The history of a community, even one as small as Whitehall, is truly fascinating. I have lived here for my entire life and my amateur historical explorations are always enlightening and add to the many reasons I stay. I have had Jim and Teri Staples on my list to interview for years.
Jim is a direct descendant of Hiram Staples who came to our area in the mid-1800s for the lumber. He entered into a partnership with another lumber baron, Lyman Covell, to establish our area’s most longstanding lumber mill operation, the Staples and Covell Mill. The Staples, likewise, have continued their homestead (built in 1867) for several generations, right on our main street, Mears Avenue, and right next door to our historic Playhouse at White Lake.
This year they have made many needed repairs and renovations to the historic home, filled to the brim with photographs of Staples family ancestors, and antiques in every room. A pride and joy are replicas of the Frederick Norman lumber era paintings. The originals are in the PNC Bank up the road from the house just a bit. Norman was a local painter, encouraged by lumber baron, James Nufer, to document the lumber era in his painting. A visionary move, and one greatly appreciated by future generations.
Jim grew up in Grand Rapids but came to the Staples home every weekend as a young boy to fish the area’s creeks. He and Teri are delighted that their grandchildren come for that very same reason – to fish!
Jim’s memories of the town are of a one-track paved road, then a two-track, but still quite a narrow road. He remembers Pitkin’s Drugstore, a mainstay of Whitehall for well over a hundred years, and original owner, Clarence Pitkin, whom he called “Pit.” He has memories of local storeowners Edna and Leonard Blomdahl and watching Leonard wield the big butcher cleaver handily. He and Teri have many fond memories of the playhouse and remember watching movies there. One of their favorite things about Whitehall and the area are the trees, making a green canopy overhead in the warm months.
Jim and Teri and their extended family still come to the family homestead regularly. And that’s the plan for future generations of Staples!