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History highlighted at museum event

August 27, 2012
By GARRETT NEESE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - More than 100 people got equal helpings of history, food and music at "A Night at the Museum" event Saturday.

The second annual event is a fundraiser that is also designed to publicize the Carnegie Museum in Houghton. It succeeded on both counts, said museum director Elise Nelson.

"When I take a minute to stop and look, I'm very pleased," she said. "It seems crowded, and everyone seems to be having a good time."

Article Photos

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
A stained-glass window is seen at Temple Jacob in Hancock Saturday. Tour groups visited the synagogue as part of a trolley tour during the Carnegie Museum’s annual “A Night at the Museum” event.

Three times, the crowds thinned temporarily as some people departed for a trolley tour of downtown Houghton and east Hancock.

Tour leader Kim Hoagland started off with a quiz on the building, for most of its life a library funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

"Why did he fund the library?" she asked.

"Guilt," one rider replied.

That was a possibility, she allowed, but his stated goals for his philanthropy were that "he wanted to help the working man help himself."

Singled out in the tour were locations mentioned in current exhibits at the museum - sandstone buildings, ones designed by the Maass Brothers, and as the centerpiece, Temple Jacob. The trolley stopped at the Maass Brothers-designed sandstone synagogue for a presentation on its history.

Built in 1912, Temple Jacob got its unofficial name from Jacob Gartner, the Hancock businessman who gave $5,000 for its construction.

At the time, the synagogue was Orthodox Jewish; in keeping with Orthodox practices, female members sat separately in the balcony. Over the years, the congregation shifted leftward, first to Conservative and then to Reform, a liberal progressive form of Judaism.

Temple Jacob president Susan Burack showed the tour group one of the four Torahs owned by the church, written by hand in Hebrew on sheepskin.

The area's Jewish community included some of its most prosperous merchants, such as the Gartners and Joffees. That made them a natural fit for the homes in east Hancock, which initially required at least $2,000.

Hoagland pointed out one home owned and built by Hans Liebert, another noted area architect. The Jacobean features are distinct from anything else in the neighborhood, she said.

"He's trying to show you what he could do, I think," she said.

Margo and Bill Hall of Houghton had just arrived at the night. Margo, a teacher at Houghton Elementary School, was scouting the exhibits for one of her class's recurring field trips to the museum. A science exhibit on the formation of deltas could be perfect, she said.

"They'll probably dip their hands in it," she said.

Greg Odegard of Houghton viewed the Temple Jacob exhibit before boarding the trolley.

"It's a very nice place, with a lot of nice exhibits. (It) can use as much funding as it can get, so I want to support it," he said.



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