Today’s new release is a vintage photo to die fir—in spellbinding black and white. Taken at the turn of the 20th century, The Firs, under the firs, New Baltimore, Mich. pictures a garden path leading from The Firs bed and breakfast. It’s an enchanting image of its own accord, but a closer look at the inn’s backstory brings a more mystical aura alive.
An historic, coastal resort community, New Baltimore sits along the waterfront of Lake St. Clair’s Anchor Bay. The Firs was first and foremost a summer retreat for water-seeking vacationers. The unknown photographer of The Firs, under the firs would likely have been standing on the inn’s porch, facing the tree-lined path. Streaming through the branches with an almost sublime air is the bright, dappled light of what’s likely a summer day. Firs are characteristically tall trees, and here their lanky trunks and layered boughs create a texture through which the light communicates. The monochromaticity of the image emphasizes each interesting illumination, from crisply defined twigs to dreamy blotches on the path to the otherworldly effect of the blown out scenery in the distance. Framed tightly in firs, the photo draws the eye magnetically down the soft soil walkway strewn with needles. The trees quietly stand attention, watchful figures. There is a sense of some sort of presence. A peek into the property’s past reveals that flirtation with the metaphysical is perhaps not surprising. This image has a supernatural side.
New Baltimore is home to a handful of allegedly supernatural sites, the most famous of which is likely the Hatheway House—the former name of The Firs property. Gilbert Hatheway, a state senator, bequeathed the property to his son James, who inherited it in 1871. This is where the inn’s eerie backstory really begins. In 1881, James’ daughter Mabel died suddenly and mysteriously at the age of 20. By 1900—shortly before this photo was taken—reports of hauntings were starting to circulate. The home had recently been sold to become The Firs. Shortly after, the western wing was turned into a small hospital. Later, the building is said to have served stints as a convalescent home and rehab center, changing hands several times. All the while, rumors of paranormal activity persisted. Some claimed the ghosts of Mabel and her father roamed the grounds. Others believed Gilbert, who died before his senatorial term was up, lingered on in spirit form.
Following years of incessant break-ins by curious ghosthunters and troublemaking trespassers, the building was torn down in 2005, but according to the president of New Baltimore’s Historical Society, accounts of strange sightings and sounds on the vacant lot, and stories of the structure’s spooky past continue to surface. They’re not all ominous—Mabel’s ghost, for instance, is said to have an angelic energy. If you’re keen to entertain this edition’s supernatural story, then you’ll probably agree with us that The Firs, under the firs feels, well, on the friendly side of ghostly vibes, a funnel toward a positive glow. Go toward the light, they say. And frame it when you find it.
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