The sound of the wrecking ball can once again be heard in downtown Alpena– and soon, the Alpena Power Company building will be completely gone.
The demolition of any building forces us to look at our familiar spaces with new eyes. It reminds us that how we know a place isn’t how it always will be– and isn’t how it’s always been.
The history of this block runs deep: as early as Alpena (then called Fremont) was first settled by non-natives. Alpena’s first store, Miller, Fletcher, & Co. opened on this very corner in 1857, carrying a general assortment of dry goods, groceries, medicines, and even whiskey and tobacco (essentials, of course).
As more settlers came to the area, most of the settlement’s original permanent buildings, houses, and even school, were located along Water Street near the mouth of the Thunder Bay River.
The adjoining Myers’ building was then completed in 1858, housing a store on the first floor and a court room, county offices, schoolroom, church, printing office, and public gathering space on the second floor before a courthouse was built in the 1860’s.
In 1867, the Myers block, the oldest building in the city at that point, burned to the ground. How it caught fire was a mystery.
From then on and after its rebuilding, that block (where 2nd Avenue meets the river and runs east long River Street) would be known as the Myers block.
Over the years, the block would be home to a variety of businesses: a furniture store, a community auction house, and a chiropractor, to name a few.
“Some things you forget. Other things you never do… Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it’s gone, but the place—the picture of it—stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world,” writes Toni Morrison.
The wrecking ball may again be making its cry in Alpena– but the places stay there, somewhere, out there, in the world, never really gone.
Anne Gentry writes Blog Downtown Alpena in conjunction with Alpena DDA. Have a question about downtown Alpena history? Leave a comment below.
Information for this post came from David D. Oliver’s Centennial History of Alpena County, Michigan (1903), Robert E. Haltiner’s The Town That Wouldn’t Die, and Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library’s online archives and amazing Special Collections staff.