Thursday, July 14, 2011

the coops of port oneida, part three (lawr coop)

By skipping straight to Orpha’s coop in my last post, I did the imaginative equivalent of going straight to dessert without eating dinner. But I think (hope) everyone would agree that Orpha’s story warrants a special place in the telling of the Coops of Port Oneida. I’m certain that all the other coops in Port Oneida and their families have similarly compelling stories, but those are stories I have yet to learn. I already feel as though I’ve fallen down a bit of a rabbit hole in the past week. It seems I could go on immersing myself in the history and current state of this place for weeks and weeks, always uncovering new details and never tiring of it. In fact, I fantasize about what it would be like to spend an entire rotation of seasons in Port Oneida…

On the day that I set aside to explore the coops of Port Oneida, I started back at the first farm we explored when we were just discovering Port Oneida, the one built by George and Louisa (Burfiend) Lawr. The Lawrs took ownership of this 120-acre farm in 1889, acquiring part of it from Thomas Kelderhouse’s son. They farmed it until 1945, after which the farm was owned by a couple different families and then the federal government. According to the park service report, all the buildings date from the 1890s. The chicken coop is a classic shed style and on the morning I drove up to the farm it was basking in its southern and eastern exposure.

As with Orpha’s coop, the outline of the pop door is clearly visible. That opening also reveals remnants of asphalt siding; the coop was restored some years ago and I speculate that new wood siding was placed over existing asphalt in an effort to restore the look of the coop to what it once would have been. 

But that siding has now become quite weathered and warped.

The coop rests on a foundation of multi-colored granite boulders, some of which are mortared together but most of which have lost their connection to their fellows. 

Granite boulder construction is idiomatic here in northern Michigan and the same rocks show up in the foundation of the Ole Oleson barn,
the Schmidt house:

and the relatively whimsical porch of the Martin Basch house.

Small bits of the same colorful granite, rounded smooth by the water into so many little Easter eggs, wash ashore along the beaches of Port Oneida and make their way, ahem, into the bathing suit pockets and backpacks of certain boyish rock hounds.

Before leaving the Lawr farmstead, I walked around the barn and was pleased to see the roof has recently been replaced.

Looking back towards the barn and coop from in front of the house, the lines, colors and textures of the materials appear to have been artfully placed for maximum aesthetic enjoyment, but I know that in reality, their placement was purely a matter of function. Still…

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