Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

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Turning an Old Factory into a Home

Couple updates the past at the Cigar Box Co.

Rick Coates - February 25th, 2013  

The sturdy, box-shaped building at the corner of Eighth Street and Boardman Avenue in Traverse City looks like it was built to last.

And it has -- almost 100 years. But in order to survive, it’s had to become a lot of things. It started as a cigar box factory, then it was a power company service building, then it was a furniture store and then a fitness center.

For the 21st century, the building recently took on another identity -- home.

Its new owners, Victoria and Matt Sutherland, fell for the building, which they’ve dubbed The Box. They love its high ceilings and huge windows and storied history.

But they knew they would have to be creative to turn it into a place where they could live.

Now, the main floor of the building has undergone a stunning renovation, a living suite is almost complete, they plan to create a garden in front of the building this spring, they’ve opened up the offices upstairs and the long-vacant building has become a center of activity.


Most of the work to date has taken place on the 4,000-square-foot main floor (each level is the same size; the entire building is 12,000 square feet). They’ve turned one side of that level into a sleek, modern commercialgrade kitchen and dining area, complete with a 20-foot black granite marble counter, an eight-foot marble slab for dining, and elm cabinets that somehow look both rustic and modern; the south end of the building is a common room complete with walls of book cases and a raised stage for readings or other events; and the east side of the main floor is undergoing renovation to become a bedroom suite for the Sutherlands.

They’ve used local, recycled material whenever possible, and in some cases, they’ve been able to recycle the building itself.

When they ripped out old carpet that had been there when the building housed the Fitness Center, they found incredible original wood floors that required very little work to bring to life. All of the imperfections in the wood -- gashes and gouges and spots where nails were shot through seemingly at random, speak to the building’s decades of history.

Upstairs are offices which the Sutherlands use for their business, ForeWord Magazine, and the lower level, which consists of men’s and women’s locker rooms and a former aerobics studio, the Sutherlands imagine one day might be lounges and a large dance floor for events.


The Sutherlands hope soon to be able to rent out part of the building for special events and to do things like host cooking classes or parties.

Matt Sutherland said the building was on the market for two years without an offer before he and Victoria came along. He wonders what would have happened had they not moved in.

“We’ve had engineers in here. Structurally, it’s in incredible shape. People had no idea what to do with it. We were unique in that it perfectly fit our needs and we had the patience to do what we needed to do here.” he said. “I hate to think that it would have been torn down, but who knows?” Right now, the building and the Sutherland’s use of it are unique on the Traverse City landscape. Who else is trying to turn an old cigar factory and long-time fitness center into a multi-use commercial/ residential space?


The Sutherlands are not the first to worry about the fate of the old cigar box building.

In 1981, Traverse City stalwart Sara Hardy tried to get the building designated a national historic landmark.

She wrote a letter to the State Historical Preservation Office but the application was ultimately turned down.

At that time the building was a furniture store and warehouse. Since the late 1950s, the building had been rented by Wilsons Furniture Co. and in 1974 was purchased by Wilsons for $25,000. In pictures included with Hardy’s 1981 application, a glowing sign on the south face of the building read, “THE FURNITURE PLACE.”

Traverse City History Center volunteer Dave Pennington noted that a furniture store on that stretch of Eighth Street in the 1980s would have been fighting a losing battle to stay in business -- retail business by then had moved out of downtown to the Cherryland Mall and Logans Landing.


Hardy must have been afraid the building wouldn’t survive the modern world.

“As traffic pressures increase at this intersection, so will pressures for removal of this building,” Hardy wrote.

She noted that it was “ideally suited for adaptive reuse” and that it would make a good location for law offices.

Hardy argued the building was worth saving because of what it meant to Traverse City in the 1920s and the 1930s, when Northern Michigan was going through hard times.

The Great Depression may have struck the nation in 1929, but it may as well have hit Traverse City in 1920, when the lumber industry collapsed with the last of the hardwoods.

The Traverse City Cigar Box Co. constructed its new factory in 1920, the same year one of the region’s main employers, the Oval Dish Company, a manufacturer of disposable dishes from maple trees, relocated out of state.


So the new cigar box factory, which had previously been located across the street, was a godsend.

Almost all males smoked cigars then, and the cigars were manufactured locally. Bales of tobacco were imported for local cigar makers. (There were 10 cigar factories in TC in 1906.)

Of the cigar box factory, Hardy wrote: “It certainly played a significant role in keeping food on the table for many families during a very bleak period in our history.”

It provided steady employment for unskilled workers, particularly for women who lived in the Boardman neighborhood. They cut and nailed cedar boards and turned them into boxes, and they printed the labels on site.

“There is definitely a big soft spot in the hearts of the community’s older residents for the Cigar Box Company,” Hardy wrote.

The cigar box factory stayed in business until just before World War II, but it was the first war that doomed the business. World War I introduced soldiers to cigarettes, and when the men came home, they stuck with those and didn’t smoke cigars anymore.

In a nod to the history, the Sutherlands have installed a collection of cigar boxes in the foyer.


The Sutherlands consider themselves lucky to have taken over the landmark.

“We pinch ourselves everyday,” Matt Sutherland said. “We love this space. We’re having a great time.”

Victoria Sutherland said she’s delighted to be living in the building, even if it is a massive space that is not a conventional home.

“We’ve lived out in the country in Cedar by Sugar Loaf. We moved right downtown on Union Street into a very small Victorian. Our architect said, ‘Victoria, I don’t think you realize how big this space is.’ I said, ‘Oh, yes I do.”

Even being on such a busy corner hasn’t been a problem. The windows are high enough so you don’t notice the traffic going by. And the old cement block building is pretty sound-proof.

“I don’t even notice the traffic any more,” Victoria said. “All I see is that river, the beautiful Boardman River right here.”

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