Tragedy on the Corner
Kristi George

I live in Hemlock, Michigan, a community rich in logging history and family values. In a matter of two years, however, we lost one of our oldest family businesses along with the Hemlock Hotel that stood right next door. These were both a big part of our community and affected us all very much. Then again, these events also make our town what is today and help us remember what was yesterday.

Let me take you back in time for just a minute and show you how Hemlock used to be. Hemlock was once rich in pine trees and was only a spot to pass though on the way to Saginaw. Because of poor transportation on roads that were less than satisfactory, a hotel was built so no one would have to travel through the night. The village of Hemlock soon formed around the hotel. The hotel had many names throughout the years: the Strobel House, Beamish House, Bennets Hotel, and the Gosen House. Although I was only in the building once, I could imagine the splendor that the Hemlock Hotel once was. The hotel had a rough time in the mid 1900s; it had opened and closed several times. Finally, in the 1970s, the hotel would be closed forever. The town wanted it reopened, but the owners wouldn't open it and refused to sell.

The hotel was built in 1870 by William Glasby, and it is rumored that a Mr. Sproll ran it. It housed 50 guests, complete with a livery stable to house the horses. The building was made of reddish-brown brick, with a second story balcony and a hotel sign that hung on the balcony. Inside the hotel was a magnificent bar, a sitting room for the ladies, and a ballroom. At the center of the building was a beautiful flower garden. Linda Samuel, a Hemlock resident, said, "Many people can remember having their wedding receptions in that ballroom."

As the town grew, so did our businesses. In 1937, Hohman's Pontiac was built next door to the hotel. The owner, J.W. Hohman, made the car dealership the most reputable car dealership in town, for both sales and service. However, on the stormy winter night of January 14th,1999, at 10 o'clock p.m., the sixty-two year old family business's dome roof caved in. Only two weeks earlier the current owner, Vincent Hohman, had died in a car crash, so his father once again took over the business. Since he was too old to keep the business going and the next Hohman to carry it on was still very young, he was not going to rebuild. Some Frost Restaurant diners (located down the road), stated, "Losing the business with all its history will hurt the small-town atmosphere." On the 15th of January, I myself started my day as usual, but as I drove past Hohman's, I looked at my boyfriend in amazement and said, "Holy Shit! What happened to Hohman's?" The whole town felt the same way,with a sense of amazement and a sense of loss.

The town couldn't just leave our busiest corner empty, so what were we going to do with it? Hohman's sold it to the McDonalds Corporation, but the lot was too small for what they wanted to do with it. They decided to try and get the hotel owners next door to sell. After long deliberations, they finally agreed. Now came the battle of tearing the hotel down. Although the community protested, the date was set. But the demolition crew ran into a problem: asbestos. It would cost some mighty big bucks to take care of it the right way, and the date of the Hemlock Hotel's death was set back.

One night as unsuspecting people were at the bar across the street, the Hemlock Hotel took its last breath of fresh air before its lungs filled with smoke and it was engulfed in fire. As the people ran out of the bar they grabbed cameras and took pictures, which to this day are still controversial. It has been said that when the hotel was on fire that there was two shadows in the window. People dancing maybe? Who knows. The hotel could have closed down because of other inhabitants, maybe a few ghosts. The township fire inspector said, "This was definitely an act of arson, I will give $5,000.00 for the details that lead up to the arrest of the deviant that did this.” Nothing, however, was uncovered. I now have a brick from our hotel; it is the last memory of our historic building.

Mc Donald's restaurant was finished December 28, 1999. It was the last one opened in the millennium. The building was freshly painted with white with red accents. The date it opened everybody in town was there to have the "Hemlock Mc Donald's experience." The townspeople began to accept the McDonald's. It brought a lot of new jobs to the town. I think that we would have felt better if they had changed the appearance of the building and made the colors less bright to blend in more with the town.

Hemlock has now become more modern. We somehow lost our historic look when they took away that last rubble of the Hemlock Hotel and put the finishing touches on McDonald's. All of the new businesses constructed have modem structures of stone. I don't like the way our community lost our old-town feelings, torn from us by an acts of nature and destruction. I wish my children and grandchildren would have been able to see the splendor of the Hemlock Hotel and have a family business like Hohman's to put their faith in.

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