Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Tunnels of Depot Town

One of the great mysteries of Ypsilanti are the tunnels of Depot Town, a network of tunnels behind the buildings on the north side of Cross Street. Questions have been raised for years as to who built the tunnels and why. It is a mystery that has been around for years.

The truth is, there is not one network of tunnels in Ypsilanti, but several. There is a network of tunnels on the east side of the city as well. The outlets for some of these tunnels at the Huron River were still visible into the 1930’s.

“Various tunnels leading in several directions beneath the ground on the east side of the Huron River have been found from time to time, and the openings into these can still be seen at some places. One of them opens into the east bank of the Huron not far from the Michigan Central railroad station. These tunnels are timbered and stoned to support the walls and roofs, but owning to the small size of the passages and the danger of explorers becoming trapped by caveins they have never been completely investigated,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press of June 19, 1936.

The tunnels of Depot Town had entrances in the basements of the building on the north side of the street. These were big enough for an adult to walk upright through.

The tunnels were blocked off years ago, when the city installed water mains under the alley years ago. A lot of work went into the making of these tunnels. Some say the tunnels were built by the Underground Railroad, to aid escaping slaves on their flight to Canada. The slaves, so the story goes, would hid in the tunnels, then take boats to Lake Erie and then to Canada. Yet this seems unlikely, as there were a number of mills and dams along the river in the 1850’s. Anyone using the river for transport would have to get out of the river and around each of the dams, including the one at Michigan Ave., another at Water Works Park, and so on.

The entrance to one of these tunnels was in the basement of 27 East Cross Street, with its arched top and base of stone. At one time Harold Shauan owned the building. He went into the tunnel once to see where it went, and went in far enough to hear trains passing overhead. “At that stage, reported the Ypsilanti Press of July 12, 1962, “rodents were thick enough to discourage further progress and he returned to the original opening.”

As it turns out, the tunnels were the work of the railroad, but not the Underground Railroad. Back in 1837, when the tracks for the Michigan Central Railroad were being laid, a drainage problem developed when a deep grade was cut into the hill between Park and Grove Streets. The Michigan Central Railroad dug a drain and allowed the residents of Ypsilanti, who had their own drainage problems, to connect to the drain. Thus the network of tunnels on the east side of the city.

The tunnels on the north side of Depot town were also the result of the railroad. It seems there was a siding that ran right behind the buildings on the north side of the street, where the alley is now. Behind the buildings facing the street were a number of outbuildings. To walk out the back door of the main buildings to get to the outbuildings could prove dangerous with a train passing by. So tunnels were dug under the tracks to make passage easy and safe.

Time passed and the need for the tunnels was removed and the use was forgotten. Still, the tunnels make a good story.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Prof. Peet's new house

Prof. B. W. Peet's new residence on Normal street, now almost completed, will undoubtedly rank among the most elegant homes in Ypsilanti.

Imposing as the structure is form the outside, no expense and artistic design have been spared to make the interior equally pleasing.

Perhaps the most attractive room is the dining room, situated on the north side of the house, with a front outlook. The most striking feature here is the beam ceiling, which is only found in some of the most modern houses. The woodwork, including wide panels and a plate shelf, are finished in weathered oak, making a pretty contrast with the white walls.

The beautiful curved stairway has called forth many comments of admiration. This, like the woodwork of the hall, living room, and nursery, has the dull, golden-oak, wax finish.

Plenty of light is admitted through the large plate glass windows in front made more attractive by the leaded panes around them. At the sides, the windows are entirely of leaded panes.

The nursery, at the rear of the living room, is made more pleasant by the large double French door, opening on the rear veranda. The same plan is used in the study, just above, the glass doors opening upon a little balcony, which will be enclosed with screens, making an excellent out-of-doors sleeping room.

Upstairs, the three front bedrooms are beautifully finished in white enamel, while the bath is of the same, with nickel trimmings.

Hardwood floors are used throughout the house, those of the bedrooms and bath being of beech wood, while the study and hall, upstairs, are finished like the rooms downstairs in oak.

Every possible convenience has been provided. Not only those which have come to be looked upon as necessities, as gas and electric lights, and bath with hot and cold water, but also others which aid much in making the home comfortable. One of these is a special flue, 8x12 feet, built along the chimney and opening into the kitchen, to create a draught which will carry away the steam and odors from cooking.

Another convenience is the clothes shoot, which is built from the linen closet, upstairs, to the laundry room in the basement.

(Prof. Peet taught chemistry at the Normal, now EMU, from 1899 until 1941. The hosue still stands at 128 North Normal Street)

Monday, November 19, 2007

A christmas Walking Tour?

A suggestion had been made that I give a walking tour every other month. I think this is worth looking into. As the month after November is December, this should be a Christmas Walking Tour. Now what do you think should be included in a Ypsilanti Christmas Walking Tour? I am open to ideas, and am looking forward to hearing from you.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Succesful Ghost Tour

The Ghost Tour was a success as a good number of people came to the tours. The best group in terms of numbers was the first on Friday night. I think this was because it followed the event on Michigan Ave. A number came from there right after it was over. A good size group followed me around Depot Town, in spit of sometimes pouring rain, to listen to the stories of ghosts, murders and mysteries. A smaller group came on Saturday, in spite of the nice weather. Smaller numbers came to the two tours on Sunday.

One problem for this, I think, was the confusion over where the tour was to start. It seems most people are unaware of the parking lot north of the Depot and across the railroad tracks from the Freighthouse. In the press releases I said it was across from the freighthouse, but this was cut because of space limits.

I think I will give a Ghost Tour next year, as this was such a success. But where should this start? Do you have any ideas?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Depot Town Ghost Tour

I will be hosting a Ghost Tour of Depot Town on the weekend before Halloween, October, Friday, October 26, Saturday October 27 and Sunday October 28, 2007. Each tour beginning at 7:00 PM in the parking lot off River Street, across the railroad tracks from the Freighthouse. There will also be a tour on the afternoon of Sunday, October 27, 2007, beginning at 2:00 PM. The tour will include stories of ghosts, murders, mysteries and more. Stories will include the murder of Henry Minor and the mystery of the Tunnels of Depot Town Admission for each tour is $5.00 per person. I am looking forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Accidents Galore

This story was carried by The Ypsilantian on October 3, 1907.

Last week was prolific of accidents, but not serious results. Thursday afternoon while Mr. M. O. Straight of Detroit was giving several of his friends an automobile ride, they took the steep Tuttle hills. They went down the north hill safely but when nearly at the top of the south hill the machinery went wrong and the chauffeur was unable to stop it. The auto backed down the hill and was making for the bridge, where it would have gone off and dropped some distance into the river. As the ladies in the tonneau were closed in by the curtains, which were down, the gentleman realized the danger and pulled the car off the road by a great effort, landing it against the fence with such force as to break the back of the car badly, but without harming the occupants. A traction engine that came along just then towed the car out of its bad plight. (The sight of this accident is now under Ford Lake, as Tuttle Hill road once ran through there before the damming of the river. The bridge in the story is still there under the lake.)

Friday afternoon the brewery team ran away down River street, being frightened by the cars at the depot, and on turning into Congress street (now Michigan Ave.) caught the hind wheels into the buggy wheel of the rig in which Street Commissioner Lewis was sitting and whirled the horse and buggy completely around. The buggy wheel was smashed and Mr. Lewis wrenched his ankle in springing out, but none of the horses were hurt.

Saturday night the arc light wire in front of Davis & Co.’s store at the depot burned off and dropped to the pavement while the street was filled with people, making a fine display of fireworks and scaring everybody around. A telephone to the waterworks led to the turning off the current and the break was soon repaired. The same evening a tree limb fell across the Washtenaw electric Co.’s wires near Geddes and for two hours during the busy shopping hours, the stores had to resort to gas lamps and candles.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Family are Destitute

This story is from The Ypsilanti Daily Press of Wednesday, October 2, 1907.

A more pitiable condition could not be found in Ypsilanti than that of the family of Oscar Lawrence, who were burned out, on Railroad street, Monday night.

Almost destitute before the fire, they are now left penniless and with no household goods, and no clothes except what they had with them.

Mrs. Lawrence has been sick with a low fever for the past two months, and is just able to be up now.

Their four little boys, aged ten, five and three years, have poor prospects for food and warm clothing this winter.

Mr. Lawrence, who engages is horse trading and cistern cleaning, ahs no steady work.

Mrs. Lawrence, in her weak and nervous condition is almost frantic with worry.

“If it were only in the spring it wouldn’t be so bad,” she said, “for I don’t know how we will ever get through the winter.”

The family is now staying with his father and mother, at 53 East Forest avenue.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Depot Town Ghost Tour

I will be hosting a Ghost Tour of Depot Town on the weekend before Halloween. The tours will be on Friday, October 26, 2007 and Saturday, October 27, 2007, beginning at 7:00 PM in the parking lot on River Street, across the railroad tracks from the Freighthouse. I am also thinking about holding a tour on the afternoon of Sunday, October 28, 2007, for those who prefer not to go out at night. The tour should take about an hour, and will include tales of ghosts, murder, and more. Cost $5.00 per person Looking forward to seeing you there.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Returning From W.C.T.U. Contest, Two Women and Boy Leap From Moving Car

Here is something I found while looking for something else. This appeared in the Ypsilanti Daily Press of Saturday, December 4, 1909.

Two women were hurled into space Friday evening from the rear platform of the 9:45 Detroit, Jackson & Chicago railway (Interurban) in a mysterious accident of which no explanation has been offered, either by car officials of victims.

Returning from the gold and silver Medal contest held by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union at Denton, Mrs. Herbert Burrell, 33, her niece, Mabel, 20, and the latter’s brother, Ray, 17, were precipitated to the hard gravel road which runs parallel to the tracks, a distance of 25 feet from the roadbed. Mrs. Burrell today is suffering from a broken shoulder, other serious bruises and physicians in attendance cannot tell but what internal injuries, which they fear she has suffered, will prove fatal.

Mrs. Burrell’s niece, Mabel, is able to walk but is bandaged from head to foot. Her brother Ray is uninjured.

The cause of the accident? No one knows.

These facts can be gleaned however, from the maze of assertions made by those who witnessed the accident.

The car, which was under the charge of Motorman James McCormick and Conductor Jay Nelson, was proceeding at a fair rate of speed between Smith’s switch and Mrs. Burrell’s home, which is located about two and one half miles east of this city. As the car neared the Burrell farm, Mrs. Burrell, Mabel and Ray jumped from their seats and rushed to the rear platform. Ray jumped off uninjured.

The motorman, it is said had received no single to stop, and it is not understood why Mrs. Burrell leaped from the car. She was hurried to the roadside, and her shoulder broken, besides suffering sever bruises and possible internal injuries.

When Mable saw her aunt leap from thee moving car, she screamed and followed the lead of her relative. It was a miracle that she was not severely injured, in fact both of them not killed.

The car proceeded on its way for perhaps what would amount to two or three city blocks. A passenger, who had witnessed the sudden departure of the three passengers, recovered from the daze he was in, pulled the bell rope and rushed forward telling the conductor of the accident. The car was stopped and backed up. Mrs. Burrell was placed aboard the car and Miss Mabel assisted to a seat. The car stopped at the Burrell home and physicians were summoned.

When the unfortunate woman was placed in the car, her face and clothes were coveted with blood and it was feared that she was fatally injured.

The car was well filled with people returning from the contest at Denton and there were a number of passengers from Detroit, as the car was a through passenger.

The officials of the company could throw little light on the accident when questioned this morning, having but a meager account of the affair.

Miss Mabel and Ray Burrell are the children of Alfred J. Burrell, who with Herbert Burrell conducts the Burrell Bros. farm about two miles east of town. The families are well known in this section of the county, and Mrs. Burrell is an enthusiastic member of the Women’s Temperance Union.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Places to go

Is there a special place where you want to go? A place that is special because you have been there and want to go back? Or is it a place you have heard of, or read about, and want to see for yourself? There is a special place I want to go. I want to go to Hulbert, Michigan. Do not worry if you have never heard of Hulbert, Michigan, as it is a crossroad village in the Upper Peninsular. I have been there once, and want to go back.

It was back in the summer of 1984, when my father told me we were going on a trip. We had never done anything like this before, and would never do anything like this again. This was the year when my sister had died suddenly, and four years before my mother had died. It was also at this time my father began to feel the effects of the emphysema that would finally kill him twelve years later. There was a reason for the trip, but he was not likely to talk about that.

So a few days after the Heritage Festival we got in the car and headed north. We were at the Straits of Mackinac by early evening and settled into a motel. The next morning we visited Mackinac Island, and that afternoon toured the canal at the Sault Sainte Marie. I was slowly coming to realize that we were following the rout taken by my mother and father had taken on their honeymoon. This was confirmed the next day when we drove to Hulbert.

My parents had spent two nights of there honeymoon at Hulbert, bank in the 1940’s. Back then, the only way to see the Tahquamenon Falls was by ferry, and that was an all day journey. For years after, when they spoke of Hulbert they would talk of the man who ran the hotel, and owned the general store, the saloon and the post office. Then they would add that about all there was to Hulbert was the hotel, the general store, the saloon and the post office.

In silence we rode and pull in to park in front of the hotel in Hulbert. Looking around we saw there was the hotel, the general store and the post office and not much more. We entered the hotel and were greeted by a woman who seemed to be the manager. She told us the man who had owned the hotel years before had died ten years before and his wife was in a nursing home.

We stepped out of the hotel and my father stopped to stand and look around. I thought of suggesting we take a photo of the village but something inside me made me keep quit. I will never know what my father was thinking about as he stood there; he was not the kind of man to express himself that way. I wonder if he was remembering the time he spent there with my mother. Then, without a word, we got in the car and drove off.

I plan to go back to Hulbert someday, perhaps even stay at the hotel where my parents had spent time on their honeymoon. I want to go back, because it holds a special memory for me.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Neat House is Reopened

This story appared in the Ypsilanti Daily Press of Friday, June 7, 1907.

Oliver Westfall and son, Clarence, who have taken over the Neat house at the Michigan Central depot and will conduct it as a European hotel, gave a house-warming last night. The “boys” had such a good time that they haven’t got through telling about it yet. And there was a bunch of them there too. The place was packed. The invitations read that the “reception” would be held from 7:00 to 11 o’clock, and during that time there was a big crush.

The Westfalls had provided a bountiful and tasty luncheon. There was the choicest and largest roast of beef that could be bought and cooked. Then there was cold ham, radishes, green onions, pickles, biscuits, bread and cheese. A lay out of this character would naturally create a thirst, and there were liquids in profusion to quench it.

The Neat house had been closed for some time previous to the Westfalls taking it over. W. H. Lewis, a former proprietor, says it was a money maker for him. A good man will be engaged to conduct the dining room. The house has about 15 rooms.

New Archive Hours

The Ypsilanti City Archives have moved from the carrage house behind the Museum and into the basement of the Museum. The new space is an improvemtn over the old, and worth a visit. With the change of place there is also a change in times the Archives are open. The Archives are now open Tuesday thru Saturday from 2:00 to 5:00 PM. The Museum and Archives are closed even Monday and all major holidays.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Depot Town Ghost Tour

As you may have heard, I am planning to give a Ghost Tour of Depot Town on the weekend before Halloween. At this time I have three ghosts, two murders and the mystery of the tunnels. I hoe to scare up a few more ghosts and some other tales by the time of the tour. It should be fun.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Loss of a friend

A good friend died two yars ago on September 5, and I still miss him. He was a good and gentil man, who left us far too soon. At te time of his death, I posted something I wanted to share with others. I still wnat to share this with you, so I am posting it again.

52 Presents to give yourself

Walk instead of ride.
Give yourself a compliment
Keep a secret
Practice courage in one small way.
Warm a heart
Laugh at yourself
Enjoy silence
Walk to the nearest park.
Break a bad habit, if just for today.
Get to know the neighbor's dog or cat.
Hug someone.
Sing in the shower
List ten things you do well
Walk in the rain.
Pay a compliment.
Throw away something you don't like.
Watch a construction crew.
Waste a little time.
Curl up with some hot cocoa
Buy a ticket to a special event.
Return something you've borrowed
Think about droplets on rosebubs
Try to feel another person's hurt or joy.
Organize some small corner of your life.
pop popcorn
Turn off the TV and do something else.
Gather shells on the beach.
Feed the ducks
Pick up some travel brochures and dream
Smell one flower.
Sand a card to someone for no reason
Take an early morning walk.
Tell someone how much you appreciate him or her.
Look into the heart of a flower.
Look at old photos
Encourage a young person.
Follow an impulse
Visit someone close by.
Listen to the rain.
Acknowledge when you are wrong.
Volunteer time to something you care about.
Give yourself a present for under $1.
Eat breakfast with a friend.
Let someone do you a favor.
Reread a favorite book.
Allow yourself to make a mistake.
Watch the sun set.
Allow yourself to make another mistake.
Drop a quarter where some one will find it.
Surprise a child.
Plant a seed.
Watch the sun rise.

One last present to give yourself, and that is to enjoy.

John Dolbee Cuts Throat

The following story appeard in The Ypsilanti Record of Thursday, August 23, 1917.

Workmen on going to work Wednesday morning at Highland cemetery found John V. Dolbee, a former Ypsilanti man, laying across the grave of his wife, his throat cut and his wrists slashed with a razor, evidently with suicidal intent. Though almost lifeless, he was hurried t the University hospital at Ann Arbor where he was today reported still alive with some chance for recovery.

Despondency over the death of his wife three years ago, made more acute when his son Austin Jay, fell from the third story window of a Highland Park apartment house last Saturday and received injuries from which he died Sunday, is believed to be the cause of his effort to end his life

The son’s body was brought to Ypsilanti Tuesday and buried at Highland cemetery. The father attended the burial, and it is believed a despondent mood, went alone to the cemetery at night and at the grave of his wife sought to end his life

He used a razor, slashing his throat and severing his windpipe but fortunately failing to injure the jugular vein. He also slashed his wrists, and though weak and unconscious from loss of blood, there were signs of life in the morning.

At first view his discoverers thought he was dead, and officers were so informed. Coroner Burchfield of Ann Arbor was dispatched word and he drove to Ypsilanti. A physician was called immediately when the discovery was made that life was not extinct and he was at once taken to University hospital. There it was stated there was a chance for recovery. Recovering to speak, Mr. Dolbee declared it was his desire to die.

He is 56 years of age. He has a son, Dan Dolbee, a daughter Mrs. Dora Long, of Muskegon and another daughter, Mrs. Lutie Long, residing on the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor road.

Mr. Dolbee is a carpenter by trade, residing for many years at 622 Prospect Street. He has in recent years been plying his trade in Detroit. The son, Austin Jay, was employed in Highland Park when he met with his fatal fall.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Keep trying

I am going to keep working on the blog, and see if I can make a real go of it.

A New Blog

For some time I have been having trouble getting on to the old blog. Well, infact, I could no longer get on the old blog at all. So, I have decided to start a new blog. I will endeaver to keep up the history of the old, and add commits as I go along. A new beginning, so lets see what happens.