Tag Archives: Twin Ports Historical Sites

A Visit with Pandora in the Parlor

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Detail of Pandora.

If you have been to Fairlawn Mansion, you have likely seen the marble statue that resides in the alcove in Grace’s parlor. The bright white sculpture sits on a brown pedestal that makes the figure prominent against the curtained windows. Draped in a soft-looking shroud made of marble, she leans slightly forward with her hair gathered just above her neck. Pandora stands gazing at her little decorative jar, seemingly contemplating whether she should open it or not. As the story goes, Pandora chooses to open the mysterious box, and, in so doing, unleashes all the evils of the world. In her haste to close the box after she realizes what is happening, she shuts the lid in time to trap one last thing: hope.

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An early photo of Pandora.

Martin and Grace Pattison brought the statue of Pandora home after one of their trips overseas. The figurine was created by Chauncey B. Ives in Italy around the year 1864. Ives was an American artist who moved to Florence, Italy in the 1840s. Known for his sculpting of figures, Ives was popular for many years because of his classical depictions of women such as Frances M. Pearce, Sans Souci, and Undine Receiving Her Soul. When the family moved out in 1920, they took the statue with them. She was donated back to Fairlawn when it opened as the Douglas County Historical Society in 1965.

In 1999, Pandora was sent to the Twin Cities for conservation – cleaning of the whole statue, and repair of Pandora’s broken marble fingers, happened at that time. After the conservation project was finished, the statue was shipped back to Superior and set up in the parlor once again. During the Christmas season, Pandora seems to glow in the light of the decorated trees as she stares at the jar in her hand. Be sure to visit Fairlawn during December to see Pandora standing where she has for most of the past century.

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.

Lake Superior Brownstone

In the United States, brownstone as a building material reached the height of its popularity between 1868 and 1898 as growing cities built grand buildings to show off their new prosperity. In addition, the disastrous Chicago fire of 1871 highlighted the importance of replacing wooden buildings with more substantial structures. This helped ensure the success of the “Romanesque Revival” style of Henry Richardson, a popular architectural movement that favored massive stone construction.

Brownstone quarry

A Brownstone Quarry in the 1880s

High-quality brownstone (a reddish-brown sandstone made up of rounded grains of quartz sand) is found around the south shore of Lake Superior. The first quarry in the region was established on Basswood Island (one of the Apostle Islands) in 1868 by the Bass Island Brownstone Company. Other brownstone quarries were located near Fond du Lac, Port Wing, Amnicon, Iron River, and Bayfield.

Fairlawn Mansion

Fairlawn Mansion

Here in Superior, Martin Pattison started building Fairlawn in 1889. He used blocks of Lake Superior brownstone for the foundation and porches of the mansion. The brownstone used at Fairlawn came from the quarry of the Arcadian Brownstone Company, located about 10 miles away along the Amnicon River. The stone was hauled to Fairlawn by rail.

During the twenty years of its existence (1886-1906) the Arcadian Brownstone Quarry shipped out more than a million cubic feet of stone to cities throughout the Midwest. The old  quarry is located in what is now Amnicon Falls State Park.  Two major factors brought an end to the brownstone quarrying industry in the Lake Superior region. The national economy crashed in 1893, discouraging construction and virtually eliminating demand for building stone. By the time the economy improved, architectural tastes had shifted. Dark brownstone was out of fashion; lighter stones and brickwork took its place. The brownstone era was over.

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.