Sunday, August 07, 2016

Day trip to Midland, Michigan for our 33rd wedding anniversary

Strange as it might sound, spending the better part of our wedding anniversary in Midland, Michigan turned out to be a pretty good idea. David Whitescarver, a friend in the Alliance Française here in Grand Rapids, had suggested a trip to see the Alden Dow House -- Midland was the longtime home of the Herbert Dow family, as in Dow Chemical -- and he also recommended a place for lunch right in downtown Midland. So off we went.

It was a gorgeous day, low humidity, temps in the low 70s and traffic not too bad as we headed north of Route 131. We turned east on Route 46 until we reached Route 127 and then back north, turning east one last time on Route 20 just outside Mt. Pleasant.

Our first stop before Midland was a small cemetery just south of Coleman, Michigan to look for a particular civil war soldier's grave. Frank Lackey had served in both the 3rd Michigan infantry and in the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry. He survived the war, married and eventually settled in the Coleman area. Frank died in 1916 and was buried in Warren Township Cemetery. Unfortunately, after spending about 20 minutes searching for Frank we still had not found his grave -- and since we had a lunch reservations in Midland we climbed back into the car headed back east.

After another 30 minutes of driving we pulled onto Main Street in downtown Midland. The first thing that struck us was the volume of flowers; they were everywhere, even driving into the city along Eastman Street where the curbs on both sides were two long stretches of marigolds for block after block. And in the downtown area itself large plantings of flowers were just about everywhere.

Since we still had about 15 minutes before lunch we walked down to the river to check out the local Farmer's Market -- a space designed by Alden Dow, by the way. The place was jumpin'. Lots of local produce folks and craftspeople set up right alongside the Père Marquette Rail to Trails system and across from Y-shaped pedestrian bridge, or Tridge as it's called locally, that straddles the Chippewa and Tittabawassee Rivers.

Making our way back into downtown and to "The H" hotel we found Cafe Zinc, where we spent the next hour or so sitting on it's deck overlooking Main Street enjoying a pair of tasty sandwiches -- washed down with Prosecco.

After lunch and fumbling around with some confusing directions, we ended yup at the Alden Dow home. A son of Herbert and Grace Dow -- Herbert founded Dow Chemical in 1897 -- Alden became well-known for his modernist approach to design and construction and his home and work studio both reflect his personal and architectural philosophies.

Even though the complex is more than 22,000 square feet overall, there is nothing "grand" or enormous about it. While the studio reflects Dow's sense of architectural purpose, his use of hard angles, straight lines, uneven floors, bold colors and his patented block wall system of construction -- the home is, for me, more open, most connected to the physical surroundings (the pond, woods, etc.). While I'm not overly find of what is referred to as "midcentury Modernist" architecture --way too many straight lines and hard angles -- it must have been a fun place to raise a family.  Indeed, it was designed to be a space in which to live, raise children and so they did. They never lived anywhere else.

The tour of the home and studio, now a National Historic Landmark, has to be reserved in advance, costs $24 for the two of us (seniors) and lasted about two hours. Our tour guide was pleasant and cheerful enough but overall we'd rate the her a C+.

After we left the Dow house we drove literally around the corner to the Dow Gardens. The gardens are part of what was once the rather sizable Herbert and Grace Dow estate, to which the Alden House was also joined at one time. It was a gorgeous late afternoon to stroll around this lovely green space -- an exhibition of Dr. Seuss characters was on display scattered over the grounds. It was a fun place for kids and adults to meander among it's paths, some paved and others lined with wood chips, with unlimited shades of green -- and I mean the color green seemed to be everywhere in every hue imaginable. Occasionally, the green would be broken up by a swath of lovely flowers, or perhaps a small bridge would pop out of nowhere, or a maze would present itself demanding exploration.

The gardens were a particularly popular place for wedding photo shoots and as we left two groups were queuing up to take advantage of this luscious green space in the waning afternoon light.

After an hour exploring we made our way back to the car and headed for the highway and home.

What a grand way to spend our 33rd wedding anniversary -- thanks David!

the submarine room -- part of Dow's studio -- overlooking, or rather beneath a portion of the pond



"The Bumps"

Like Meijer gardens, an imaginative use of manmade with natural  flowers

Horton hears a who

these lovely memorial stone benches  are scattered throughout the grounds -- Meijer Gardens take notice -- stone lasts longer than wood and needs less attention

the Sun Bridge, designed by Alden Dow to form a perfect circle in the water

"Leaping Gazelle" by Marshall Fredericks

Green eggs and ham

Yertle the Turtle

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