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Garden will grow at site of Muskegon fire

Victorian garden will grow at site of tragic house fire in urban Muskegon

Posted on July 14, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — It will be a little oasis in the city — a place of solitude and beauty where devastating flames once lit the night sky.

The corner of Jefferson Street and Strong Avenue once was home to a historic house — one that burned the evening of Dec. 17, 2011, according to The Muskegon Chronicle (http://bit.ly/VAkG3K ).

“It was tragic,” said Norma York Bremer, who owned the home that her daughter had been living in. “We stood and watched it. The fire started in the kitchen and it went straight up.”

The triangular shape of property located across from St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church and in the shadow of historic Hackley Stadium is vacant now. But soon it will grow into a Victorian garden, complete with benches, a brick “pump house,” wrought iron fencing and, of course, flowers.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” Bremer said of the oddly-shaped property. “I didn’t know what else we could put there.”

She envisions a place for quiet contemplation. She can hear classical music playing there — both to soothe the soul and to thwart hooligans who she’s heard tend to avoid Bach, Beethoven and their ilk.

The garden she has been planning for the past year will be located in an urban neighborhood, one of beautiful historic homes as well as some that have seen better days.

“Hopefully it will be an encouragement around the neighborhood to get involved in beautification,” said Bremer, a retired vice president of Comerica Bank.

To get the project off the ground, a new non-profit organization called the Phoenix Continuum has been established. The Phoenix Continuum will lead fund-raising efforts for the garden and pursue other beautification projects, Bremer said. She would like to see it organize garden tours to help promote Muskegon.

“We’re not going to just do a Victorian garden and go home,” she said.

An architect’s rendering shows the Victorian garden ringed by gated wrought iron fencing. Paths leading to what Bremer hopes will be a central “rockery” with a waterfall will create four separate garden spaces. At least one will be a grassy area for get-togethers, she said. Street lamps will operate from dusk to dawn and motion-sensor lights will be situated throughout the garden. There will be a perennial herb garden and tall shrubs to separate the garden from neighboring homes.

The goal is to have the garden completed by the end of next summer. This year, the plan is to install water and electrical systems, the pump house, walkways and other basic features. Underwriting of specific items, such as the Victorian street lamps and benches, are expected to provide a majority of the funding, in addition to the sale of individual bricks that will line the garden pathways. The project has already received a big boost from Alcoa, which donated $3,000 and from which volunteers recently erected a stockade fence on a portion of the property as a buffer from a neighboring house.

“I just think it’s the perfect place to put a garden,” Bremer said. “It will be something beautiful for neighbors to come and enjoy.”

Information from: The Muskegon Chronicle, http://www.mlive.com/muskegon


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