Questions, Anyone?

Besser House

Q. A reader wondered, “What are some of the architectural features of the Besser House at 232 S. First Avenue in Alpena, and does it have historical recognition?”

A. Yes, the Besser House is listed in the Michigan Register of Historic Sites. Information about Michigan houses and buildings (available in Special Collections at the Alpena County Library) say that the Besser Home was built in 1938-39 by Jesse H Besser (1882-1970), who was an inventor, industrialist, and philanthropist. The Besser House embodied Jesse Besser’s dedication to the concept that concrete masonry could be used to make a versatile, durable, comfortable, and beautiful home.

The many special features included glazed block; use of glass for the ceiling of the entrance canopy; a rectangular-shaped house topped by a flat copper roof; reinforced concrete joists throughout; bands of ribbon windows that wrap around the corners; unadorned walls of light pink, glazed; ground concrete blocks made from Wisconsin aggregate; characteristic asymmetry; and the most modern and efficient equipment.

The concrete blocks were made from equipment manufactured by Jesse Besser, the original occupant. He was one of Alpena’s leading industrial pioneers, and pioneered the use of concrete masonry worldwide.

More Alpena plants in WWII

Q. Here is the final information in response to a reader’s question about Alpena’s war efforts in World War II.

A. The following excerpts are from “The Town That Went To War” by the late historian Robert Haltiner.

October 21, 1942

WOOD PROCESSING PLANT TO OPEN- Production will begin Monday in the Alpena Plant of the Wood Processing company owned by William J. Allaback who has resigned as general manager of the Fraser Products Company.

March 11, 1944

PULPWOOD IS ROLLING OUT One hundred twenty-one carloads of pulpwood were moved out of Alpena County during the month of Februaryall wood will aid materially in the war effort.

February 7, 1945

600 MEN NEEDED Six hundred men are needed in this area for production of pulpwood. Employers are trying to fill their obligations to meet the quota assigned to this area but lack of workmen has hindered operations. Lumber is now is such short supply that a number of important military programs are affected.

March 29, 1945

NEW FIRM MAKES CRATES AND BOXES FOR WAR MATERIALS – A new industry has been established on River Street between 5th and 7th. The building is occupied by the Thyer Lumber Co. of West Toledo.

Writers Program

Q. In the last column there was a reference to the Writers Program’s book, “Michigan, A Guide to the Wolverine State.” What is the Writers Program?

A. The 1941 Guide was part of a series called the American Guide Series. The following brief description of the WPA project is taken from the internet.

“During the Great Depression of the 1930s, thousands of writers were hired by the Works Project Administration to create hundreds of guidebooks on all of the states in the U.S. These volumes that were produced became known as the American Guide Series. This series has been described as the biggest, fastest and most original research job in the history of the world. No library collection in Michigan would be complete without a copy of “Michigan: A Guide To The Wolverine State.”

Please send comments and questions to or to ?”Questions, Anyone?” The Alpena News, 130 Park Place, Alpena MI, 49707.