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Harbor Cottage Stories

The Harvey House
(By Rebecca Markee - Feb. 2009)

The cottage at the corner of Front and Pine Street (now 118 Pine St.) in Eagle Harbor, Michigan, has been in our family since 1891 when my great grandfather Richard T. Harvey, purchased it from Mr. William Klein. The family actually rented half of the home from Mr. Klein for several years prior to the purchase. The land (lot 319), originally owned by the Eagle Harbor Copper Company, was purchased by Mr. Klein in 1865. The building (now our summer home) was constructed in 1867 and according to George Harvey, my grandfather, “it was the first frame construction house in the Keweenaw”.

George Harvey, son of R.T Harvey, grew up in this Eagle Harbor home (seen near the center of this picture from the late 1800’s - click to enlarge) He attended the one-room school in Eagle Harbor which is now the Community Center Building (shown on the left side of the same photo). In the early days, our cottage was without indoor plumbing or electricity, and there was no automobile to whisk you away to the grocery store. My grandfather would tell me stories when I was little about the “old days”.

I remember one story about his childhood where he would wake up in the morning on a winter’s day and find snow on the floor of his bedroom. He also had a pitcher of water in his room (a room he shared with five of his siblings) that by morning would be covered in ice. He told of how he would break the ice and pour the water into a basin to wash his face!

He would also tell me about how he couldn’t get to sleep Christmas Eve dreaming of the fresh orange and can of sweetened condensed milk that would be in his stocking from Santa.

The primary heating in the home was a potbelly stove in the living room or “parlor” as it was called. Cooking was provided by a wood stove in the kitchen, which also provided heat for that area of the house. Before running water was available, a bucket of water was kept at the kitchen sink with a ladle from which everyone would drink. A yoke with two buckets was used to bring water from the Eagle Harbor beach to meet the needs of the house. The picture of the Harvey House on the left is from 1926. (click to enlarge)

When George was a young man, he wanted to purchase a bottling works business. As he was not old enough to obtain the loan, he asked his father if he would sign the note with him. Calumet Bottling Works was born with R. T. Harvey proprietor. Eventually George Harvey purchased the company from his father and the Harvey Bottling Works was created. I remember one whole shelf of our refrigerator was always filled with Harvey Pop bottles with the colorful caps. He actually sold his Lemon Soda to the Mayo Clinic for medicinal purposes.

Adjacent to the house in Eagle Harbor was an old barn (now unfortunately razed). This barn, constructed by George and Alfred Nicholls, was where George kept two horses and a wagon that he would use to distribute his soda pop during the summer months.

When George Harvey married Mildred Nicholls, daughter of Alfred Nicholls (eventually the superintendent of the Osceola schools and one of the creators of the Central Mine Reunion), they made several improvements to the house. Additional windows were added on the main floor and a fireplace was added to the living room. Alfred and George also rebuilt the porch around 3/4 of the house using cedar logs from the area. Extreme winters were very difficult on the walls of the home, even though the plaster contained a mixture of horsehair for strength. As a result, the entire inside of the house (walls and ceiling) was covered in knotty pine paneling.

Shown by the new fireplace is my great grandfather Alfred Nicholls, my grandmother Mildred Harvey, my mother Virginia Harvey, and my cousin Jane Ann Nicholls (now Curto). (click to enlarge)

It was at this time that Mildred planted the two stands of flowers that remain by the cottage today - Monkshood (Aconitum Napellus) and Golden Glow (Rudbeckia laciniana “hortensia”). Their colorful display is still admired by Eagle Harbor summer visitors.

Over the years, there has been talk about this house being a bar at one time, but George Harvey said that this was never the case. It was always just his Eagle Harbor home.

With the death of George Harvey in 1971, ownership passed to my mother Virginia Harvey Adams.

Mother was a kindergarten teacher in Birmingham Michigan but would always return to spend summers in Eagle Harbor with family and friends. I was one of the lucky kids who spent every summer at Eagle Harbor along with cousins Jim and Jeff Curto, Lee and Platt Barber, Ricky Catoni, Mike Hohner, Pat Roach, Brad and Alan Pruner and Cathy Milford. There were many others of course but these friends are still there every summer and I treasure them all. With the passing of my mother in 1987 ownership passed to my sister Susan Adams. In July of 1993, Susan decided to sell the cottage and John and I purchased it to insure that it remained in the family.

My husband and I have worked hard to restore the home to it original condition. As one of the historic homes of Eagle Harbor, we hope to maintain the look and feel of this historic building from 1867. We feel that aluminum siding would alter the character of the building and therefore continue to paint the original cedar siding. We have said many times “the only thing that works in an old cottage is the owner”…

We often sit on the front porch or in front of a warming fire on summer nights and imagine how strong and rugged our ancestors must have been to endure the winters of the Keweenaw in our old cottage. It’s hard to believe the life of luxury we all enjoy at the harbor now compared to the old days and yet I still complain about having to drive to Calumet to do my laundry!

I guess I was so happy here as I child I want it to remain the same. The original farm sink remains in the kitchen with the cast iron combination 4-burner wood and 4-burner propane stove. There is no TV in the house and it will remain that way. The cottage is a place where the family can reconnect with the simpler life, play cards, talk, and learn to appreciate the elements that make life important – the tradition of Eagle Harbor with family and dear friends.

Rebecca Markee’s e-mail is