Jett (jatg) wrote,

"The Lawton House" or "History Crumbling"

I woke up fairly early in the morning and went for a run alongside Lake Superior. I'd missed most of the sunrise but what I got was stunning. I decided to be brave and waded in a little bit noting with relief the water being warmer than it had been on the Minnesota side of things.
By the time Lisa was roused and fully functional it was rather late in the morning. Rather than pulling immediately out and heading to Ann Arbor I asked if we could head into Houghton again. The campground hosts were wonderful and let us leave Rosie there so we wouldn't have to tow her around town while we went exploring.
Upon the recommendation of my dad we went to the Michigan Tech campus and saw their mineral display. This sounds incredibly boring except that it wasn't. They had some of the most beautiful displays of various minerals...from metorites to enormous squares of pyrite in quartz to raw diamonds to drab ordinary hunks of grey rock that under a UV light glowed a bright red and green. Really something.
After the disappointment of the previous day with the one address I was a bit hesitant for another shut down but we decided to go ahead and find "The Lawton House."

Atwood Family Lore:
Before I was born my family house sat a ginormous drafty mansion my parents had always called "The Lawton House." It had room upon room, was incredibly drafty and was shared with some LDS missionaries who played ping pong all day long in the attic.
My mom has said in subsequent years that any desire she had had for a big fancy house got taken out of her by her time there. Shortly before I was born we moved.

My dad gave some pretty thorough directions to me over the phone and we drove right to it. I went to the front door and peered in the window. My folks had thought the place had since been turned into a museum but a quick peek disabused me of that notion. While what I could see looked very old it was obviously not set up for display and in fact looked randomly strewn about and ill kept.
No one came to my knocking so I abandoned that and skulked around the house a bit. There was another vehicle there and a side door opened so I knew someone was there and after some knocking and finally some slightly loud "HELLOOOO?s" a girl came to the door.
Like the day before I explained who I was, a bit of family history and then waited. Unlike the day before she was delighted and asked me a few questions and then asked "Would you like to see it?"


Apparently we came at the perfect time. Rather than being converted into a museum generation upon generation of students had lived there and most had just gone home for the summer. She had been prevailed upon by the regular person who cleaned the house for the summer to cover for her and she was just as delighted and inclined to explore as we were.
My mom was right. The place was huge. Unfortunately it was also incredibly shabby. Wallpaper and paint that once upon a time were opulent and tasteful and sumptuous looked tired and worn. There were water stains discoloring the already faded wall paper, marble that had cracked, plaster than had been poorly patched, paint that had been slopped and once beautiful hardwood floors completely worn out.

The QUINCY House:
The house has been built by the local Quincy copper mine for the director or one of the top big wigs of the mine, mostly to be able to entice their wives to move to the UP of the UP.
The first wife upon arriving decided the place wasn't quite big enough and had it expanded. Since then it had been used for entertaining and hosting and primarily showing off.
I'm still not entirely clear why after all these years my parents referred to it as The Lawton House when it still said "The Quincy House" on the mailbox and they were house sitting for the Allans.

Still though, it was very cool exploring through this bit of my family history. I could easily imagine my older brother and sister tearing through the halls and up one set of stairs and down the other. I could easily see my mom, pregnant with me feeling a bit isolated and alone there in that big house, my dad having taken the only car to school.

I wondered what bedroom they had used, where my brother and sister had slept. I wondered if they had noticed the little details...even the hinges of the doors screamed turn of the century money. I wondered what the state of the house was when they first stepped through the doors almost forty years before. I wondered what they would think of the mansion now.


We thanked our tour guide profusely and then headed back to the campsite. We hooked up Rosie, said farewell to the campground hosts and their dog who was mesmerized by the tiny little squirrels of the UP and headed on our way.
Tags: road trip

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