By Donna Klein


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An Introduction to the Centennial Building – Local Landmark for 139 Years


I am an explorer, so one of the first things we did when we moved to Northeast Michigan ten years ago was to visit Alpena. As we drove through downtown Alpena on US 23, the Centennial Building stood out against its neighbors as a building rich in history and eclectic in design. I fell in love with it at first sight!


A collage of the façade of the Centennial Building in 2015

A Collage of the Centennial Building in Alpena, Michigan, 2015


I was born and raised in the greater New York area which exposed me to a lot of interesting architecture, much of it dating to the 1800s or earlier. I fell in love with old brick buildings, especially those with interesting façades. When I saw the Centennial Building, I couldn’t help but to stop and take it in for a few minutes!


The first thing that caught my eye was the trapezoidal shape of the building. I am drawn to unusually shaped buildings, and this one called out and stopped me in my tracks. Beautiful, old brick with years of history layered on each one climb three stories into the skyline. The beautifully intricate brickwork that makes up the walls of the Centennial Building, indicative of Victorian Era, leads your eyes up, down and around every square foot of its outer walls. The windows on each floor have some kind of arched top, and each floor’s window design is a little bit different. The decorative brickwork around floor’s windows complements the type of arch in each. A balcony on the second floor offers a wonderful view of downtown and the waterfront.


Just below the decorative brick that follows the roofline, the façade on the Washington Avenue side reads “Centennial 4 July, 1876.” “IOFF” appears on the front and two of the sides. My imagination took over as I stood there wondering who built this beautiful building and why? What kind of businesses have been in there over the years? Who worked there? Did anyone live there? And, what does IOOF stand for? Every time I passed the Centennial Building, I’d ask myself the same questions!


Decorative brickwork celebrating the United States Centennial, 1876

Decorative brickwork, “Centennial 4 July 1876″celebrates the US Centennial


Fast forward to this past week. The Lake Huron Discovery Tour is coming up October 9 – 12, and Recollections is holding a music and fashion show event in Alpena as part of the festivities. The event takes place on Saturday, October 10 from 1 – 2:45. Can you guess where? It’s at the Centennial Building! What a perfect combination: beautiful Victorian and Edwardian fashions on exhibit in an exquisite Victorian building! I was very excited about the prospect of meeting its current owners. I’d finally be able to ask those questions and get those answers! So, on Friday, October 2, I set off to meet Mike and Kate Phillips. They offered me the opportunity to learn about the rich history of this landmark as well as take a tour. I hope you’ll join me on that tour in the next installment.

Find out more about the Lake Huron Discovery Tour

Find out more about Alpena, Michigan


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