If you ever have the chance to tour Tim Carroll’s house near the intersection of Center Road and Blue Water Road and hear about his Old Mission Peninsula ancestors, by all means do it.
My husband Tim and I were treated to such a tour, along with a lovely afternoon tea served in Carroll’s great grandmother’s Limoges china.
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The homestead, known as Sunny Slope Farm, is a loving tribute to Carroll’s ancestors who lived there before him. All eight of his great grandparents lived in the area dating back to the 1800s, and helped to shape the Grand Traverse region and Old Mission Peninsula.
“These are the doors out of my great grandmother Wilhelm’s house,” he says, as we make our way around the house filled with family memorabilia and photos.
Various factions of the Wilhelms owned 160-acre farms on U.S. 31 South, between South Airport Road and Chums’ Corners, and were also merchants in Traverse City. “My Grandma’s brothers and uncles built the Opera House and they had the department store at Eighth and Union,” he notes.
When the Wilhelm house was slated to be torn down, Carroll hauled five pickup loads of “doors and odds and ends” back to his home on the Old Mission Peninsula. Much of the contents of his house will end up in the History Room at the new Peninsula Community Library, currently under construction on the corner of Center Road and Island View Road.
Carroll donated $45,000 towards the History Room, which will be named after his family. “Anything in the house is available for the history room,” he says of the home he’s so lovingly restored over the years.
“I’m suggesting they just take everything in this living room and use it in the (History Room) space,” he says. That includes a beautiful door with an etched glass design of a winged angel handing two cherries to a little girl with an apron. Carroll said the glass was as thin as his fingernail when he acquired it, so he had plate glass installed on both sides of the etching to protect it.
While the old-fashioned door likely doesn’t “meet code” to be used as a door in the new building, Peninsula Community Library director Vicki Shurly says it will hold a prominent spot in the Carroll History Room.
“I cannot tell you how pleased I am that something like this is going to go to the library,” says Carroll.
While his work has taken him all over the world, Carroll says he’s always been rooted in the Old Mission Peninsula. “Never did I consider not coming back.”
One vivid childhood memory centers on the one-room schoolhouse in Mapleton, once located on the corner of Devil’s Dive and Seven Hills Road (it burned down years ago).
“It had two rooms, but the other room was closed because they didn’t have enough kids, he notes. “So we’re all in the one-room schoolhouse, K through 7th grade, and there was a globe there. When you got to be a big boy, you could go over to the corner and get a hold of the thing and bring it down. I would study that globe and move it around, and I remember having this thought. There was that little peninsula that you could actually see on a world map … it was outlined, and you could see it. I came home with the idea that I could always find my way back here. It was just some little quirk in my brain and my heart that said, the world was there, so off you go.” But he always knew he’d be back.
As for why he invested time and money into restoring his ancestral home, he says he just knew he had to save it. “Everybody said I was a fool, and financially, I was. But what else was I going to spend my money on? It was literally half my take-home pay every year, but it never bothered me for an instant.”
He says the credentials of having a “place in the world” are the impetus for both preserving his own home and ensuring that the History Room at the new Peninsula Community Library would happen.
“It’s about roots,” he says. “That sounds so corny, but it’s the truth. The uniqueness of having all eight of your great grandparents and three of your great great grandparents in a culture as mobile as America was … they were just here from the earliest time. This farm was the force primeval.”
He adds that the Carroll History Room falls into that category, as well, “of being born here and also being old enough to share it with others.”
In fact, you just might have the opportunity to hear Carroll talk about his Old Mission Peninsula roots in the new Carroll History Room.
“I’m thinking about doing ‘Tea and Talk With Tim at Two on Tuesdays,'” he jokes. But if you know anything about this tireless devotee of the Old Mission Peninsula, you know that such events will very likely happen when the new Peninsula Community Library opens its door next year.
To learn how you can help support the new Peninsula Community Library and be part of Old Mission Peninsula history, click here or call the library, (231) 223-7700.