Sunday, August 3, 2014

Photography and Historic Places

When I was in high school, the subject of History held no interest for me. I think that is because in the K-12 arena they can easily destroy any potential curiosity in the subject by making you memorize dates and events, all those boring facts. What they don't teach you in school are the stories. The stories are what makes history come alive.

One of the things I am most drawn to when I photograph are old buildings. Each has a history, each has a story waiting to be told.

I rarely do historical research ahead of an exploration of a place. I may have read something about it that peaked my interest to initially seek the place out, but that is the extent of my information gathering. I prefer to have my eye and mind wander about the place unhindered. It is only as I begin to load my photos on to the computer and start to see what pieces of history I have captured, then I start to delve into the history of the place.

That being said, something I have started to seek out in the last year are historical tours. I can tell right away if our tour guide is passionate about the subject they are talking about. We have been fortunate this year to experience two different tours where I could tell the tour guide has a deep love for the place and the history.

The first tour was with Joe at the Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City this past winter. You can read about that tour here and here. There will be a new installment of this tour coming in the near future from our latest tour which we did this summer.

The second tour was a ranger led walk of Glen Haven, MI with Ranger Marie of The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Our daughter is interning at Sleeping Bear this summer and she tipped us off to this ranger led walk when we were up there for vacation.

We met on a beautiful Sunday morning. The temperatures on the slightly cool side, but the sun was shining and the sky was that perfect summer blue.

The ranger led walks were just getting started for the summer season so still an undiscovered treasure to most tourists. Hence why my husband and I were the only non-park employed people on the tour.

Ranger Marie has done a great deal of research on the town of Glen Haven and has followed up on people's stories whenever she is able. It was so interesting to listen to her recount some of them. If you ever get up to the Sleeping Bear area I would highly recommend this ranger led walk.

The highlight of the tour was the opportunity to go inside the Sleeping Bear Inn. Glen and I have wandered around the outside with our cameras on a few occasions. The chance to explore the rooms inside gave me that fluttery feeling of photographic excitement.

A few quick facts. The Sleeping Bear House, as it was originally named, was built in 1857 in the small logging town of Glen Haven, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. The Inn was originally used as a Boarding House for lumberjacks, dock workers and sometimes for passengers from the steamships that docked in Sleeping Bear Bay. These passengers wishing to stay overnight or get a good hot meal.

Now that the basic facts have been stated, let's step inside the Inn...

We entered through the back door, walked past the old telephone...

and entered into the kitchen.

There was no electricity in the Inn so I was so happy for a bright sunny day and lots of big windows with natural light. I wouldn't mind working at this counter and looking out at Lake Michigan. 

Through the swinging doors and out into the large main room.

Love the vintage wallpaper.

The front porch. My favorite place. I am such a porch girl.

Some vintage signs. My favorite is this one though...

 Especially after I found a photo in the museum of the sign when it was in use.

Although you can tell the signs are not the same. Different lettering, but same wording.

Then up the stairs to the rooms.

Notice a difference between door Number 1 and door Number 10?

Room Number 1 was the Honeymoon Suite, any ideas now?

Each room had a sink in it, but the toilet was communal.

As we were leaving I noticed this bit of ephemera tacked to the wall on the front porch. Ranger Marie had no idea how long it has been there, but from the looks of the style of the phone numbers, quite a long time.

Just imagine all the stories this old Inn could tell. This is what I love about historic places.


  1. You are a girl after my heart! I love these kinds of places. Beauty tour and thoughtfully photographed. I have a friend in Grand Rapids that I really want to visit. You are adding places for me to see. Beautiful post.

  2. Very interesting . . . and you added the story flavor encouragement for a historical tour . . .
    Loved the vintage signs . . .
    Rooms 1 vs 10 . . .
    Sink in rooms . . . communal toilet . . .
    Key hole view . .
    Long kitchen counter, window views of the Sleeping Bear area . . .
    I have a story from there . . .

  3. Wonderful photos! Made me feel like I was there, too! That porch...

  4. Oh, seeing this literally made my heart start beating faster. Love these old places.

  5. Sarah when you cover a story, you really get every last detail...Amazing photos and your description was really helpful...Love the sink....

  6. Love taking the tour with you! I love all the windows and beautiful light, but I must say the porch is my favorite, too! Love the light and shadows!!

  7. I'm the same, I love walking around seeing and experiencing the history of places - the older the better. Amazing shots and great tour, thank you xx

  8. I love when there is a good story behind a location and was blessed to have been raised by parents who includes side-trips on journeys to visit historic locations (especially Civil War related). Love that back porch.

  9. Your photos really show this Inn well.

  10. Wonderful photos + great storytelling. Nice for the armchair traveler. Thanks for taking the time to share this place.


  11. Sarah, I feel exactly the same way about history. In school, I thought it was the dullest class and one where I only memorized the facts to pass the class. Only as an adult have I discovered the rich tapestry of stories that actually are history, and now I love all things old. Your pictures tell the story beautifully and creatively, and the front porch will always be my favorite.

  12. I too hated history classes in school, for exactly the same reasons. What difference did the dates make? Tell me what happened, and tell me why I should care! But, like you, I love old buildings, and I also love historical tours. There I can learn the stories -- the "good stuff" -- or can make up my own if I wish. Thanks for taking me on this one with you. Great pictures and details!

  13. i love visiting historical places too! oh and i really enjoyed my tour with you, beautiful photos!!

  14. Gorgeous! I especially love the lock one.


Thank you so much for visiting today and taking the time to read my thoughts on life. :)