ones, may understand the city’s origins and growth.

Each sign, placed on the lot side of the public sidewalk along the recognized places, features a description of what makes the site important in addition to a historic photograph of the building from roughly around the significant period — or as near as could be found, for images reportedly can be trickier to locate than information.

“The idea is really all due to the very hard work of Ann Jousma-Miller who has done extensive research regarding the City of Gladstone,” said Joe Maki, who said that some digging had been done and conversations ongoing for several years before the project began “in earnest” this past summer.

Jousma-Miller may have proactively seized the helm, continuing work on the project even while wintering in the Southwest, but it’s a group effort.

“I’ve always researched the history of the community,” said Jousma-Miller. “Well, we got together one day and decided that, you know, if we don’t do something now to preserve some of the history of Gladstone, this next generation (may not) realize what had taken place.”

She said that with this aim, local people in the community — including (in addition to herself and Maki) Jeff Waeghe, Eric Buckman, John Noreus, Greg Styczsnski, John Pickard and Paula Waeghe — have made the project come to fruition.

Some pivotal moments, key places and influential individuals in the town’s history include:

– Richard Mason and Frank H. VanCleve gave 160 acres of land to the Soo Line Railroad to establish the flour docks, the railyard, and the town site that would develop into the City of Gladstone. Richard Mason has been styled “the father of Gladstone.”

– The first modern development was around the area now known as Saunders Point, which was named for a Captain Nate Saunders who used to headquarter there while fishing on the bay.

– Webster L. Marble, timber surveyor and entrepreneur, came to the area in the 1880s. After settling in Gladstone, Marble invented tools that are still in production today by Marble Arms.

– Among Isaac Bushong’s “extensive lumber interests in Michigan” (in the words of his 1932 obituary in the Toledo Blade) was the Northwest Cooperage saw mill, a major employer of around 1000 people, which was located where Lakeview Assisted Living is now.

– James T. Jones worked for Marble for 62 years and served on the school board for 34 years.

“And that’s why the school is named after him,” Jousma-Miller said of Jones. “See, so, history has a tendency to relate to today, but how did it become? That was the point we were trying to use.”

The first 10 signs that have been made may be found in front of structures on Wisconsin and Michigan Avenues — four on each — and two on Dakota. The ones that have been selected were chosen for their connections to the abovementioned names and others. Costs for the signs are being covered half by the property owner and half by the city’s fund from Dr. Mary Cretens.

The initial focus around Wisconsin Avenue came because “that seems to be where wealth was located when there was wealth in Gladstone,” said Maki. But the centrally-located groupings are also designed with the thought that people will be able to leisurely participate in self-guided walking tours, which falls in line with Gladstone’s Master Plan.

The committee — an unofficial organization of residents and business owners interested in Gladstone’s history — plans to produce a brochure that will be made available to those who wish to embark on a tour.

Twelve more signs have been ordered, including for the Rialto Building and All Saints Church. At least another eight are on reserve, but with open slots in regards to which places may be featured.

As the project is ongoing, the group welcomes feedback, cooperation, and help.

Jousma-Miller has been conducting research from afar and said she has subscribed to ancestry sources and archives in order to uncover the stories of the pioneer families of Gladstone, “but pictures are a little more difficult to find.”

Right now, she said, she is trying to locate photographs of Dr. Otto Hult’s medical practice. The building is now the Great Lakes First Federal Credit Union, but when erected, it was the first full-service clinic in the county, Jousma-Miller reported. She marveled that Hult, a “remarkable gentleman,” delivered 3,800 babies during his time practicing medicine in Gladstone.

In addition to shots of the doctor’s office on Delta from that period, John Pickard said that the committee is also seeking historic photographs of the Marble Athletic Field.

Persons who would like to assist in the committee’s cooperative efforts may contact Joe Maki at (906) 280-4372.

Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *