TRAVERSE CITY — “Perry Hannah’s Gifts: Then and Now,” is expected to arrive in town this week, fresh from the printing press and just in time for the holidays.
The 9-by-12-inch coffee table-style hard cover volume might be the first history written exclusively about Hannah, a Traverse City lumber baron and town father whose legacy lives on in the form of historical buildings 110 years after his death, including his Victorian home, which celebrates its 120th anniversary this year.
Authors Peg Jonkhoff and Fred Hoisington have set up several book signings at various sites during the coming weekend.
The 200-page book is more like two books in one, Jonkhoff said.
The first 100 pages focus on Hannah’s history. The second half is a pictorial tour of “then” and “now” interior photographs of Hannah’s three-story home, much of which is not open for public tours. The house contains 40 rooms and 10 fireplaces made in Belgium especially for Hannah.
Forty to 60 craftsmen constructed the house from 1891 to 1893. It includes more than 14,000 square feet of space — 3,500 square feet on each of the three floors, plus a full basement.
The home cost Hannah $40,000 — about $1 million in today’s dollars.
The house at 305 Sixth St. today serves as the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home, owned and operated by Peg and her husband Dan Jonkhoff.
Hoisington, a former city planner for Traverse City in the 1970s, said his fascination with Hannah began several years ago when he conducted history center walking tours through historic parts of the city and downtown.
“One day I realized that Perry had been involved in some way with everything I showed people,” he said. “And people on the tours were most interested in the Hannah house. You can’t tell the house story without telling the Perry story.”
Traverse City commercial photographer Don Rutt spent 44 hours during 16 days photographing “now” images of the house, its huge attic and other structures Hannah had a hand in building in his half century in the city.
“Now” pictures also include an underground tunnel at The Grand Traverse Commons and the clock tower in the Fifth Third Bank building downtown, which Hannah built in the early 1900s to house Traverse City State Bank.
Graphic artist Ashley Williamson of Traverse City designed the book, which was published by Thomas Gorsline, owner of Bay Breeze Books in Traverse City.
“The goal of the book was to give readers a tour with pictures so that they could understand the scope of the house and the beauty of it and how to navigate through the home,” Williamson said.
Hannah arrived here in 1851 with business partner A. Tracy Lay to buy a failing sawmill and 200 acres of virgin pine forest. Both men were in their mid-20s. The region was still a sparsely settled, dense wilderness.
During the next half century Hannah-Lay Co. became a northern Michigan lumbering and mercantile empire. And the little sawdust town at the base of Grand Traverse Bay grew into a “Queen City of the North,” complete with two Opera Houses and many businesses. Hannah’s leadership, business sense, philanthropy and encouragement of young pioneer business men that he encouraged to compete with Hannah-Lay helped the region thrive.
Hannah was leading force in a campaign to bring the first railroad to town in 1872. In 1879, he bought the Park Place Hotel and refurbished it.
In the early 1880s he persuaded the state to build the Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City. The Hannah-Lay Mercantile also was built at the northeast corner of the intersection of Front and Cass Streets in the early 1880s.
Hannah had a hand in the construction of the City Opera House in the 1890s. He also donated land for the county courthouse, jail, early churches, a Jewish temple, schools and libraries.
“In reality, he really was our town father,” Hoisington said.
“Perry Hannah’s Gifts: Then and Now” sells for $49.95. All proceeds from the book will help pay for an outdoor 5-foot-8-inch statue of Hannah ideally to be placed in Hannah Park across the street from the house, if city officials and neighbors approve, Jonkhoff said. Sponsors who helped fund the book include WTCM Radio, Fifth Third Bank, Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home and The Minervini Group.
Book Signings Friday, Dec. 13 Noon to 3 pm: Fifth Third Bank 4 to 6 pm: Horizon Books Saturday, Dec. 14 10 to 11:30 am: Premier Floral Noon to 5 pm: 201 East Front St., street level below the Corner Loft Sunday, Dec.15 11 am to 1 pm: Grand Traverse Pie (downtown location) 3 to 4:30 pm: Traverse Area District Library (Woodmere) includes a short program too Books will be available for sale at: WTCM Radio, Fifth Third Bank, Horizon Books, Premier Floral, Copy Shop, History Center gift shop, Traverse Area District Library gift shop and via the website www.perryhannah.com