MARSHALL: Cool Old Stuff !

24 Dec

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We are navigating west across the mitten to the charming hamlet of Marshall. Home of the nation’s largest National Historic Landmark Districts, in the Small Urban category, over 850 buildings are included in the landmark; the city has been referred to as “a virtual textbook of 19th century American architecture”, the heart of the Midwest’s “Prettiest Painted Places” and one of America’s “Dozen Distinctive Destinations”, that’s quite a reputation. Money to build such enviable structures came as a result of the Michigan Central Railroad, Patent Medicines Industry and agriculture; did you know Marshall lost out to Lansing as Michigan’s state capital by 1 vote? We have tickets for the 35th Annual Candlelight Walk, there’s plenty of time to explore before then.

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We park on W Michigan Ave, the streetscape is straight out of the 19th Century; buildings are constructed of brick and stone, each one distinct, wires strung from one side of the street to the other support miniature lights and decorative garlands, wreaths hang from light posts; it could be a scene in a Hallmark Christmas movie! At one time 18 general stores lined the main street, 16 of them served liquor by the glass, seems like a good idea to me….. Strolling down Michigan Ave we duck into The Mole Hole, Scott Smith is playing the Barton Theatre Organ, Christmas melodies fill the air, the gift shop is brimming with holiday decorations. Winter villages in showcases resemble Marshall itself, trees are bejeweled with ornaments and lights, snowflakes, candy canes and Santas fill shelves.  Shoppers gather around the organ, it’s fascinating to watch the organist at work; hands fly across the keys, feet pump pedals, resulting in the one of a kind sound that can only come from a pipe organ. A glass pane in the wall allows us to watch the pipes at work. 

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Down the street an old Rexall Drug Store sign piques our interest, a historical plaque informs us that Hemmingsen Rexall Drug Store was founded in 1855 and has provided more than 100 years of continuous service. At another pretty storefront belonging to a dentist, two giant molars are mounted to the facade, we walk into the tiled exterior foyer to look at the old-fashioned dental tools and accessories on display in large windows—my teeth hurt just looking at the stuff! At a little antiques shop, groupings are arranged by color, it’s very eye-catching. Items span the decades from the old metal toy trucks and tractors to the late 70’s, fun!  Serendipity is just the kind of boutique a group of girlfriends would love to shop; gourmet food, original artwork, tea accessories, serving pieces, decorative items, my friends and I could easily fill a few shopping bags. 

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Close by, a trio of blue bar stools are attracting attention in the front window of Amazing Grace, the kind of funky vintage shop Kris and I enjoy investigating. Mannequins are dressed up in interesting attire; clothing, furniture, lighting, accessories, figurines and loads of other unique items are for sale. Up on the second floor we get an up-close look at the stunning tin ceiling, painted white, for some reason it reminds me of a wedding cake. Kitchen items, souvenir pennants, quirky hats, rotary telephones and even a few parasols make this an awesome place to look around. The shopping district enjoys a nice variety of businesses and museums all housed in buildings more than 100 years old, there are 45 historical markers and plaques in the city, preservation has always been a priority in Marshall.

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On the sidewalk ahead a sign advertises the American Museum of Magic, it’s the largest magic museum in the United States open to the public, who knew? The Victorian-style building is gorgeous, inside we pay the $5 admission and begin to wander around; I, like most folks, have always been fascinated by magic, Houdini, Thurston, Blackstone and Henning are all familiar names. From the famous to the obscure, the museum celebrates magicians and their magic. Pale yellow walls are plastered with heralds, hand bills, window cards and show bills. Devices, apparatus, photos and artifacts cram display cabinets and fill floor space. Probably the most popular is Houdini’s “Milk Can” and “Overboard Box”, amazing! Clare Cummings, who was “Milky the Twin Pines Magic Clown” donated most of his magic tricks to this museum as did Blackstone who was from Michigan. We move slowly from one area to another, there’s much to read and look at; crates, trunks, cabinets and costumes used in illusions, they even have one of those long wooden boxes where the magician saws the beautiful assistant in half, it’s so cool to see them up close. We climb the stairs and follow the narrow hall into another exhibit area, there’s a performance space with seating, more cases filled with memorabilia, masks, souvenirs and everyday products that came with mail-in offers for magic tricks, hey, they have Pen & Teller’s suits. Harry Blackstone’s mummy case rests on the floor, a placard explains how the trick worked. The collection does a splendid job introducing us to magicians, illusionist, hypnotists, their tricks, their stories and entertains us as well.

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Marshall is also known as the home of Schulers Restaurant & Pub, a century-old, family owned eatery in a former a hotel, it’s one of those must-go-to places. We step inside the historic building and find it bustling with people; it’s a Saturday in December, this is the perfect gathering place to meet friends and family. A small section is devoted to retail sales of Schuler’s own baked goods and pantry items from other Michigan businesses. We are led to the dining room, handed menus and the infamous cheese and crackers are left on the table. I think it was a tie between Kris and I as to who got to the crackers first! As we nibble we take in the quaint room; checkered cloths cover tables, Poinsettia are placed throughout, a fire roars in the large stone fireplace, historical murals and photographs cover the walls. Throughout the space quotes like “It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives”, “Music is the universal language of mankind” and other famous sayings are painted on the wooden beams; some are witty, others, thought-provoking, it’s wonderful! The fourth generation of Schuler’s currently run the business that turned 100 in 2009, that’s an accomplishment.

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Just as we finish the salad our veggie burger arrives; the patty is made from quinoa, black bean, oats and cilantro, we asked for ours on the homemade focaccia, topped with horseradish mayo, guacamole, onion straws, tomato and fresh greens, it’s outstanding! Truly delicious, it could be one of the best veggie burgers we’ve ever had. Our server asks us if we’d like to see the dessert menu, what the heck. We find two items particularly appealing, ask the server her opinion, then give in and order the Signature Pecan Ball. She’s back in a flash with a large ball of vanilla bean ice cream rolled in roasted sweet pecans, drenched in hot fudge (and on her suggestion) hot caramel. I am taking a slight pause here as I revel in the memory of the awesomeness…………..

We’re just going to sit back and relax for a while before moving on to our next activity. In the words of Bernie Wolf, “Take time to play–it is the secret of perpetual youth”.

2 Responses to “MARSHALL: Cool Old Stuff !”

  1. The Detroit Foodie December 25, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    You always find the coolest places to visit, love reading thru your blog posts! : )

    p.s. Merry Christmas!

    • detroitdvotion December 26, 2014 at 8:59 am #

      Thanks Maria!
      You’d love Schuler’s, less than 2 hours away it’s a great day trip. Happy New Year! Looking forward to your 2015 Foodie reviews and insights.

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