Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky, Florida – The Sylvia Lives On 4/5/15

Up until last week, whenever we’ve had people over I’ve sort of rushed them up the stairs to the second level. Our entrance area was pretty far down on the priority list of “rooms” to decorate, and it was basically just an empty hallway with a slight left turn leading to the bedroom, flex room, bathroom, and laundry.  With Amber (A. Clore Interiors) and her brother Jim’s help, all that “rushing up the stairs” ended.  Now the foyer is not only beautiful, but it tells a story very dear to Ted’s heart (and mine too since it’s about his childhood).

A little history first.  As most of you know, Ted grew up spending his summers at his grandparents’ cottage in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the Les Cheneaux Islands).  This was before there was a Mackinac Bridge and before I-75 was built (early 1950’s). The trip from their home in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky to the Michigan cottage would take two days (including a long wait for the car ferry to cross the Straits of Mackinac from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace).

The Les Cheneaux cottage (circa the 1920's).

The Les Cheneaux cottage a couple of decades past the turn of the century.

In the 1920’s, Ted’s grandfather and grandmother, Arthur and Ruth Zimmerman, purchased a large boat (a long-time dream of Arthur) from a gentleman in Norfolk, VA.  The entire family – Arthur and Ruth, their five sons, (Ernie, Jordan – for whom our granddaughter is named – Cabel, Ollie and Arthur Jr.), their daughter Sylvia (Ted’s mother and for whom the boat was named), and Mary (Ruth’s mother and Ted’s great-grandmother) – traveled to Norfolk, boarded the boat, and piloted it to their cottage in the Les Cheneaux Islands.  The trip began on June 20, 1924 and ended on August 9 – a distance of approximately 800 nautical miles – with many stops in between for sightseeing.

The Sylvia as it appeared when it was purchased . . .

The Sylvia as she appeared when she was purchased.  She was originally a government-issued vessel, 50′ in length, and 13′ wide.  Before leaving Virginia the boat was equipped to take care of the family for the trip.  The first compartment was configured to hold one double bed and one single bed (for the youngest child).  The next compartment contained two double beds, one above the other, and two single beds – also one above the other.  The aft compartment of the engine room was a combination galley and dining room with a stove, sink and drainboard, regular kitchen cabinets, an ice box, and a 5′ round table with two drop leaves where nine could dine comfortably.

and as she appeared in 1927

The Sylvia in 1927 – after extensive renovations and refurbishing.

In the early 1940’s the Sylvia was sold to a ferry company in the area, and for many years she shuttled passengers between Cheboygan and Bois Blanc Island.  Her history after that is largely unknown – although the family eventually learned that the Sylvia sank somewhere between those two points (year unknown).

For many years, the artifacts the family removed from the Sylvia when she was sold were displayed at the family cottage in Michigan and later in the home of Ernie Zimmerman, the youngest of the six children. They were passed down to Jan Jolley, Ernie’s daughter, who still lives in Ft. Thomas, KY.  Several years ago Jan very graciously presented the artifacts to Ted, and over the years we displayed the Sylvia’s wheel in our condo on Mackinac and later in our lake house in Georgia.  We never had the space to display any of the other items . . . until now.

As you enter our front door and look left, the ship's wheel and bell are hung - along with a collage of vintage photographs of the cottage, the Sylvia, Ted's grandparents and mom, and an article Ted wrote about growing up in the Les Cheneaux which was published in the St. Ignace News in a weekly Les Cheneax column.

As you enter our foyer and look left, you see the ship’s wheel and bell – along with a collage of vintage photographs of the cottage, the Sylvia, Ted’s grandparents and his mom, and an article Ted wrote about growing up in the Les Cheneauxs – published several years ago in the weekly Les Cheneaux column of the St. Ignace News.

And as you turn the corner . . .

And as you turn the corner . . .

. . . you see what was an empty archway - now filled with more Horton history.

. . . you see what was an empty archway – now filled with more Horton history.

The Sylvia's life preserver hangs in an acrylic shadow box.  The album sitting upright on the stand is an unbelievable piece of history for Ted and his family. It is the personal diary of Ted's grandmother of the trip on the Sylvia from Virginia to Michigan.  She tells in vivid detail about each day of the voyage - what they did, what they ate, where they put into port, etc.  On board were Arthur, Ruth, five children, and the children's grandmother.  What a trip that was!

The Sylvia’s life preserver hangs in an acrylic shadow box. The album sitting upright on the stand is an unbelievable piece of history for Ted and his family. It is Mary’s (Ted’s great-grandmother) journal of the trip on the Sylvia from Virginia to Michigan. She tells in vivid detail about each day of the voyage – what they did, what they ate, where they put into port, etc.  What a trip that was!

I so wish I could share the entire journal with you.  Mary was a wonderful writer, and the stories she tells of the trip are entertaining, funny, and filled with adventures. Here’s one in her own words: “Two of the boys decided to take a swim before dinner and soon had on their suits.  They both dove overboard at once and came right up and were back in the boat in less time than it takes to tell it.  As soon as they got their breath they said that as soon as they hit the water they felt a sting like an electric shock.  On looking them over to find out what the trouble was, we found clinging to their bathing suits a number of (leeches, or so I suppose they were) objects about the size of a minnow but soft as a snail and black on top and red beneath.  Looking into the water we found that it was literally alive with them.  This settled the swimming and everyone took a hand in the cooking.

Ted and I couldn’t be prouder of how this all turned out.  Amber took a few sketchy ideas we had of showcasing the Sylvia’s history and somehow turned them into a wonderful hall of memories. We’ve shared the photos already with family members, and we’re excited they love how these family pieces are being displayed.

To Jan – a huge thank you for sharing the artifacts with Ted.  You already know how much they mean to him, but your thoughtfulness and love overwhelmed our hearts.

The Sylvia now lives on in our Florida home.  I like to think she feels right at home here – close to the sea and with her namesake’s son – and we feel blessed to house all her memories.

31 thoughts on “Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky, Florida – The Sylvia Lives On 4/5/15

  1. What a wonderful story and it looks beautiful the way it’s been preserved and displayed. I can imagine each time Ted walks through the door a vivid memory must come to mind when he looks at all this wonderful history. How lucky was this family to have been able to have this gorgeous boat and adventures. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  2. I love when you write about the Mackinac area and am so glad you continue to do so! Up North holds a very special place in my heart, having grown up vacationing at my grandparents cottage on Carp Lake. I haven’t been up that way in well over a decade and I miss it so much. Your blog helps.

    Your entry way looks fantastic! How wonderful to have all those tangible memories on display.

    Like

    • Thanks so much for writing, Ann. We have a dear friend who has a cabin on Carp Lake who we visit each summer. If you could give me directions, I’d be glad to look up your grandparents’ cabin and send you pictures.

      Like

      • Oh, gosh. I could drive it in my sleep but I’m not sure I remember the road names. I know it’s basically directly across the lake from Smokey’s Marina (which may or may not still be Smokey’s). It’s a private (or was) drive off Dekruif Rd. You have to get out onto 27 (?) going south (?) and then, I think, you turn into Dekruif from there. From Dekruif, you turn onto Somers, but then I can’t remember the name of the road the cottage is on. I know the cottage looks nothing like it did when my grandparents owned it. A second story has been added as well as a front deck, I believe.

        Like

      • I looked up directions. Take 31 to Dekruif Rd. Turn left onto Dekruif. Dekruif will eventually take a sharp left. Turn right onto Blake Dr. There used to be two options for Blake Dr. You want the first option. The address may be 8781 Blake Dr. but that’s only going by what I could see on Google maps so I may not have picked the right address. It should be a yellow, two-story. It sits between a white cottage on the left and a red cottage on the right (if you are facing the lake… and assuming all those cottages are still the same color).

        Like

      • Got it, Ann. I’m going to enter these directions in my notes and put a reminder on my calendar. In the meantime, I’ll ask my friend, who is also named Anne and who will be going up soon, to see if she can check it out before we go up in July or August!

        >

        Like

      • You’re so sweet to offer that. We sold the cottage soon after I graduated from college, I believe – nearly 20 years ago. I’ve been in Kentucky for almost 9 years now and haven’t made it past southern Michigan since then. Some day I hope to make it back Up North. I’ve lived vicariously through your blog for several years now 😉

        Have a great day!

        Like

      • Awwww . . I hope I can find the cottage and bring back some more memories for you, Ann.

        >

        Like

  3. That was a very interesting story. What a long boat trip that was. I’m sure that journal tells quite a story. Your designer and her brother did a beautiful job on the entry way display. It’s a great place to show off the momentos. Love the colors and that table too.

    Like

    • The table was a “find” by Amber in a little shop in Orlando. It’s from Bali, and I just fell in love with it as soon as Amber showed it to me. Would love to know IT’S story!

      >

      Like

  4. And now for the rest of the story…….wow I never knew any of that….thank you for sharing that with everyone. I hope to see all of that one day in person! I love family memories! Nothing like family!

    Like

  5. Sounds like there could be a short story or a long blog about the trip from Virginia to Michigan and the person with the information has a history of spinning a blog or two.

    Like

    • Would LOVE to write a fictionalized version of that trip, using all of Ted’s great-grandmother’s facts, Steve. Just don’t know though if I have it in me to follow through.

      Like

  6. Happy Easter. I love the look of the hallway. I live about 25 miles of Cincinnati. I can’t imagine how long a drive it was without the Bridge and I75!

    Like

  7. The hallway sure turned out gorgeous and special but having the family momentos especialy that journal is priceless! I’d read that story, any day.

    Like

  8. What blessings you receive when you least expect them…
    From what I see my dear friend the warmth of your new home is starting to settle in.
    How beautiful it has this familial history.
    We trust you enjoyed a beautifully Blessed Easter!
    We’re just rounding the bend for home after a full day with our folks, kids
    and out of town sister to boot!

    Loving hugs….

    Like

  9. Brenda,

    It was just plain thrilling to read this blog. “The Ted Horton Museum” every time you walk in the house. I would think it would be a thrill every time you walk through the door. I know it would be for me. Now I have an even better reason to go to Florida. I want to sit down and read that journal. I travel all over the United States and Canada just by turning the pages of the road atlas, so I know I would have a fantastic trip in that journal. I’m so pleased Ted can have such a beautiful memory enhanser.

    Like

    • You will love the journal, Lowell! One of the amazing things about it is that it’s typed! I don’t know if Mary typed it or a family member took her written journal and transposed it. Also – lots of vintage photographs of the trip and their stops, including the New York harbor and Coney Island.

      >

      Like

  10. What a great and interesting story. The items looks fabulous and presented so nicely. I love that little table you have too.

    Like

  11. Brenda I really enjoyed your blog about Ted’s family history. I love how you decorated your foyer. Hope you had a wonderful Easter.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s