Tag Archive | history

Circus Trip 2018: Woodstock, VT

Day 50, Monday, September 3, 2018
Woodstock, Vermont

Woodstock, Vermont is a small town that I want to visit again.  It was beautiful!  There are so many nice historic homes, and a little stream that runs through town.  It has the cutest quaint downtown shopping district, and loads of charm.

I poked around in the shops, getting some gifts for friends and family and a few postcards for myself.

I stopped in at Bentley’s restaurant, sat at the bar, and had a Citizen Cider and the most incredible burger made with locally raised beef.  It was so good, and I was so hungry!  I would absolutely go have that burger again!

Also near Woodstock is the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth, Vermont, about 20 minutes away.  This is certainly on my list of places to visit once I’m back in the area!  I just ran out of time on that trip.

And look at this covered bridge!  The Taftsville covered bridge was originally built in 1836!  It was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irene 2011; repairs took two years and it reopened in 2013.

These photos are making me nostalgic and eager to get back on the road!

Book Review: Curse of the Narrows

Curse of the Narrows, by Laura M. MacDonald

On December 6, 1917, during the middle of World War I, a ship carrying high explosives in Halifax Harbor collided with another ship.  Predictably, it exploded.

Curse of The Narrows

Unfortunately, a number of factors came into play in the worst possible way, and the explosion obliterated nearly everything within a half mile radius of the ship, including a heavily populated neighborhood of the city.  More than 2,000 people were killed and over 9,000 were injured. To add insult to injury, communications lines were knocked out, and a blizzard struck the evening of the explosion, making survival uncertain for those who initially lived through the blast.

It was, simply put, the largest man-made explosion up to that point in time.

Boston, receiving word of the disaster, mobilized its Red Cross contingent immediately and sent a relief train to provide assistance to the people of Halifax.  Several other nearby cities did as well, but the Boston relief train was the largest and most well organized, with doctors, nurses, supply coordinators and all sorts of relief supplies.

Rumors of German sabotage pitted people against each other, and sent officials off on wild goose chases to determine if a German bomb or submarine was responsible. Meanwhile the people of Halifax struggled with horrific and long-term injuries, lack of housing in the middle of winter, and the sad process of identifying and burying the dead.

The book details the day leading up to the explosion, and the stories of the people who lived and died in its aftermath.  Historical records research and first hand accounts provide grim detail of the experience, and MacDonald weaves the stories together into the larger narrative.  She does not shy away from the gruesome details of victims injuries, the trauma of separating families, and the legal battle after the initial relief effort ended.

My only criticism of the book is that it is rather poorly edited, with numerous typos and grammar errors, but that doesn’t take away from the story as a whole.  It is a well researched and well written book on an event that was once widely known, but has been largely forgotten to time.

4 stars.

Book Review: The First Conspiracy

I recently read The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer.  I’ve only recently started reading more about the Founding Fathers, and learning more about the Revolutionary War.  Did you know that in 1776 there was a plot to assassinate George Washington?

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington

Records are incomplete, both because of the fact that this occurred almost 250 years ago, as well as what was likely a desire to keep it quiet at the time, so as not to undermine public confidence in the Revolutionary cause.  What would happen if people found out that the Revolution’s greatest general was under threat from his own men?

The book explores the plot, the players and the investigation of the conspiracy to kill Washington, but also has a lot of great information on the climate in the United States in the early years of the revolution.  Meltzer writes about the reasons men joined the cause, and the reasons people stayed loyal to England.  It wasn’t so easy to decide where your allegiances should fall, especially considering the economic impacts of your choice.  All of that played into this plot.

The book weaves the story into an interesting narrative, culminating in the capture of those responsible and their ultimate punishment.

4 stars. 

2018 Circus Trip: Johnstown Flood National Memorial

Day 38, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Johnstown, Pennsylvania

The previous evening, I crossed into Pennsylvania (sorry I wasn’t able to get a pic with a sign!), and discovered that Pennsylvania really LOVES its toll roads.  In the span of about 30 miles, I racked up $17 in tolls!  Ugh!  I was excited to start exploring a new state though!

I first learned about the Johnstown Flood when I read a book about the event by David McCullough about a dozen years ago.  I have always thought that this tragedy could have been avoided, and find the story pretty interesting, so I wanted to see the Johnstown Flood National Memorial.

In 1889, the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania was a thriving community built on the banks of the Conemaugh River, just past where the Stonycreek and Little Conemaugh Rivers joined together.  The Cambria Iron Works was a bustling iron and steel mill supporting a town of about 30,000 people.  Above the city was the South Fork Dam, an earthen dam originally built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania between 1838 and 1853 as a part of a cross-state canal system.  Once the railroads took over, Pennsylvania sold off the canal and dam to the railroad, who in turn, sold the dam and its lake to a private interest.

That private interest was the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, a membership club for the wealthy elite of nearby Pittsburgh.  The hunt club was built near Johnstown, and members and their families could enjoy a country respite from the dirty, crowded city.  Unfortunately, over several years before the flood, a series of alterations were made to the dam which affected its structural integrity, regular maintenance was lacking, and leaks that sprang up were repaired haphazardly.

Which leads us to May 31, 1889.  During the three days leading up to this fateful Friday, there was rain.  In fact, so much rain that they estimated between 6 and 10 inches fell in the 24 hours before the dam breached.  Colonel Elias Unger, who managed the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, lived above the dam, and recognized that it was in bad shape that morning.  He called in engineers and laborers who tried desperately to clean out the spillway, which had been clogged by debris.  They also tried to dig a new spillway to release water, but stopped when they became convinced that it would just cause the entire dam to give way.  Unger also sent a man to the telegraph station to warn communities down below of the danger, but it is unclear whether the message was received in Johnstown.  Oops.

When the dam finally breached at about 2:50 pm, more than 3.8 billion gallons of water released in a torrent downstream.  It hit several communities along its path, which suffered more or less depending on whether they had enough advance notice to get to higher ground.  One community was wiped away completely; the land where the town had been located was scoured down to bedrock.  Johnstown, about 14 miles from the dam, was hit about an hour after the dam breached, and by that time the river was carrying a huge amount of deadly debris along with it, including trees, logs, houses, locomotives, barbed wire, animals, and human victims.

The horror was unimaginable and people died from drowning, being bludgeoned to death by debris, and even being burned, as a large pile of debris got trapped by a bridge over the river and caught on fire.  Bodies were found as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio, 357 miles away by today’s roads, and as late as 1911.  When it was over, 2209 people had died, including entire families; at the time it was the largest civilian loss of life in U.S. history.

The Johnstown Flood National Memorial preserves the site of what remains of the dam and gives visitors a view of the narrow valley where the waters raged, and have continued to flood the towns below periodically (most recently in 1977).  The Visitor’s Center has exhibits on the flood, photos and artifacts that were collected from the flood waters, stories of the people who died and those who survived.  There is also a very powerful (and not suitable for young children) movie on the event; it evokes the fear that you would have felt as that wall of water crashed into town.

The Johnstown Flood National Memorial was authorized by Congress on August 31, 1964 and annual visitation of the National Memorial is approximately 112,000.

It was very interesting to see the artifacts and the movie; they also have a list of nearby sites that also relate to the flood, including the Grandview Cemetery (where most of the victims are buried) and the historic structures of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club.  I’ll blog about those next!

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery

Day 12, Friday, July 27, 2018

Spearfish, South Dakota is a town that I would love to explore more.  It is certainly on my list of places to return to; there is so much there and I only just scratched the surface.  There is a lot of hiking there that I would love to do!

That morning, I woke up, had breakfast, got ready and set out on my way.  I visited what was to be an unexpected gem.  I went to the D.C Booth Historic Fish Hatchery – oh my gosh wow!  I live in the Pacific Northwest, where we have lots of fish hatcheries – my city has two in town and several more out in the county.  However, the D.C. Booth Hatchery was something else entirely.

The hatchery is right in downtown Spearfish and in a beautiful setting.  They hatched trout from eggs that were gathered from Yellowstone National Park and other sources.  Interestingly, trout and the other fish hatched at Spearfish weren’t native to these waters; they were introduced to the rivers and streams in this area in order to provide stock for sport fisherman.  Over time, the hatchery saw more use as an education and training center, with the majority of the hatching tasks shifting to a newer facility nearby.  The hatchery operated through the 1980s, and then briefly closed due to budget constraints.

Fish in the ponds

 

Ducks at the hatchery

After the closure, the City of Spearfish approached the federal government and asked to form a partnership where the city would operate the hatchery, and use it as an educational tool and tourist attraction.  As a result, the hatchery reopened in 1989 and the city built the underwater viewing area, converted the 1899 Hatchery Building to a museum, opened up the D.C. Booth home for tours.  The home was originally built for D.C. Booth in 1905 and featured modern amenities for the time, including hot water for the bathroom.

A sculpture at the hatchery

The hatchery had all sorts of fry in the various ponds and it was fun to watch them swim around.  The underwater area was interesting; an opportunity to see the fish from a different vantage point!

Fish from below

The museum had historic hatchery equipment; they even had an old crockery storage pot from a hatchery in Winthrop, Washington!  There was a group of kids there working on a scavenger hunt, looking for things in the museum to check off their lists.

The hatchery also has a restored train car that was used to transport fry to places where they would be released into rivers and streams.  The rail car was really cool!  It had specialized holding tanks for the fry, so they could be transported in water, making the journey safer for them.  There were areas to store the fish food, as well as bunks and kitchen and bathroom areas for five employees.  It was fascinating to try to imagine what it would have been like to travel and work on one of these rail cars!

I also toured the D.C. Booth house, which was built for the first Superintendent of the hatchery.  The house was nice, and was large – I would have enjoyed living there!  The home had a lovely flower garden in back that Mrs. Booth used for entertaining.  I was the only person on the tour of the home, so the docent gave me extra time to explore all the nooks and crannies, including a small sewing room and the original electrical panel for the home.

The whole site is free to visit, and you can buy pellet food to feed the fish – that is so much fun for the kids (and those of us who are young at heart)!

I am so glad that I stopped there!  And the day was only half over!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Phil Kearny

Day 10, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

After lunch, I drove to Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site, which is about 25 miles east of Sheridan.  Fort Phil Kearny was a short-lived US Army outpost set up along the Bozeman Trail, the wagon road that linked the Oregon Trail to the gold fields in present-day Montana.  It was first constructed in 1866, and was tasked with protecting travelers who were heading northwest along the Bozeman Trail; there were about 400 troops stationed there.  However, from the very beginning, the Native Americans in the area had a issue with the fort’s presence, and they ended up fighting several battles over control of the North Powder River in the area.

The Powder River country landscape

When the Army first envisioned the forts along the Bozeman Trail, the land was occupied by the Crow tribe, who believed that cooperating with the US Government was in their best interest; they accepted the forts on their land, which had been “granted” to them by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty.  However, dwindling herds of bison meant that the tribes were moving around more to seek food;  the Lakota tribe took control of the area, decided to ignore the treaty boundaries, and were decidedly less accepting of the presence of the US Army.

The tribes had seen the devastation inflicted on the land and the natural resources by white settlers traveling on the Oregon and California Trails, and they were determined to protect this area, one of their last open hunting grounds, which was critical for their way of life.  The Lakota, cooperating with the Northern Cheyenne and the Northern Arapaho tribes, launched a series of small scale attacks on troops, travelers, and civilian laborers working out of the forts.  One such skirmish erupted further; the Fetterman Fight in 1866.  However, as that battle was fought about three miles away from the fort, I will talk more about it in a later post; I visited the battle site the next day.

Sculpture of Native American scouts on the ridge line

It costs $5 to visit; $3 if you are a Wyoming resident.  When you visit, the Visitor’s Center has a brief film that goes over the details of the fort, the Fetterman Fight and the Wagon Box Fight that occurred in 1867.  There is also a diorama of the layout of the original fort. There is a lot of imagination that goes into your visit; the original fort was burned in 1868 and the replica buildings have not been constructed.  The fort site has had some excavations; a map and signs mark out where the original buildings were located.  There is a rebuilt section of the fort wall, so you can try to imagine what it would have looked like.  The cemetery down the hill also contains burials of some of the soldiers and civilians who were killed during the Army’s short occupation here.

Today it is a peaceful grassland, and it is still a sparsely populated area.  I can only imagine how remote it was back in the 1860s; the fort was 236 miles from its nearest neighbor, Fort Laramie.  That would have been an incredibly difficult journey on horseback or in a wagon trail even in the best weather, not to mention temperatures of 30 below zero during a harsh winter.

I saw magpies and pronghorn in the grass beyond the fort’s boundaries when I visited, and imagined what it would have been like when the area had large herds of bison.  It was worth the visit to see the wildlife I did see!

After my wanders at the fort, I went back to camp for a nice nap!

Virginia 2015: Stratford Hall

Day 10: Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Our next place was Stratford Hall. Moving up about 100 years for the George Washington Birthplace, we were going to see the birthplace of Robert E. Lee!

Stratford-Hall-Sign

Stratford Hall was the plantation home of Colonel Thomas Lee, who purchased the land for the plantation in 1717 – it was then known as “The Clifts.” He renamed it Stratford Hall, after his grandfather’s home in England. Thomas Lee was kind of a big deal; he was a founder of the Ohio Company, a member of the Virginia colony’s governing council. At the time of his death, he was the President of the governing council and acting Governor of Virginia. The home was not constructed until 1737 (it was finished in 1738).

The landside of Stratford Hall, with original outbuildings

The landside of Stratford Hall, with original outbuildings

Thomas left the home to his son, Philip Ludwell Lee, who left the home to his daughter, Matilda Lee. Matilda married her cousin, Revolutionary War Hero “Lighthorse” Harry Lee – he was Robert E. Lee’s father – but Matilda was not his mother. Upon her death in 1790, she left Lighthorse Harry Lee a life interest in the property – he could live there until his death, but she willed it to their son together .

Harry Lee married a second time, to Robert E. Lee’s mother Ann Hill Carter. Unfortunately, Robert E. Lee’s father was better at war than he was at finances, and after spending a couple of years in debtor’s prison, he moved the family to Alexandria and his son from his first marriage took over the property, and soon had to sell it due to a lawsuit over an unrelated scandal. After having been home to the Lees for four generations, the sale took Stratford Hall out of the Lee family for good.

The cliffside of Stratford Hall

The cliffside of Stratford Hall

Although Robert E. Lee only lived at Stratford until he was four, he had fond memories of the home and estate his entire life, and wrote about wishing he could once again consider it home.

The architecture is Georgian, with a Central Hall and wings on either side. It has beautiful central staircases; one on either side of the home. The home has four outbuildings, one on each corner of the house, and they are all still standing. I loved the symmetry of the home.

An artsy shot of Stratford Hall

An artsy shot of Stratford Hall

The stables are also original I believe, and there are reconstructed slave quarters at the site.

Slave Cabins at Stratford Hall

Slave Cabins at Stratford Hall

When we got there, we headed over first to have lunch at the restaurant on site before they closed for the day. We split some baked potato soup and crab cakes, which were both fine but not spectacular. Then we headed back over for the tour – Jon chose not to go (I guess he was “historic homed” out at that point).

My crabcakes at the Stratford Hall restaurant

My crabcakes at the Stratford Hall restaurant

I found the tour interesting, but slightly odd. There wasn’t really much formal information; the docent pointed out some interesting artifacts and then left everybody to peek around the rooms on our own. I did appreciate that she didn’t bug me about the fact that I was sucking on cough drops; better than coughing violently throughout the whole tour, as I was still getting over the cold.

At one point there was a machine in one of the rooms; I imagine it was used as a part of the historic restoration. I asked her to tell me about the machine; but she misunderstood and launched into a lengthy explanation of the particular green in the room (the paint). She went on for several minutes on the paint and its history, at which time I didn’t have the energy to explain that it wasn’t at all what I was asking about. SIGH…

After the tour, I checked out the outbuildings, and made friends with a chicken in the stable. Oddly, there was only one… I also took a little time to look at the exhibits in the Visitor’s Center, which detailed the restoration of the home (but don’t explain that funny machine).

My chicken friend

My chicken friend

Stratford Hall’s architecture was probably my favorite historic home of the trip. I loved the brick and the symmetry, and the clean lines and simple styling of the home. The grounds are beautiful, and I’m sure would have been a lovely place to live.

Sadly, the staff were odd. The lady selling the tickets was kind of rude… The docent was nice, but not as well informed as she should have been, and the gift shop clerk… Let’s just say that while I was waiting to make my purchase, she was talking on the phone because she was having some trouble with the credit card machine. No worry, because I was going to pay cash! But she actually asked me if I could “come back later.” Umm… No… So, yeah, the service part of the experience at Stratford Hall could use some work…

Shenandoah National Park History

Shenandoah National Park provided a challenge for the National Park Service.  Unlike many of the parks they had created in the west in vast, open spaces of largely uninhabited land, Shenandoah National Park had thousands of people already occupying its boundaries.  Hundreds of small farms dotted the landscape, their residents making a living from the land with crops, orchards and animals.  The park was authorized in 1926, but it wasn’t until December 26, 1935 before it was established.  Between those two dates, the Commonwealth of Virginia purchased some of the land from residents, and condemned other parcels of land through the process of eminent domain.  Over 500 families were ultimately relocated out of the park, and a few other residents were allowed to remain until they died. 

Looking down at the Shenandoah Valley from Skyline Drive

Looking down at the Shenandoah Valley from Skyline Drive

Unfortunately, as was all too common during that era, the Park Service relied on some flawed information to make its decision to displace residents.  They hired a woman named Miriam M. Sizer to conduct a study of the resident population.  Her assessment was that the area residents lived in basically squalid conditions, unable to care for themselves, and were completely devoid of education or culture.  In her opinion, the government would be doing these folks a favor by removing them from their homes and relocating them where they would be better off. 

The reality was somewhat different.  Although the region had not been adequately served by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s education system, residents had banded together to create community schools.  There was poverty, but many families enjoyed a rich, cultural existence.  Ms. Sizer’s study has contributed to continuing stereotypes and sweeping generalizations of the residents of Appalachia as a completely backwoods, uneducated population.  The Park Service features an exhibit in the Big Meadows Visitor’s Center addresses this “study” and its impact on the people who once lived here. 

Also interesting is that unlike parks in the West, Shenandoah has a history that began with segregation.  In the 1930s the park had multiple areas that were “whites only.”  Only one campground and picnic area within the park was designated for African Americans.  World War II changed all that – concessions closed and park usage went way down.  After the war, the Park Service mandated that facilities be integrated; the mandate was fully accomplished in 1950.   

Me posing with the Shenandoah National Park Sign

Me posing with the Shenandoah National Park Sign

Today the park is long and narrow, with its most prominent feature being the 105 mile Skyline Drive, that traverses the entire length of the park.  The park encompasses 79,579 acres (124.34 sq. miles), and spans eight Virginia counties.  The rocks making up the mountains of Shenandoah are some of the oldest in Virginia, over a billion years old.  Over 40% of the park is designated wilderness, and 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail run through the park.  It is home to white-tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, raccoon, skunk, opossum, groundhog, red fox, gray fox, coyote and eastern cottontail rabbit.  The park also provides habitat for over 200 species of birds and thirty-two species of fish. 

Due to its location so close to major population centers, 1,209,883 visited the park in 2011, making it one of the more popular parks in terms of numbers.  And when you visit, it is easy to see why.  I’ll share our visit with you next! 

Have you been to Shenandoah National Park?  What were your favorite parts? 

 

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park History

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the relatively new entrants to the National Park system, designated on October 21, 1999 by Congress and President Bill Clinton.  Before becoming a National Park, it had been a National Monument since 1933.

I love the sign at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park!

I love the sign at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park!

The park protects 12 miles of the 48 mile Black Canyon of the Gunnison, so named because the canyon is so narrow and the walls are so steep that some areas of the canyon only receive 33 minutes per day of direct sunlight!

Black Canyon is also notable because of its steep river drop; the Gunnison River drops an average of 34 feet per mile within the canyon, compared to the Grand Canyon’s average drop of 7.5 feet per mile.  At its steepest point, at Chasm View, the river drops 240 feet in one mile!

The canyon’s walls are predominately made up of Precambrian gneiss and schist rocks that are approximately 1.7 billion years old.  During the Laramide Orogeny, that also formed the Rocky Mountains, these rocks were uplifted, between 40 and 70 million years ago.

The Gunnison River took on its current course about 15 million years ago; the flow of the river was much higher than it is today.  As a result of the river not being able to change course within the canyon, it began to cut through the relatively soft volcanic rock at a rate of about 1 inch every 100 years.

The Ute Indians knew about the canyon and avoided it out of superstition; the first Spanish explorers had passed by before 1776.  However, the first written record of the canyon was created in 1853, by Captain John Williams Gunnison, who was looking for the best route between St. Louis and San Francisco.  Gunnison was killed by Utes the next year, and the canyon was named in his honor.

The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad began cutting a rail bed through the canyon in 1881; it took more than a year of heavy manual labor and was enormously expensive.  The narrowness of the canyon meant that they had to use the narrower gauge track – 3’ instead of the standard 4’ 8 ½” (how that ever became the standard is insane!).  The railway didn’t last long though, as it was bypassed not long after for cheaper, easier routes.

Our first view of Black Canyon.

Our first view of Black Canyon.

Visitors today can visit either the North Rim (closed in winter) or the South Rim.  The two rims are not connected within the park, the route outside of the park to reach one rim from the other is about 90 minutes.  The South Rim, that we visited, has a 6 mile road along the rim of the canyon, with several viewpoints.  There is also a 5 mile, very steep road that provides access to the river, and a campground.  Vehicles over 22 feet are prohibited on that road, as it has very sharp switchbacks and over a 16 percent grade.

The park has a lot of plants and animals, including aspen, Ponderosa pine, sagebrush, desert mahogany, Utah juniper, Gambel oak and single-leaf ash.  Wildlife includes coyote, elk, and mule deer. Birds include great horned owls, American dippers and Steller’s jay as well as migratory birds such as the mountain bluebird, peregrine falcon, white-throated swift and canyon wren.

183,045 visitors went to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in 2014, making it one of the lesser visited National Parks.  But we had an opportunity to visit on our trip!

MI Road Trip: Landing Crafts and Pantyhose!

Have you ever seen an LST?  In particular – USS LST-393?  What the heck is USS LST-393, you ask?  Well, it is in Muskegon, Michigan, and we had the opportunity to see it after our visit to the Hackley and Hume Historic Site.

This is an LST-1 class landing ship, built during World War II to transport troops, vehicles and equipment. There were 1051 built during the War; this is one of only two to survive in its original configuration. USS LST-393 was critical to the following operations: the Sicilian occupation in July 1943, the Salerno landings in September 1943, and the one she is most famous for – the Normandy invasion in June 1944. She landed on Omaha Beach on the night of June 6, 1944 and offloaded several Sherman tanks and other materials, before spending another two days stuck on the beach due to the tides.

The back of USS LST-393.

The back of USS LST-393.

In all, she made over 30 trips back and forth between Normandy Beach and England, supplying equipment and bringing back wounded soldiers and German POWs. After the European theater wound down, she was retrofitted for service in the Pacific Theater, she was on her way to the Panama Canal for a trip to Japan when the Japanese surrendered.

USS LST-393 in Muskegon, Michigan. Sorry about the quality of the photo; there was a fence so I couldn’t get a better angle.  These are the doors where the equipment was unloaded onto the beach.

USS LST-393 in Muskegon, Michigan. Sorry about the quality of the photo; there was a fence so I couldn’t get a better angle. These are the doors where the equipment was unloaded onto the beach.

After her wartime service, she was purchased by the Sand Products Corporation and began life as a merchant ship, transporting new cars from Muskegon to Milwaukee. Since 2000, a couple of volunteer groups have been trying to restore her; she has been cleaned and painted and is open for tours during the summer. As she was closed for the season when we visited, we took some pictures and marveled at her enormous size – 328 feet in length and 50 feet wide, carrying a crew of about 140 men.

While driving around Muskegon, we also saw a gigantic, empty building that piqued our interest; it had a giant sign that said Amazon on top. I was sure it wasn’t the current Amazon retailer, but what was it?

As it turns out, the Amazon Hosiery Company moved from Indiana to Muskegon in 1895. Amazon produced cotton underwear, gloves, hosiery, hooked rugs and army shirts. At its peak, it employed over 1,000 people – mostly women. Unfortunately, materials rationing during World War II spelled the end for the Amazon Hosiery Company.

The Amazon Hosiery Company Building – Now an apartment complex

The Amazon Hosiery Company Building – Now an apartment complex

After the war, several businesses occupied the space, and then it sat vacant for about a decade, until it was converted to apartments beginning in the 1990s. The project was completed in 2001. It is a beautiful building from the outside; it would be neat to see what they did with the apartments!