Michigan Roadside Attractions: See The Pickle Barrel House in Grand Marais
Michigan Roadside Attractions is a periodic feature on Travel the Mitten that will explore the many interesting things that can be found on the highways, byways and back roads of Michigan, ranging from the interesting to unusual.
At the far east end of Picture Rocks National Lakeshore lies the charming community of Grand Marais, home to 350 residents and a popular sandy beach. On the corner of Lake Avenue and Randolph St. sits a truly unique Michigan roadside attraction, the Pickle Barrel House. A two-sided Michigan historical marker provides the story of this structure and how it came to find a home in its current location.
Side 1: Pickle Barrel House
The Pioneer Cooperage Company of Chicago designed this small vacation cottage, which stood on the shores of nearby Sable Lake from 1926 until about 1937. It was built for William Donahey, creator of the Chicago Tribune cartoon story The Teenie Weenies. The house was constructed as a typical barrel would have been, only on a much larger scale. The main barrel contained a living area on the first floor and a bedroom on the second. A pantry connected this barrel to a smaller single-story one, which housed a kitchen. Donahey spent ten summers at the cottage with his wife, Mary, herself a noted author of children’s books. The structure was then moved to its current site and used as a tourist information center. The Pickle Barrel House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Side 2: The Teenie Weenies:
William Donahey’s widely syndicated comic, The Teenie Weenies, debuted in the Chicago Tribune in 1914 and continued until the creator’s death in 1970. The cartoon story featured miniature people who lived in a world of life-sized objects that to them were enormous. The popularity of these playful characters led to a contract for Donahey with the Chicago firm of Reid, Murdoch and Company, which hired the artist to create packaging and advertising for its line of food products. The Pickle Barrel House was a large-scale version of the miniature oak casks in which the company’s Monarch-brand pickles were sold, and was likely intended as an advertisement for their pickle products. Teenie Weenie books were translated into several languages and over one million copies were sold worldwide.
According to the Grand Marais Historical Society’s (which operates this and two other sites in the area) website, “All three museums are open seasonally. During July and August, the museums are open daily from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm; during the months of June and September, they are open on weekends from 1:00pm to 4:00 pm. Private tours can be arranged. For tour information, contact Historical Society President Pat Munger at (906)-494-2404.”