Pickle Barrel House

Gene Wallen brought this unique building to my attention and sent me some photos he took while visiting it recently.

There is a Michigan Historical Marker at the Pickle Barrel House location that reads:

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.

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.

The barrel home has been accepted on the Michigan Register of Historic Places and is a Michigan Historic Home.

Following are some links you can follow to learn more about the Pickle Barrel House.

Interior Photos courtesy of Wikipedia

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Pete Roberts - January 19, 2010 Reply

A very interesting structure! I love it.

Michigan has a long barrel history. Its woods provided the material for barrel construction for almost a century. Unfortunately, this resulted in the loss of much old growth forest across “the mitten” part of the state.

The Besser family moved to Michigan from Buffalo in the 19th century, where they began as loggers for this barrel industry. Once all the trees were almost cut down, they saw the end of this industry coming. They changed their focus and began inventing and manufacturing machines to produce concrete block, because they realized that in the ground under the (former) forest was the raw material for block production.

Today Besser is the world’s largest manufacturer of concrete block machines, they are in over 90 countries around the globe.

Michigan went from barrels to block, and both are in tiny houses…

kelly - January 20, 2010 Reply

This makes me think of the old tourist spots along old 441, etc. that would have a gigantic orange, peach, etc. Could be an interesting tiny house project. They were left open for kids to hop in and play around in.

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