Operation Bridge Rescue

The popular PBS series, NOVA, documented the rebuilding of the Blenheim Covered Bridge, an 1855 structure that was washed washed away by Hurricane Irene in 2011. A replacement bridge, a replica of the original, was built over 2017-2018. This television show documented the rebuilding.

If you missed it on PBS, you can watch it on their website:

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Appleton Locks Reopen To Watercraft

The Fox River Navigation System Authority (Wisconsin) has announced that a swing bridge, previously not operational, has been repaired. The inability of the bridge to open has limited the height of watercraft that use the locks in the navigational channel.

Now that the bridge is operational, the navigation channel is open to all Fox River watercraft that able to lock through Appleton.

Photo by Fox River Navigation System Authority.

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Lift Bridge Over Fox Navigation Channel To Be Operational Again

The Veterans Memorial Bridge in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, has been ordered to be returned to operational condition by the U.S. Coast Guard. The lift bridge, that carries Catherine Street across the Fox River Navigational Channel, has not been operational since the 1980s. The bridge was built in 1984.

The Fox locks fell into disuse and the lift bridge stopped being utilized. The locks were restored in 2015 but mariners seldom use them because they cannot get craft under the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

WLUK in Green Bay reports that Kaukauna received notification from the U.S. Coast Guard that the bridge must be operational by May 1, 2021. Kaukauna Mayor Tony Penterman says the biggest issue is funding. Except for the lift mechanism, the bridge is in good condition so it is possible not many federal dollars will be available. The projected cost of the repairs is $2.2 Million.

Source: WLUK Green Bay.

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Ford Buys Historic Detroit Train Station

Crain’s Business is reporting that Matthew Moroun says the Moroun family has sold the historic Michigan Central Station in Detroit to Ford Motor Co.

The station has been unused since the last train pulled out in 1988. The Moroun Family bought the building in 1995 and had done some tedevelopment work. Moroun says the Blue Oval will adorn the building. The purchase signals Ford’s return to Detroit, where the company was founded in 1903. It also signals redevelopment of Corktown.

The sale also allows the Moroun family’s to pursue plans to replace the 88 year old Ambassador Bridge.


Edited to Add: The Detroit Free Press also reported on the sale and added some insight. Follow the link to see photos of the old station.

Link: Ford Buys Train Station.

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Historic Church Will Be Rebuilt

“Our intent is to rebuild” say officials of Trinity Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The church suffered $17 million in damage from a spectacular fire last month.

Structural engineers have determined that the original 1878 walls are strong enough, with some bracing, to support reconstruction of the Church.

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Four Alarm Fire Consumes Historic Church

The 1878 Trinity Lutheran Church was destroyed today in a spectacular four-alarm fire. The church, in downtown Milwaukee, was constructed with cream city brick and Illinois limestone, both darkened with a patina of dirt and soot. It was also home to a historic Schuelke pipe organ that likely did not survive the fire.

The fire was reported just before 4:00 PM and quickly escalated to a fourth alarm. A plume of black smoke could be seen for miles. Wind from the east blew smoke over I-43 a block to the west of the church, causing several miles of traffic backups. Over 100 firefighters were able to bring the fire under control not long after 5:00 PM. One steeple collapsed into the church. The tower clock continued to keep time until the power was cut at 4:27 PM.

Aerial View May 15, 2018
Photo by Fox6Now News (Link Below)

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Aurora's Paramount Theater Receives Its Largest Grant Ever

The Paramount Theater has announced the largest grant it has ever received to help launch a fund-raising campaign. In a press release, the theater says it received a grant of $2.5 million from the Dunham Fund. The fundraising effort has a goal of $4.5 million to fund expansion and improvement in three areas.

One such goal is the replacement of the 1,888 seats that are original to the theater. The group says the seats

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Tax Credit Increase for Historic Preservation Passes in Wisconsin

Lawmakers in Wisconsin passed a landmark (pun intended) bill on February 20 to increase the state's cap on per-project historic rehabilitation tax credits. The increase bumps the credit from $500,000 to $3.5 million. The bill passed the Senate on a bi-partisan vote of 29-3 after unanimously passing the Assembly. The bill now moves on to the desk of Governor Scott Walker, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

A previous budget item would have set the limit at $500,000 as of July 1.

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Historic Fire Station to Become Restaurant

A former fire station in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin is scheduled to be repurposed as a restaurant. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, a successful area restaurateur purchased the property for $1.00 and will convert the facility in a $2 million project. Some funding will come from the State of Wisconsin and Menomonee Falls. Scheduled to open this summer, the building served as the city hall a fire house from 1929. City hall moved but the building continued as a fire station until 2015. It was placed on the NRHP in 1988.

Link: Fire Station Restaurant Conversion.

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USGS topographic quadrangles updated

The USGS has shifted their collection of historical and modern quadrangle maps to a new hosting provider (Amazon S3). I've updated all of our quadrangle links to point to the new files. One advantage of the new hosting system is that the maps are no longer tucked away in ZIP archives, so the PDF files can now be downloaded directly.

To access the quadrangles, pick any county and then click the Quadrangles link in the top menu bar. You can also find links from each landmark page.

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Trucker Who Collapsed Historic Bridge Gets Jail Time

The truck driver who caused a historic Indiana bridge to collapse because she wasn’t sure how much six tons weighed has been sentenced to jail.

Indiana Judge R. Michael Cloud sentenced 24 year old truck driver Mary Lambright to the maximum sentence of 180 days behind bars. She was also ordered to pay $2000 to cover part of the costs of the bridge inspection once construction on the new structure is completed.

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Theurer-Wrigley House On The Market

Here's your chance to hobnob with Chicago's elite and entertain your guests in high style in Chicago's Lincoln Park. The Wrigley Mansion, as it is commonly known, is a 9 bedroom, six bathroom home that overlooks Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan. The 13,700 square foot mansion features a mahogany paneled library and a top floor ballroom where you can host your own murder mystery parties. The mansion has been on the NRHP since July 1980.

Wrigley Mansion, Photo by chicagoist.

For a cool $7.1 Million dollars, you too can live like a chewing gum magnate.

Follow the link for a photo tour of the interior of the mansion: Photos: Look Inside Lincoln Park's Epic Historic Wrigley Mansion

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1906 Arch Bridge Closed Without Warning

An important component of Milwaukee's historic Lake Park was closed without notice on December 9. The bridge, designed by Alfred C. Clas and George Bowman Ferry, connects the northern and southern halves of the park by spanning a deep ravine. Lake Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. It was posted to the NRHP in 1993.

The historic bridge's fate is uncertain

The concrete arch bridge has been a source of concern for several years. Cracks and spalling raised concerns, leading to a structural analysis in 2015. Potential failure of the bridge prompted its closure on December 9 along with the closing of Ravine Drive, a roadway spanned by the bridge. According to County Executive Chris Abele, the bridge will be demolished if people ignore the chain link gates that block access.

Estimates to repair or to replace the bridge hover around $2 million, a sum not readily available. Fans of Lake Park and of the historical value of bridge are disappointed over rumors of the bridge's potential demolition.

The concrete arch bridge was part of a promenade that included a grand staircase (extant) allowing access to the lower portion of the park at the bottom of Lake Michigan's famous western shore bluff. There was also an athletic field and stands that were demolished decades ago.

Ravine Drive, a popular roadway, is also closed

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Developer drops plans to demolish historic Frank Lloyd Wright building

One of three Frank Lloyd Wright structures in the state of Montana seems to have avoided the wrecking ball. A copyrighted article by Heidi Desch in the Whitefish Pilot, reports a developer purchased the Lockridge Medical Clinic in Whitefish, Montana with the intention of demolishing it to make room for a commercial development.

Developer Mick Ruis purchased the building and says when he purchased the building, he was not aware of Frank Lloyd Wright nor had any idea that Wright is so popular. Although listing on the NRHP does not prevent a property's demolition, Ruis apparently ran into backlash from Wright affectionados.

Ruis listed the building at the same price he paid for it and hopes it will be purchased by someone who will restore it or turn it into a museum.


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Isadore Heller House Back on the Market

Curbed Chicago is reporting that the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Isadore Heller House has returned to the real estate market after taking a break. The 1896 design is a significant example of FLW's developing Prairie Style.

It is located in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood and was added to the NRHP in 2004.

Oh, if you want in, the asking price is $2.425 million and the price appears to be firm.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Isadore Heller House Returns Asking $2.425m from Curbed Chicago.

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Famous Tama LH Bridge Damaged in a Hit-And-Run Accident

The Tama News Herald Toledo Chronicle is reporting this morning that an early morning accident October 11 dislodged the letter "Y" in the north railing of the Mud Creek Bridge in Tama. The letter is one of the balustrades that spell "LINCOLN HIGHWAY" on the railings of the iconic bridge. They further report that the damage may have been caused by a chrome bumper or chrome wheels because there are no paint scrapes on the letter or the railing itself.

Authorities say the bridge recently underwent structural analysis and they believe insurance should cover the cost of repairs.

The bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Damage to Tama Bridge. Photo by John Speer, Tama News-Herald photo Tama Bridge Damage_zpsc5gxb1pd.jpg
Photo courtesy of the News-Herald
Photo by John Speer

Link to original article:

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Six Veteran's Home Buildings to be Restored

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has selected a local team's proposal to rehabilitate and restore six of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home District buidlings for the service of veteraans.

The Alexander Company of Madison and the Housing Authority of Milwaukee plan to renovate the six buildings in 100 housing units. Primary is the restoration of Old Main (officially #2) the most recognizable building in Wood, designed by Milwaukee's prominant architect. William Townsend Mix. Its distinctive tower is one of the first elements seen by visitors to the VA facility. The other five buildings are the Administration Building (#1) the Catholic Chaplain's Quarters (#14) and three duplexes, (#18, #19 and #62.)

Buildings to be restored, outlined in blue.

Funding will come from the Enhanced Use Lease (ELU) option with the structures leased to The Alexander Company who will take on the cost of rehabilitation.

The area is officially known as the Northwestern Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Historic District. Better known locally as the VA Center at Wood, it is one of the original three "Old Soldiers' Homes" signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln just prior to his assassination. One of Milwaukee's most prominant architects, Edward Townsend Mix designed the most distinctive structure, Building #2 known as Old Main.

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Mountain Fire Tower Reopens To The Public

The Mountain Fire Tower is open to the public again after damage caused by vandals has been repaired. The tower closed two years ago after substantial damage had been done to the tower.

Greyling Brandt, U.S. Forest Service Assistant Ranger for Recreation and Lands, reports that all 132 steps of the tower have been replaced as has the floor of the cab. The $20,000 project was partially funded by the Oconto County Economic Development Corporation with parts and labor supplied by the U.S. Forest Service.

On the National Register of Historic Places, the Mountain Tower is one of two extant towers in this area that originally had 19 towers.

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Mitchell Park Show Dome Reopens Ahead of Schedule

The "Show Dome," one of the three domes of the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, reopened on Friday, April 29, 2016. The opening was two days ahead of the target date for reopening, May 1.

The Show Dome in 2011

"The Domes," as they are popularly known, were closed in early February. On January 29, a piece of the concrete framework fell inside the Arid Dome, which was immediately closed. The closing of the other two domes followed a few days later.

A mesh has been installed over the framework. Reports are that the mesh is barely visible. The mesh is to catch and debris that might fall and for officials to monitor the condition of the frame.

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Look Out for Superman!

According to several news sources, a telephone booth has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Yes, you read that correctly, and it was true the second time you went back to read it.

If you are over 50, you probably remember these ubiquitous glass and aluminum structures that were found on urban sidewalks, inside transportation terminals, outside restaurants and service stations, sometimes along the highway. They were also all over Metropolis so Superman had somewhere to become Clark Kent after saving the world. They all contained a coin-operated telephone, or pay phone in common parlance, where you could reach out and touch someone if you had the right coins.

The glass and aluminum Airlight Telephone Booth of our youth was introduced in 1954. The booth featured tip-up directories that folded into a box to protect them. Sort of. Telephone books tended to disappear or have pages ripped out by users without a pen. There was a shelf for your stuff or to write info if you were smart enough to carry a pen.

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Wisconsin Enacts Frank Lloyd Wright Trail

Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill into law that will designate a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail along several highway routes. The trail will begin in Kenosha County and continue through Racine, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Jefferson, Dane, Iowa, Sauk and Richland counties. $50,000 from the Department of Tourism will be used to place signage along the trail marking Wright attractions.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
in his ever-present pork pie hat.

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Issac Newton Ellis House Destroyed by Fire

The historic Issac Newton Ellis House in Hazelhurst, Mississippi was destroyed in a spectacular fire on February 27, 2016. The entire structure and an adjacent building were completely destroyed in the fire, according to the fire department.

The home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was built circa 1890. According to officials, no one was at home when the fire started and all residents are accounted for. As of this writing, the cause of the fire is unknown.

The fire consumed the entire structure.
Photo by Patrick White, Hazlehurst Fire Department.
Used with permission.

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VA seeks proposals to restore unused buildings

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a Request for Proposals seeking developers interested in rehabilitating a number of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home District's unused historic buildings. The RFP utilizes EUL, Enhanced Use Leases. The structures called out in the RFP include Building 2 (Old Main,) Building 1 (Administration Building,) Building 14 (Catholic Chaplain's Quarters,) and Buildings 18, 19 and 62.

The VA Center is one of three created during the Lincoln Administration, just prior to his assassination. Soldiers from all American conflicts, except the American Revolution, are interred in the cemetery.

Responses to the RFP are due by 11:00 a.m. EST on May 18, 2016.

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Mitchell Park Domes Closed For Safety Concerns

Milwaukee's famous Mitchell Park Domes are indefinitely closed. The Arid Dome was closed on January 29 after pieces of concrete fell from the dome. The other domes closed on February 5 as a safety measure while county officials wait for details of how expensive repairs might be. (The geometric framework is based on cast concrete.) Deterioration of the concrete framework was caused by moisture, humidity, and changes in temperature, all enhanced by the age of the structures.

The domes were built in stages between 1959 and 1967, with Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States, attending the ribbon cutting ceremony.

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Statue of Abraham Lincoln Vandalized in Burlington, Wisconsin

A 22 year old genius has been charged with vandalism in the damage done to an eight foot tall statue of Abraham Lincoln in Burlington, Wisconsin. The senseless act took place last Saturday, January 30. Charges were leveled on February 2.

Jacob Hinds of Burlington, allegedly toppled the statue by pulling it over with his pickup truck and a tow strap. The 22 year old was charged with felony criminal damage to property.

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SS Badger Receives NRHP Listing

The SS Badger, the last coal-fired car ferry on the Great Lakes, has been designated as a national historic landmark. It was already an engineering landmark.

The designation was announced by the National Park Service yesterday.

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Menasha Lock Closed, Invasive Species Found in Fox River

The Fox River Navigational System Authority has closed the Menasha Lock going into the Labor Day weekend due to discovery of an invasive species of fish into the important Wisconsin waterway. Working with anglers fishing the Lower Fox River, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of the Round Goby - an unwanted aquatic invasive species -- immediately below the Neenah dam.

Round Goby, an invasive species threatening the Fox River
Photo by Wisconsin DNR

In a media release on September 3, 2015, Kendall Kamke, DNR Oshkosh fisheries team supervisor, said the four gobies caught in recent days are the first evidence of the species in the waterway above the series of locks and dams downstream. The DNR is asking area anglers for additional help to determine if the species is also present upstream of the Neenah and Menasha dams in Lake Winnebago and is coordinating efforts with the Fox River Navigational System Authority.

"We also would like to learn whether the gobies are present in other locations," Kamke said.

Since its discovery in the St. Clair River in 1990, bottom-dwelling round gobies have spread rapidly into many areas of the Great Lakes including Lake Michigan. Round gobies can survive even in poor quality water and displace native fish by eating their eggs and young, taking over optimal habitat and spawning multiple times per season, which gives them a competitive advantage.

"The gobies represent a real threat to the valuable native species in the Lake Winnebago system - home to a world class walleye fishery, the largest self-sustaining population of lake sturgeon in North America, good populations of bass, yellow perch and other game and panfish species," Kamke said. "We are grateful to the Fox River Navigational System Authority for the partnership involved in this effort."

In addition, Kamke said, DNR is asking for assistance from anglers to help determine whether the gobies have made it above the Neenah and Menasha dams and are in Lake Winnebago or whether they may still be held in check downstream. The DNR would like caught gobies to be brought into the DNR office with details of the catch.

The DNR is not sure how the gobies made their way into the Lower Fox. The system of locks has not been operational for many years, with the Kaukauna locks closed for rebuilding while the Rapide Croche Lock was permanently sealed in 1988 to prevent invasive species from going upstream into Lake Winnebago.

“In three decades there has been no water running through the lock system from Lake Winnebago to the bay of Green Bay,” said Bob Stark, CEO of the FRNSA. “Water still is not flowing through all five Kaukauna locks and the Little Chute locks are dry due to bridge construction. If invasive species have breached the system, it’s a possibility there was another entry point.”

Kamke said there is no way to determine how the gobies arrived in the channel below the Neenah dam, which opens into Little Lake Butte des Morts. In addition to working with local anglers, DNR fisheries and aquatic invasive species team members will continue to set traps and use shocking equipment to determine the range and extent of the population.

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Frank Lloyd Wright House Discovered in Shorewood, Wisconsin

A modest home built in 1917 in the Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood has been determined to be one of Frank Lloyd Wright's American System homes according to Mike Lilek, Curator, American System-Built Homes, at Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin. It is a very rare occurrence for an extant Wright house to be discovered.

"I received a tip about the Newton home a few years ago and brushed it off. Only 433 Wright designs were executed and they are well-known and carefully researched, so I thought it couldn’t be. When I finally visited the home I discovered many similarities to the Wright homes I care for on Burnham Street in Milwaukee," Lilek said. He said he did extensive research at the Milwaukee County Historical Society and carefully looked at Wright's drawings of American System Homes to verify that the Newton house is a FLW design.

“The house was advertised for sale in the Milwaukee Journal in December of 1918 stating that the house was ‘Originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’,” Lilek said. A lawsuit by the builder and a construction lien against The Richards Company, developer of the American System-Built Houses, offer further confirmation that the house is the work of Wright.

Oscar G. Meyer House, Evanston, Illinois
Frank Lloyd Wright House, Shorewood, Wisconsin

The Shorewood house is a “Model A203” with two bedrooms. An open porch at the rear of the house was enclosed for added living space at an unknown date, though the original art glass windows are still in place. A basement-level garage was added in 1976.

Lilek has since checked around the country and no one can recall the last time an actual Wright building was discovered. “It’s been at least a decade. This is so incredibly rare and unusual,” he said.

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New Hope for Detroit's Empty Wurlitzer Building

One of Detroit's historic skyscrapers, the Wurlitzer Building, has been sold after standing empty for three decades.The landmark building once housed one of the largest music stores in the world.

Rudolph Wurlitzer came to the United States in 1853. His family had been in the music instrument business in Europe since 1659, so it was only natural that Rudolph would start a company that was soon the largest distributor of musical instruments in the county. He began to manufacture pianos that were sold through retailers.

When silent movies became a major industry, Wurlitzer began to build theater organs that were reputed to be the biggest, the best, and the clearest sounding organs. Even today, the reputation of "The Mighty Wurlitzer" is known around the world. Wurlitzer would go on to manufacture phonograph equipment and a very popular line of jukeboxes.

The Wurlitzer Building went up in 1926, a Renaissance Revival, 14 story skyscraper. According to Historic Detroit, the building was built with a Terra Cotta façade, granite trim and ornamental ironwork. The name, "Wurlitzer Building" was built into the façade with black Terra Cotta.

Wurlitzer moved out of the building in the 70s, and things pretty much started to go downhill from there. It has been standing empty, with time, elements and vandals all taking a toll on the building.

But it appears that the old gem is about to receive a new lease on life. It has been purchased by New York development company Ash NYC, which plans to turn it into a 100 room boutique hotel with a sidewalk cafe and a rooftop lounge. The estimate for the renovation is over $20 million. The project is projected to be completed in late 2016.

Link: SOLD: Empty Wurlitzer Building Books $20M Hotel Rehab. The site is called Curbed Detroit.

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You Can Own The Oscar G. Meyer Home!

Sing along with me, you know the tune!

Meyer mansion has a first name,
It's E-M-P-T-Y!
Meyer mansion has a second name,
It's B-U-Y-M-E!

Oscar G. Meyer House, Evanston, Illinois
Oscar G. Meyer House, Evanston, Illinois

I never sausage a thing!

The King of Wieners, Oscar Meyer, lived in an understated (if that's possible) mansion in Evanston, Illinois. He bought the 1903 house in 1927 and after remodeling it, lived there until his death in 1965. It is in serious need of restoration, but you'll probably have to ask James for a raise if you're going to tackle this one. It's a bargain at only $236.00 per square foot. Of course, it has about 7,500 square feet, but it's a real bargain at the listed price of $1.75 million. (The estimated mortgage payment would be a measly $6,335.00 per month.) The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile is not included.

The house is in a serious state of decay and is being sold by court order. I'd hate to guess how much it will take to bring it back to its original elegance. The house is not on the NRHP but it certainly looks like it might qualify.

The Oscar Meyer house can be found on several real estate websites, just do a google search, or follow this link:

Oscar G. Meyer House For Sale

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Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama Needs Repairs

The historic Lincoln Highway bridge in Tama, Iowa that crosses Mud Creek is in need of repairs caused by flood damage, according to a copyrighted story in the Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald. The article by John Speer, dated September 12, 2014, reports that engineers have determined that substructure damage was caused by debris carried by flood waters in Mud Creek.

In addition, the deck will need to be removed and replaced. Estimates are that the repairs to cost as much as $40,000.00. Tama City Clerk, Judy Welch, said that the substructure repairs need to be completed in 2015 although the deck surface can wait until 2017.

The 100th Anniversary of the bridge opening will occur in 2015. It was placed on the NRHP in 1987. The distinctive bridge is known primarily for its railing balustrades that spell out LINCOLN HIGHWAY.

A small park, adjacent to the northeast quadrant of the bridge, is the location of a monument to the bridge. A support group, the Lincoln Highway Bridge Park Organization Tama-Toledo supports the park in several ways.

The article can be seen on the paper's website:

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SC Johnson & Sons Research Tower Opens for Tours

After standing unused for over 30 years, and closed to the public, SC Johnson Company's Frank Lloyd Wright designed Research Tower will open for tours.

SC Johnson Company has announced that the tower, one of the tallest cantilevered buildings in the United States, will be a part of the public tours for the first time ever. In a copyrighted story by Milwaukee's Fox 6 News, free tours of the tower and the administration building will begin May 2, 2014.

SC Johnson has restored two of the 15 floors to their appearance when the tower was closed. Period equipment has been placed to enhance work space mock-ups.

The tower has 15 cantilevered floors, six are square with circular mezzanine floors above them. (There is an additional square floor on the second level.) All the floors are supported by a central core, none are supported by the exterior walls or any additional framing. The core contains an elevator and a circular stairway that is a fire inspector's nightmare.

Wright's Research Tower

After restoration of the exterior (including cleaning the glass tubes with Windex™, an SC Johnson product) it is possible to make out the round shape of the alternating mezzanine floors.

The tower opened in 1950 and was the only R&D building Wright ever designed. It was never open to the public while in use, nor after it was closed in 1983.

More than 5,800 Pyrex glass tubes, totalling over 17 miles in length, serve as windows, letting in diffused light. The exterior alternates between stripes of glass tubes and more than 21,000 bricks. The bricks feature the signature Wright/SC Johnson “Cherokee Red” color.

Tours are free but require advance reservations. If you are interested in seeing this architectural gem, check soon for a tour opening. Tours are filling up quickly and can be made by following the link below.

Chicago Tribune Article: Frank Lloyd Wright's tower worthy of debate, and a trip by Blair Kamin.

Fox 6 News Story: For the first time, step inside S.C. Johnson’s research tower.

SC Johnson Company Tours: SC Johnson Company Tour Reservations.

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Mary L. Nohl Art Environment to be Relocated

One of the ten most endangered historical sites in Wisconsin has met its fate, and no one appears to be a winner in this case. The modest cottage of Mary L. Nohl and all her artwork will be relocated to Sheboygan as part of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, which owns the art site. The Nohl site is precariously located in an affluent suburb of Milwaukee that grew up around the cottage in Ms. Nohl's lifetime.

Mary L. Nohl was a very creative woman, an artist who dedicated her life to her art. Sometimes labeled an eccentric, she spent almost all of her reclusive life in a modest cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan, built by her parents, Leo and Emma Nohl.

Although she had extensive education in the arts, she abandoned classical art and created directly from her soul, her wit and whimsy displayed in her environment. She created a lifetime of sculptures and oil paintings in her home, with most of the sculptures displayed in the yard.

Mary Nohl Property Gates
Mary helped her father build these gate pillars during her 12th summer. (It is assumed that she added the figures years later.) The sand and rocks were hauled up from the beach in Mary's red wagon. She continued to use that wagon for hauling art materials from the beach over her lifetime.

All of this has been much to the dismay of some of her neighbors, consisting of large estates in this current-day affluent neighborhood. Several urban myths have grown up around the environment, sometimes known as "The Witch's House" some because of her reclusive lifestyle, some because of a huge sculpture with three eerie figures (no longer on display on the property.) She took it all in stride, even creating a mosaic on her front porch that spells. "BOO!"

Her brother, Maximilian, was educated at MIT and was a noted marine engineer that set a deep sea diving depth record in Lake Michigan. In 1960, Max and his wife, Eleanor, died tragically in a two-car automobile accident near Hope, Arkansas, leaving Mary the sole surviving heir.

The Wisconsin Preservation Trust listed the Nohl property as one of the ten most endangered sites in Wisconsin. A very vocal minority of Fox Point residents has actively campaigned in the past to have the site demolished, as they consider it an eyesore. Not all residents feel that way and many are proud of the community's unique treasure, but apparently, not enough of them. The Trust said not long ago that "...without support from within and outside the Village of Fox Point, the Kohler Foundation will be forced to develop an exit strategy and the art and home will have to be removed from the site."

The announcement on March 27 brought the Trust's prediction to fruition.

According to the Kohler Arts Center, the cost of moving the environment will be between one and two million dollars. Upon completion, the extremely valuable property will be sold to help defray the relocation costs. Plans are to reassemble the cottage and collection near Lake Michigan, allowing more access to artists and the public. A guard is on site 24 hours now, and Kohler Arts Center officials say security is being stepped up in the wake of this announcement.

There are many challenges facing the move. Almost every inch of the cottage is carved, painted, or displays Ms. Nohl's artwork. Much of her art is very delicate, made from elements that washed up on shore. The hundreds of concrete sculptures that adorn her yard will also require special care.

Ms. Nohl decorated the outside of her home with colorful panels made with driftwood figures and cut-out wooden silhouettes. Even more wooden silhouettes dangle from tree branches. Many of the silhouettes were formerly pickets of a fence that she was forced to remove because of damage caused by vandals.

A complete report about the move was published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on March 27, 2014. Mary Nohl House to Be Dismantled and Moved.

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Federal Court Upholds Deal Between Car Ferry and EPA

According to the Detroit Free Press, it appears the car ferry SS Badger will continue to ply Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Ludington. The Badger is the last operational car ferry of the once enormous fleet of railroad ferries, and the last coal-fired cargo vessel on the lakes.

And therein lies her problem. The SS Badger has been on the endangered species list since 2008, when the Environmental Protection Agency leveled the ship into its crosshairs. Coal-fired vessels disposed of coal ash by mixing it with water and pouring it overboard. The Badger is no different, and has been disposing of coal ash into the lake since it was built in 1953. The EPA claims the coal ash is a pollutant and ordered the dumping stopped in 2008. The operators were given until 2012 to stop dumping or cease operations. The legal battle has continued ever since.

On October 10, 2013, U.S. District Judge Janet Neff approved a revised deal between the EPA and Lake Michigan Carferry, parent company of the S.S. Badger.

The agreement allows the Badger to continue operations while modifications are made to the ship. The deal calls for a reduction in the amount of ash discharged during the 2014 sailing season and by the start of the 2015 season, the Badger will have to store coal ash on board for later disposal on shore.

With this ruling, it appears the Queen of the Great Lakes Car Ferries (and the last of her breed still sailing) will continue to be an operational historical landmark.

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New York Teen Sues Over Arrest for Photographing Trains

A teenage train fanatic is suing New York authorities after being arrested and detained for three hours for the crime of taking photographs of trains.

According to the USA Today in a story republished on March 25, 2013 (by Eric Shilling of The Westchester County Journal News) Gregory Grice was 16 when he was arrested on June 6, 2011. Grice says he was stopped while harmlessly snapping photos of Metro-North trains near the North White Plains station in Greenburgh, N.Y. (That's about 30 miles north of New York City.)

The paper reports that the lawsuit was filed March 15 in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y. with unspecified damages. The suit names the towns of Greenburgh and North Castle, Westchester County, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and several police officers.

An MTA spokeswoman said there is no prohibition on photography in the MTA system "as long as there is no trespass." MTA's rules of conduct call for a $25 fine for unauthorized photography or filming.

Grice had a copy of the MTA rules of conduct with him when he was arrested.

Watch out where you're shooting!

Link to story:

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This Date in History: The Worst Fire in North American History

The worst fire in North American history took place on this date in 1871. The story is part of an essay on the Peshtigo Fire Cemetery page here on Landmark Hunter.

There were five fires in the Midwest that fateful night, including one you might have heard of in Chicago. There were other fires that night, most people are not aware of them. As bad as it was, the worst fire that night was not in Chicago.

Follow the link to read the story.

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First month report

After one month, is doing quite nicely. I had originally imported photos of approximately 1,200 landmarks from the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record. Since then, thanks to your uploaded photos, the number of photographed landmarks has more than doubled: 2,573 at last count. Who knew there were so many barns with painted advertisements?

New features added in July:

  • Advanced Uploader tool for uploading multiple photos at a time. The system will try to use the best method supported by your browser. On recent browsers, it will automatically resize your photos before uploading them.
  • States, counties, and tag pages all have an Exhibit option. This is the same tool used on letting you interactively hide and show markers on the map.
  • Trip Planner feature lets you enter a starting and ending location for your trip and then see all of the landmarks that are within a short distance along the route. It seems to work best for shorter trips (50-200 miles), but you can divide a long roadtrip into multiple sections. This feature is also available on

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Israel Stowell Temperance House In Peril

The oldest extant structure in Delavan, Wisconsin is in peril. Delavan is a city rich in historic heritage and prominant citizens are attempting to save the structure from demolition.

Israel Stowell was a transplanted temperance supporter and he joined the Phoenix Brothers in Delavan, who founded the city as a colony for temperance and abolitionists. Stowell built a hotel in 1839, meant to be a stagecoach overnght stop between Madison and Chicago. The hotel catered to Baptists, Yankees and those who did not indulge in the use of alcohol. If you weren't in one of those categories, you were turned away.

The temperance movement came to a close in Delavan in the mid 1840s. In 1847, Edmund and Jerimiah Mabie selected Delavan as the winter quarters for their U.S. Olympic Circus, the largest traveling show in the country at the time. After the collapse of the temperance movement, the Temperance House changed hands numerous times and at one point, in a strange twist of irony, it was a tavern. Its last commercial use was as a used book store. One can see shelves of books remaining inside the building.

The owner of the books, the closed bookstore and the building itself is 87 years old. He is in the process of donating the house to the Delavan Historical Society. (Most of the bookstore inventory has actually been removed to reduce the load on the structure.)

The house is in bad shape and is in peril of demolition. A banner attached to the front pleads for help to save the historic structure. It is thought to be the oldest building in Delavan and according to the Wisconsin Historical Society, is the last temperance house in the state.

The Israel Stowell Temperance House was condemned and scheduled for demolition on July 1, 2010. As of this writing, the house still stands. The demolition order was extended and recently has been lifted. On July 27, 2010, a consultant inspected the property to examine the possibility of saving the structure. Members of the city government have speculated on the restoration of the house in order to use it as a resource center for historical research and possibly to house the offices of the historical society.

The results of the study are due approximately October 1.

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Some new features

  • For most landmarks, I've included links to the appropriate USGS topographic quadrangle map. At one time the original TIFF files for these maps were hard to find, but they can now be found on

  • Scanned PDF files of the National Register of Historic Places nomination forms are available online for some states, including Missouri, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and the District of Columbia. I've added links to these documents where possible.

  • Missouri maintains an extensive database of springs, including coordinates and average water flow. I've incorporated over 300 of the largest Missouri springs into this site. If you know of other similar databases that might be appropriate to include in this website, please let me know.

  • If you don't already have a editor's account, you can now sign up for a account. Due to a constant barrage by spammers and troublemakers, I currently have to manually approve each sign up. (I haven't even publicized the sign-up form yet, and I've already had to filter out three spammers who tried to register!)

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Welcome guinea pigs beta testers is up and running! The site still has a few warts, but is mostly functional.

I copied the editor's accounts from, so if you have an account on the bridge site, the same username and password should work here.

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