Did you know the Keweenaw is hosting the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s annual conference in 2024? Members of the Geospatial Research Facility, Michigan Tech’s Social Science Department, and local community members are already hard at work preparing for this event.
The Vernacular Architecture Forum is known as North America’s premier organization focused on the study of ordinary buildings and structures. Members come from all across North America and are interested in a wide variety of scholarly fields including history, geography, landscape history, historic preservation, and architectural history. Recent conferences have been held in Durham NC, Salt Lake City UT, Philadelphia PA. The future conference schedule includes trips to San Antonio Tx, and Plymouth MA, before arriving in the Keweenaw in 2024.
In the fall of 2020, Dr. Sarah Fayen Scarlett and nine students in the Documentation of Historic Structures class worked to document the tourism landscapes present in Copper Harbor for their inclusion into the 2024 conference tour and guidebook. Field work in Copper Harbor centered around the Minnetonka Resort which was founded in 1938 as a cabin camp to accommodate automobile tourists attracted to the area by the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge and other tourist infrastructure developed by the Keweenaw County Road Commission and funded by the WPA. Students used a mixed methods approach based in architectural fieldwork and historical research to interpret how, over the following eighty years, the Minnetonka Resort worked to adapt to national trends in automobile travel and outdoor recreation.
This research in Keweenaw County is continuing over the summer. Dr. Scarlett and 4 graduate students from the Social Science department and the University of Wisconsin—Madison have arrived back from a week of field work in Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor. The team documented the assistant lightkeepers’ houses and other structures at the Eagle Harbor lighthouse (whose original design plans exist in U.S. Coast Guard Records) as well as a group of 1930s cabins on Harbor Lane in Copper Harbor. This kind of documentation includes measuring the buildings inside and out to create field notes using graph paper and an architectural scale. Later in the summer, students will create final drawings using SketchUp, a computer drafting program. These floor plans (and a few elevations) will appear in the guidebook created for VAF conference attendees to use as they visit the sites in 2024. Thank you to the Keweenaw County Historical Society and the homeowners who hosted the group!
Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming VAF conference, and how you can help contribute to making this exciting event a reality! Over the next few years, Dr. Scarlett will be working with students and colleagues to develop tours that highlight industrial mining landscapes as well as sites in southern Houghton County.
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