Tag Archives: Superior

New Exhibits Aboard the SS Meteor

Have you heard the story about how Captain Alexander McDougall navigated the waters to the Atlantic in his whaleback the Charles W. Wetmore?

Launched in 1891, the Wetmore was the first whaleback steamer to touch salt water. Since the steamer was 264 feet in length, it could not fit through the canals along the St. Lawrence Seaway. McDougall decided that he would run what is currently the St. Lawrence River rapids to get to the Atlantic Ocean. He took her safely through. Visitors can learn how he did it when they visit the SS Meteor’s new exhibits this summer.

SS Meteor Whaleback Ship Museum, the world’s last remaining above-water Whaleback ship.

Stories like this, about McDougall, the whalebacks he built, the American Barge Company and more, are depicted on the seven new exhibit panels that were revealed in May. The stories in this exhibit are unique to Superior, to McDougall and to the whalebacks he created, and they cannot be found on Google. It’s simply not available outside of the museum itself.

Prior to this installation, the exhibits have not had a major update since the early 1980s. The new panels bring the museum’s focus back to McDougall and all things whaleback, instead of a general maritime approach.

Development of the new exhibits has been two years in the making. Countless hours of research, writing, design and proofing, not to mention the gathering of photos and artifacts, have gone into the project.

Part of the research the team conducted in preparation for the exhibits was to ask the friends of the museum what they wanted to see. The overwhelming response was for more whaleback, more McDougall and more of Superior’s harbor history. That’s exactly what visitors will find in the Meteor’s cargo hold.

The new and revised information is something that whaleback enthusiasts can be proud of. The exhibit tells our story.

For more information on world’s last remaining above-water Whaleback ship and tours visit our SS Meteor page.

Historic Wedding at Fairlawn Mansion

Imagine Fairlawn Mansion’s decorated interior as two couples were married in the parlor on an early June day in 1896. Two of Martin Pattison’s nieces, Mary Ann Gowling and Eva Irene Thayer, married men from Superior – Ralph Pope and Frank Hamen. “Fairlawn never looked so beautiful as when its spacious apartments were decked with flowers and foliage” wrote a reporter for the June 4th edition of the Superior Telegram. “The parlor is decorated with pink and white roses and smilax [leafy vines] in festoons over the mantle, the music room with white and yellow flowers while the reception room and library beyond present a most effective picture with American beauties and other beautiful flowers amidst the green foliage of potted plants.” Weddings like this made the news during the Pattisons’ day, and the article in the newspaper was filled with information that locals wanted to read.

parlor

An early photo of Fairlawn’s family parlor.

About 50 guests were invited to the wedding ceremony – mostly close friends and family. The details of the double wedding included music and decoration, refreshments and dinner. “The brides will be given away by their uncle, Mayor Pattison, and they will look beautiful in their gowns of Gloria silk. Miss Gowling’s dress is trimmed with pearl ornaments and she will carry a handkerchief of lace, one hundred and fifty years old.” At the end of the ceremony, guests were sent up to the ballroom on the third floor of the mansion, where they ate a wonderful supper. The ballroom tables were decorated with pink candles and apple blossoms.

The menu included croquettes, salads, olives, almonds, meats and chips, with ice cream and strawberries to top off the meal. Once the wedding cake was cut by the brides, the billiards room was opened up to allow the wedding guests to admire wedding gifts that included “silver, cut glass, rare china, pictures, beautiful embroidery, linen” and more. The evening reception included refreshments for nearly 400 well-wishers in the dining room under a canopy of climbing asparagus, with carnations decorating the table. Once guests chose coffee, chocolates, cake or ices, they could wander through the conservatory, greenhouse, lawns, and outdoor gardens.

Fairlawn, with its beautiful interior and cheerful gardens, lends itself perfectly as a backdrop for weddings. Whether a small wedding in the parlor or a larger gathering near the landing, many couples have celebrated their marriage at Fairlawn.

Planning a wedding? Call our Events Coordinator at 715-394-5712 or email events@superiorpublicmuseums.org to schedule a private tour.

 

McDougall’s Dream 2016

Check out the brochure below for more information about our upcoming McDougall’s Dream event!13996306_1318768378140877_2936128342079023397_o13908985_1318768481474200_5000631179682144981_o

Tea Parties in the Parlor

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Photo courtesy of Lucas Jensen

Parlor games were entertaining activities for both children and adults during the age of the Victorians. Whether Blind Man’s Bluff, Balderdash, or anything in between, games in the parlor were something to look forward to when visiting with siblings, cousins or friends.

Afternoon tea, in contrast, was often a quieter time for polite conversation and good manners. The snacks were sweet and the sugar cubes were hopefully plentiful. Does this sound like a relaxing way to spend an afternoon?

Fairlawn Mansion offers tea parties that can be part of a birthday get-together, a club meeting, or just about any occasion. For younger party-goers, there is a two-hour party that includes dressing up in hats, feather boas and gloves, ending with a fashion show in the grand hall. The kids also enjoy parlor games, making tussie-mussies (flower bouquets), and a tea party with pink lemonade and sweet frosting-covered wafers. These tea parties start at $120 for a group of eight little party-goers.

For the still young at heart but slightly older crowd, catered luncheons and a private tour of the mansion are often the interest. These parties work well as bridal showers, baby showers, or other celebrations, but you won’t need any excuse to enjoy Fairlawn’s beautiful interior as you spend time with loved ones and friends! These parties, which include a tasty catered meal for a minimum of 10 people, start at $25 per person. If a tea party sounds like a delightful event for your next occasion, give us a call to chat about options for designing a party at Fairlawn that can easily include your personal touch.

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Photo courtesy of Lucas Jensen

Want Fairlawn to be the setting for your next party?
Call our Museums Administrator at 715-394-5712 for more information.

Superior’s Firefighting Horses

Superior’s Firefighting Horses

Before engine-powered fire trucks were seen speeding from Superior’s fire halls toward plumes of smoke, galloping horses pulled fire hose and ladder wagons toward blazes. Horses naturally fear flames and often become nervous when they catch a whiff of smoke. But because horses were necessary in getting to and fighting fires, the horses working in fire halls were trained to gallop directly to a fire, pulling fire-extinguishing equipment in their wake. Log book records kept by Superior fire fighters provide a wealth of information about the maintenance and care of fire-fighting horses.

A cart and harness prepared for a fire run.

A cart and harness prepared for a fire run.

The East End Fire Hall was built in 1898. In August of the previous year, Superior’s Evening Telegram printed an article about how the fire hall plans were drawn up. The building itself was two stories high and the dimensions were 60 feet by 65 feet. The first floor had space for nine horse stalls. According to the article, “These stalls are not arranged in the rear of the building as in the present system, but are so arranged that the horses after being released by the automatic action of the drop box, have only to go twelve feet to get in harness and ready for the start.” The horses were trained to leave their stalls and run directly to their places in front of the firefighting equipment and underneath the harnesses when the alarm bell rang. The harnesses were hung from the ceiling in such a way that only one or two buckles were required in order to hook the horse to the wagon and head toward the fire.

Note how the team of horses is very close to the burning building.

Note how the team of horses is very close to the burning building.

On May 4, 1898, a firefighter at the Connor’s Point Fire Hall wrote in the log book about the shoeing process. He penciled: “1:45 p.m. – Love brought extra team and took the regular team to shop to be shoed.” At 4:30 that afternoon, the firefighter wrote that the “regular team was returned and the extra team was taken away.” To keep the horses ready for a fire run, metal shoes were attached to their hooves. This was so that the horses would not easily bruise their hooves as they sprinted. If a horse’s foot was injured during a fire run, the horse would have to be taken out of use – even for months at a time – to allow the hoof to grow beyond the injury.

The shoeing process occurred every other month, and the fire hall logs include other horse-related notations such as new planks for stalls, as well as bags of oats and bales of hay for the hungry horses. The weight of the fire suppression apparatus meant that some of the fire horses had to be large and strong; draft horses were trained for this equipment while lighter horses were used for the fire chief’s wagon and sleigh. Two of the large draft horses stabled at the Connor’s Point Fire Hall were named Sandy and Prince. A log book note from the year 1900 stated that Sandy weighed 1310 pounds while Prince weighed in at 1297 pounds.

Horses remained an integral part of Superior’s fire halls until new engines and equipment were powerful enough to replace the horses’ speed and strength.

Moose Antlers?

We are pleased to announce that we will be adding a new room to the Fairlawn guided tour this year. After several years of restoration, Martin Pattison’s office will be shown to visitors. In preparation for this addition we have stabilized the original painted ceiling and installed a new window that is period appropriate in construction. For many years we have been collecting artifacts for display in this room, including snowshoes and rock samples. We could use a few more. We are in need of very old items with a distinctly north woods feel. Specifically we could use a pair of moose antlers. We would prefer just the antlers and not the whole moose head. If you have antlers or other items you think might be a good addition, give us a call at 715-394-5712.

Martin Pattison's office in the early 1900s

Martin Pattison’s office in the early 1900s

 

Garden Talks 2015

Our 2015 Garden Talks series is underway! There is still time to sign up for one or more of our remaining four talks: “Tree Care” with Louise Levy on Thursday February 26; “African Violets” with Geraldine Hughes on March 12; “Plants for Natural Health and Wellness” with Gigi Stafne and Judith Liebaert on April 2; and “Gardeners Like Beer Too!” with Nick Casper on April 9. Yummy tGreen Wisdom crocusreats this year are provided by the professionally trained pastry chefs of “The Sweet Guys”. Give us a call at 715-394-5712 to reserve your space!

McDougall’s Dream is Saturday September 27!

Alexander McDougall

Alexander McDougall

This year marks the 10th annual “McDougall’s Dream”. This all-day event celebrates local ship builder and entrepreneur Alexander McDougall.

In the late 1880s he came up with an innovative design for a steel-hulled vessel that would ride low in the water and shed the waves off its back like a whale, which gave the vessels their popular name of “whaleback.” McDougall’s American Steel Barge Company built the whalebacks in Superior, near the site of the current Frasier Shipyards. Only one whaleback ship remains – the Meteor – now land-berthed on Barker’s Island and open for tours.

McDougall’s Dream is this Saturday September 27 at the Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior. Afternoon presentations begin at 1 p.m. with topics ranging from shipwrecks to shipbuilding. The evening events start at 5 p.m. with a cash bar, dinner catered by Famous Dave’s BBQ, a silent auction, and keynote speaker Pamela Brunfelt, Iron Range historian from Ely, Minnesota. Proceeds from the event help to restore and preserve the Meteor and the legacy of Captain Alexander McDougall.

The cost is $15 for the daytime talks, $40 for the evening dinner and keynote speaker, or $45 for a combination ticket for daytime and evening events.

For more details, take a look at our “Events Calendar” page. To make a reservation, call us at 715-394-5712.

Visit Your Local Museums

The head of the lakes, along with most of the rest of the country, is experiencing one of the most weather intense winters we’ve seen in a long time.

In the Twin Ports of Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota we’ve set a record for the number of days with below zero temperatures. Some of them have been as much as 30-below.

Let’s not forget the snow. We’ve got a pretty good start to setting a record snowfall for the year as well.

Such extreme weather can get old with the month of March approaching, causing cabin fever to set in with a vengeance.  What to do?  Why not visit a local museum or two?

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel all my life. I’ve seen most of the U.S., from rural farm communities, to small towns and villages, to large cities. One thing I’ve noted, is that for a region the size of the Twin Ports, we have a lot of museums by comparison.

Most of our local, historical sites and museums operate as non-profits. That means the $$ you spend for admission are an important contribution to keeping these historical sites operational and open to the public.

So shake your cabin fever and do a good deed at the same time. Visit one of these local museums to hear the fascinating history of our area.

And remember . . . Your History Becomes You!

In Superior, WI

  • Fairlawn Mansion ~ A Victorian House Museum
    The 42 room Queen Anne Victorian, featuring a four-story turret complete with widow’s watch overlooking the bay, is a unique and well recognized landmark in the City of Superior.
  • Douglas County Historical Society
    To collect, preserve, interpret and exhibit artifacts, archival materials and photographs of the cultural, social and political history of the people and communities of Douglas County, Wisconsin.
  • The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center
    To honor the memory of Major Bong and all the veterans of WWII and later conflicts whose sacrifices maintain our Freedoms. The Center is an educational resource that collects and preserves the tangible legacy of these veterans and their home front supporters.

In Duluth, MN

  • Glensheen Estate
    Glensheen, a historic estate on the shores of Lake Superior, offers a slice of turn-of-the-last-century opulence. Its 1908 collection is intact, completely immersing you in the life of one of Minnesota’s most influential families.
  • Duluth Depot
    Including the *St. Louis County Historical Society, *Lake Superior Railroad Museum,  *Duluth Art Institute and *Veterans Memorial Hall.
  • Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
    Located in a former Christian Scientist Church building built in 1912, the structure is a beautiful building with a large main floor exhibit hall.

Check individual websites for hours of operation, admission and additional information on exhibits, collections and tours.