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Midland is a precious example of a small town, far from major lines of communication but one that developed with a realization of its international importance. The parochialism that characterizes a small town struggled with importations from the world at large. The town began in a traditional way in the mid-nineteenth century as traders and then lumbermen displaced Chippewa Indians and set up a community at “the forks,” where two rivers and several trails converged, but by 1900 it was part of a world chemical industry. The building stock before the turn of the twentieth century is representative of traditional styles and construction methods of that period. But an underground resource was to produce unexpected changes in the physical appearance of the town.

The presence of brine in wells drilled as early as 1878 drew the young Herbert H. Dow to set up a process that extracted bromine and chlorine from the brine. A driving commitment to experiment and expansion led Dow to build his own large, picturesque home ( MD2) in 1899 and to take on the German bromine cartel in 1903. The choice was made early to take the extraordinary resources derived from international business and make the town a beautiful place in which to live and bring up families. Schools, churches, parks, and tree-lined streets are combined according to suburban ideals generated at the same time as the chemical company. The company town, downwind from the ever-enlarging chemical works, developed a garden city ambience of distinctive houses set in cultivated nature. The garden-industrial complex brought conflicting forces together in a striking way.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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