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General Interest

TV favorite Rosie's Diner in West Michigan closes

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Written by SHANDRA MARTINEZ, The Grand Rapids Press   
Friday, 14 October 2011 09:26
Rosie's Diner near Rockford, Mich., has closed. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. ALGOMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) – Rosie’s Diner, the iconic diner featured in commercials and on the Food Network, has shut its doors.

What began as a temporary closure Oct. 2 for a two-day renovation became permanent.

Owner Jonelle Woods told her 30 full- and part-time employees she wouldn't be reopening the restaurant, which is near Rockford.

“She said they don't have the money, and they are done,” said Rebecca Kompstra, who worked as a waitress since 1995.

Woods, a greater Detroit native, purchased the diner with Randy Roest, her husband at the time, from artist and the restaurant's founder Jeff Berta in 2006. At the time, Berta was preparing to put the property on the auction block after a previous owner defaulted on her land contract.

The iconic eatery was featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2006, and on the Travel Channel's Diner Paradise.

But the 1946 dining car found fame as the backdrop for TV spots for Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble's Bounty paper towels. The 1970s commercials featured the late character actress Nancy Walker, who played a waitress named Rosie who regularly used the “quicker-picker-upper” towels to clean up the spills of clumsy customers. After the commercial, the owner at the time renamed the restaurant – which originally opened as the Silver Dollar Diner in New Jersey – Rosie’s Diner.

Berta later brought the dining car to its current location in the 1990s. Rosie's Diner sits in the center of a trio of old-style dining cars with an 18-hole mini-golf course in the back on a 4 1/2-acre property. The dining car to the right was converted into a sports bar that closed, while the dining car to the left opened as the Ice Cream Shoppe in September 2010 as a seasonal operation.

Woods told the Press earlier this year she was trying to preserve the authentic diner-style 1950s-era experience with her menu of homemade comfort food.

“We're the only one in the country with three authentic diners on the same property,” Woods said at the time.

Kim Little, who was shopping at a store near Rose's Diner, says she was sad to see the restaurant close.

“The food was fantastic,” said Little, adding that she hadn't been to Rosie's Diner in several months because of the tough economy.


Information from: The Grand Rapids Press,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-12-11 2023GMT

Rosie's Diner near Rockford, Mich., has closed. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Friday, 14 October 2011 12:16

Vermonters' love for covered bridges rekindled by storm

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Written by ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer   
Wednesday, 12 October 2011 09:52

The Bartonsville covered bridge, built in 1870 by Sanford Granger, was a lattice truss style bridge with a 151-foot span across the Williams River. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

BARTONSVILLE, Vt. (AP) – By the time Susan Hammond came downstairs at 9 a.m. the rain was falling hard. Standing on the back deck with Sunday coffee in hand, she looked down the hill and through the trees to where the usually lazy Williams River powered over rocks, loud enough to compete with the din of Tropical Storm Irene's downpour.

Inside, Hammond pulled up a chair to her computer to check the water level at a gauge just downriver: 4 1/2 feet, nearly doubled from the night before, but well below flood stage. For peace of mind, though, Hammond reached for an umbrella and headed down the road to pay her hamlet's 141-year-old covered bridge a call.

Even by Vermont standards, Bartonsville's bridge was out of the ordinary, a 159-foot expanse of brown boards weathered to a distinguished gray, with rectangular windows revealing a thick skeleton of crisscross latticework. Standing under umbrellas just beyond the bridge's portal, Hammond and her neighbors traded talk of the storm, before she headed back to the house.

Around 11, she checked the river gauge again: 8 feet. Flood stage. When she went down to check on the bridge, just a few feet separated its boards from the water. And the distance between the two was narrowing fast.

Now, the river had Hammond's full attention.

What did it have in store for her bridge? To drivers speeding by on Highway 103, the bridge might seem like a relic, quaint but outdated. But to Hammond, a seventh-generation Vermonter who'd returned after years living in New York and overseas, the bridge meant home. She'd passed summer afternoons swimming in its shadows, taken her first driving lesson through its portal.

The river, though, was anything but sentimental.

Just after noon, it topped 9 feet.

An hour later, 10.

At 3:30, the Williams roared past 15 feet, hurling trees and propane tanks at the bridge, ravaging the earth around its supports. The ancient trusses moaned, straining against the torrent.

Hammond called her older brother, Prentice, warning him the bridge might not make it.

Four minutes later, Prentice's phone rang again, the anxiety in his sister's voice turned to a wail.

“It's gone! It's gone!” Susan Hammond cried.

“I can't believe it's gone!”


Covered bridges are survivors. But in the midst of a historic deluge, Vermonters feared the old wooden spans might not make it.

On a hillside above West Arlington's postcard-perfect village green, Jim Henderson and two of his teenage sons got into the car and drove down to the banks of the Battenkill. They reached the river to find its wooden crossing—perhaps the state's most photographed covered bridge, leading to the white farmhouse that illustrator Norman Rockwell once called home—stretched across a foaming torrent. Henderson placed his hands around the red boards on the upstream side of the portal, “hugging it for strength,” and felt the old bridge shudder.

In the hollow of the Green River, Joan Seymour stared out the window of her bed and breakfast at the fast rising waters. The village's bridge, built in 1870, and a dam just upstream made of interlocking timbers had drawn her to this house. Now, as the river lapped at her backyard, she and her neighbors watched with worry, wondering if there was a way to divert the flow and protect their local treasure.

The thought of venturing out in a storm to check on an old bridge might seem strange to folks in some places. But this is Vermont.

For a little state, Vermont maintains an outsized sense of identity. Tourists flock here every autumn for their fill of red-gold valleys and maple syrup. Vermont is picturesque old barns and white-steepled churches. It's Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Burton snowboards and Phish concerts.

But if you had to choose one symbol that sums up the state's essence, it might well be the covered bridge. Until Irene hit on Aug. 28, Vermont still had 101 of them.

That's not the most—much bigger Pennsylvania has that honor. But in Vermont, the covered bridge is an icon. Undoubtedly, that's partly because they're tourist magnets, pit stops of nostalgia and romance. But for many, they also embody the Vermontness that's hard to capture in a snapshot: a reverence for history and the rural landscape. A prized sense of community, where people slow down and watch out for their neighbors.

Covered bridges are testaments to durability and perseverance and a rejection of modern cookie-cutter blandness. In a state that's been embraced over the last few decades by transplants and drawn together by highways, the covered bridge has served as a portal back to long-ago values.

Then Irene came along and reminded Vermonters maybe those values aren't so old-fashioned after all.


Once upon a time, the hamlet Jeremiah Barton founded along the Williams River bustled with the activity from two paper mills. But they're long gone and today lower Bartonsville isn't so much a town as a clutch of houses, about 30 in all, strung along pavement that gives way to dirt. It doesn't have a post office or a store, a school or church. The one landmark that announced your arrival was the single-lane covered bridge with gently curved portals, one of Vermont's longest.

It was more, though, then just a structure.

The bridge was how you walked across the river to Marvie Campbell's pay-by-the-honor-system farmstand for Mason jars of peach jam and just-picked zucchini. It's where the tourist train once stopped every summer for pictures and where you'd frequently find Paul Petraska standing hip-high in weeds and poison ivy that grew up around the abutments, a self-appointed volunteer caretaker of the bridge's landscape. It provided shelter when neighbors gathered one night in 1983, lanterns lighting the latticework, for a potluck supper to celebrate the bridge's reopening after it was closed for a year-long overhaul.

“It sounds corny and quaint, but it's true,” Susan Hammond says. “For me, literally, it brought me home.”

Still, Vermonters have only come to prize their covered bridges relatively recently. A century ago, the state had 500 of them. But a legendary 1927 flood claimed about 200. Neglect, the replacement of old roads and bridges with concrete highways capable of handling trucks, and even arson claimed many others.

“They were throwing bridges away like garbage for a long time, until the ’60s or ’70s, when people started to think they were valuable,” says Jan Lewandoski of Greensboro Bend, Vt., who makes a living restoring and rebuilding historic wooden spans.

Now, towns cling to their remaining bridges. In the winter of 1999, when ice pulled one of the five covered spans in Tunbridge into the river, residents labored desperately to pull it to shore and save it. When they'd salvaged all they could, they set the rest afire to keep the wreckage from breaking up and taking out another covered bridge downstream.

People “were actually weeping when the bridge was moving and had to be destroyed,” says Euclid Farnham, the town historian. So a year later, the town rebuilt it—good as old.

Thousands of people came out to see a team of oxen pull the bridge across the river and into place. When the roadwork was finished, a 102-year-old woman cut the ribbon while a band paraded through the portal.

At the Vermont Covered Bridge Museum—opened in 2003 inside a replica covered bridge in Bennington—visitors arrive from Tennessee, California, Japan.

“You have people who have seen every (covered) bridge still standing in the U.S., the ones that are standing in Europe, who collect all the postcards of them, who make this their summer vacation and they're traveling through two states and seeing all the bridges,” says Jana Lillie, director of operations for the museum and the Bennington Center for the Arts, which it adjoins. “The bridge fans are diehard, true blue bridge fans. I equate it with Elvis fans, almost.”

But it's not just tourists who embrace the bridges.

Ray Hitchcock moved back to Vermont after a career with Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources to care for his ailing parents. Soon after, wife Adrienne mentioned a meeting of the Vermont Covered Bridge Society at the local library. Caring for Ray's parents limited their time, but in between they took short jaunts in search of bridges—Ray on a Harley-Davidson, Adrienne on a Kawasaki. They built their own covered span across the creek below their house. Ray joined the society's network of bridge watchers, monitoring the health of the old wooden bridges in Bartonsville, Grafton and nearby towns.

Both of Hitchcock's parents died. Then, two years ago, Ray was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, which attacks the nerves of the brain and spinal cord. By then, the couple had reached more than 70 bridges—and decided to visit the rest in a van that could accommodate his motorized wheelchair. They won't stop until they've seen them all.

“I've learned I have a strong tie to my home state and a strong tie to people from bygone eras—and now I feel connected to them,” Ray says.

“And I think you've learned about endurance, too,” his wife says. “I think you have a lot in common with those bridges.”


Irene arrived in Vermont already downgraded to a tropical storm. But it dumped so much rain so quickly on the already saturated mountainscape that the state's web of shallow streams and rivers was quickly overwhelmed.

The floods damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes and wiped out segments of nearly 2,000 local roads. It cut off some Vermont towns from the surrounding countryside and left others severely damaged.

In the scheme of things, some might question the idea of mourning an old wooden bridge. Indeed, that's exactly what happened when Susan Hammond posted a video on YouTube of the Bartonsville bridge being sucked into the Williams River; more than a few people chastised her for being emotional and told her to just get over it.

Bartonsville was one of two Vermont covered bridges destroyed by the storm. But 13 others or their abutments were damaged. The Bowers Bridge in Brownsville, built in 1919, was swept away, but washed up nearly intact on the riverbank 150 yards downstream. The bridge on the Upper Cox Brook in Northfield Falls—one of three bridges within less than a half mile—was impaled by a tree, but the town reopened it to traffic less than a week later.

The future of others is less certain. When a tree struck the bridge in West Arlington, it left the downstream side of the span bowed outward and it remains closed. The Taftsville covered bridge, closed because of damage to its center stone pier, could reopen by the summer of 2013.

In Bartonsville, on a sawhorse set across the road just shy of where it now plunges into the river, someone posted a cardboard sign: “I Miss My Bridge. 1870 - 8/28/11.”

But almost immediately, the talk along the river was of how to bring it back.

Petraska and others began combing the banks, salvaging planks and beams. He and Ernie Palmiter—a retired Florida postal worker who bought a house at the foot of the Worrall Bridge just downstream after years of sketching and dreaming of covered bridges—threw chains around part of a portal and other timbers and lashed the other end to a tree to keep them from floating away. When the electricity came back on and the roads reopened, Ray Hitchcock was back out to check on the surviving spans, reporting the findings to fellow bridge lovers.

Hammond spoke up at a meeting of the Rockingham town select board, which has set up a link on its website to collection donations for rebuilding. Hammond drew up a survey of her fellow residents, making clear their desire for a single-lane, wooden covered bridge as near as possible to the one they'd lost.

A local artist, Charlie Hunter, offered to paint and print posters of the bridge to help raise funds. In the first 24 hours, he sold 20 at $99 each, even though the poster wasn't done yet. Jim Cobb offered the proceeds from sales of his photo of the bridge, shrouded in morning fog.

So far, the town has received about $10,000 in donations and the wooden structure was insured for $1 million. But the bill may run well beyond that. One of the abutments—not covered by insurance—was destroyed and could cost $200,000 to replace, said Tim Cullenen, municipal manager for the town of Rockingham, which includes Bartonsville.

Overhauling the bridge in the early 1980s cost roughly $1 million. This time, the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will likely pay large parts of the cost of a new bridge, but the town will have to cover the gap. Cullenen says “one of the hard decisions that the town is going to have to make is what they're going to come back with”—an exact replica of the old bridge, or one with two lanes that can handle heavy loads like fire trucks. A bridge built for the modern age.

Hammond and the others reject that idea, saying they don't need a modernized bridge when the one they had was perfect. In fact, the way they talk about it, you almost wonder if the old bridge—now torn and twisted, its remnants scattered across fields and buried in underbrush—is truly gone.

A few weeks after Irene, Hammond stands under an umbrella, gazing out into the void over the river, before a sign warning “Bridge Closed.”

“We're optimistic in Vermont,” she half-jokes. “It's just closed. It'll be open again.”

Neighbors Paul Hendrickson and Margaret Ambrose join her in the rain, explaining they needed to walk down every once in a while just to remind themselves of what used to be.

Hammond, wearing a tired smile, gently scolds them.

“It's still present tense here,” she says. “You have to understand. There is no ‘was.’”

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-10-11 1814GMT

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 10:06

230-year-old Maine inn on online auction block

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Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 12 October 2011 09:16
BUCKSPORT, Maine (AP) – A 230-year-old landmark in the Maine town of Bucksport that has hosted presidents, arctic explorers and other famous figures is on an online auction block.

The Jed Prouty Inn has sat unused for nearly a decade.

The 17-bedroom former hotel has anchored Bucksport's Main Street since about 1780. The last business in the wood frame building closed nearly eight years ago.

The financial firm that owns it is hoping a buyer will emerge during an online auction that is being held through Thursday.

The Bangor Daily News ( ) says the building underwent extensive renovations in the 1990s. It has a complete commercial kitchen, but it still needs at least $250,000 in upgrades.

Bidding on the property began at $30,000.


Information from: Bangor Daily News,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-11-11 1127GMT




Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 12:08

Shreveport to develop cultural district

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Written by Associated Press   
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 09:31
Shreveport's riverfront casino district. Photo by Brian Bussie of Photos by Brian, LLC, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - A downtown cultural district boasting boutiques, art galleries, a sculpture garden, an urban dog park and various residential options could be on the horizon for Shreveport.

The Times reported on Monday that city leaders, downtown businesses, nonprofits and private investors are moving ahead with a unified vision to revive the nine-block area known as Shreveport Common.

Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover says a cultural district could broaden and further diversity the local economy from its largely agrarian and oil and gas roots by creating a place where people want to live.

He says cities where people want to start businesses are not necessarily based on the job availability, but rather what the city offers in arts and culture.


Information from:

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 October 2011 09:41

Archaeologists digging against time at Saratoga battlefield

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Written by CHRIS CAROLA, Associated Press   
Monday, 26 September 2011 13:11
Saratoga Monument in Saratoga National Historical Park, Victory, N.Y. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. STILLWATER, N.Y. (AP) – Archaeologists are digging for artifacts in a battle-scarred and history-rich stretch of the upper Hudson River where thousands of Europeans, Americans and Native Americans fought and died during more than a century of sporadic warfare, culminating in the Americans' defeat of the British at Saratoga.

“This area served as a continual frontier battleground for 150 years before the Revolutionary War,” said Joe Finan, superintendent at the Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater, site of the Battles of Saratoga.

The archaeologists are hoping to complete their task ahead of a different kind of dig along the river for something more recent occupants left behind: polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

The work by the National Park Service is part of a two-year program to identify “high-fertility areas” on park-owned lands within the river's floodplain where 18th-century artifacts could be found, Finan said. The study coincides with the federal government-ordered dredging of PCBs from the river bottom at Ford Edward, 20 miles north of the battlefield.

The EPA has ordered General Electric to remove PCBs the company dumped into the river at Fort Edward and neighboring Hudson Falls for 30 years, ending in 1977 when the practice was banned. Dredgers are expected to reach the national park's stretch of riverfront in 2014.

That gives the parks service time to dig around its 2,800-acre battlefield property for any artifacts missed by previous sanctioned excavations or overlooked by “pot hunters” who loot historical sites, Finan said.

Area historians support the archaeological project and note the potential damage dredging poses to historical objects that may lie along the shore or on the river bottom. Two years ago, a dredging crew working close to shore accidentally ripped away some of the riverbank timbers from the original Fort Edward, built by the British during the French and Indian War.

“Concerns? Oh yeah, big time. Especially from Schuylerville down,” said Linda Palmieri, historian in Stillwater.

The park service and EPA are aware of those concerns.

“We learned a lesson from that,” Gary Klawinski, EPA's dredging project manager, said of the Fort Edward incident, which occurred around 2 a.m. in August 2009.

He said the incident led to two changes in dredging procedures: EPA staffers are now aboard dredging barges whenever sediment removals are being conducted in historically sensitive areas, and no nighttime dredging is allowed in such areas.

Plus, Klawinski said, the agency is well aware that every dip of a dredger's scoop into this stretch of the river has the potential of bringing up something that belongs in a museum.

“You can pretty much go anywhere on the Hudson and find something,” he said. “We're just being very careful.”

The search for historical remnants from the Saratoga battles, fought in September and October of 1777, is being conducted in an area that traditionally has yielded a wealth of artifacts, from Indian arrowheads to military items left over from the thousands of soldiers who passed through or fought here in the 17th and 18th centuries.

While sizable British and Colonial American armies used the Hudson corridor during the French and Indian War (1755-63), the highest concentration of military forces occurred during the Revolutionary War, when the Americans defeated the British at Saratoga in what many consider one of history's most important battles.

The ground on and around the Saratoga battlefield has yielded so many artifacts, it's not uncommon today to see people with metal detectors trailing behind farm tractors plowing local fields, Finan said.

The history-changing fight here in 1777 was actually two battles, the first one fought in September, followed by a second in October. When the October battle was over, the victorious American forces still blocked the British advance toward Albany, while Gen. John Burgoyne's defeated and demoralized redcoats and their German allies retreated a few miles north and eventually surrendered in what is now the riverside village of Schuylerville.

The American victory at Saratoga persuaded the French to join in the fight against Britain, and France's contribution of soldiers, ships and money to the young United States was a major factor in England's former colonies gaining their independence.

Because Saratoga holds such a special place in American history, it's important to find and document as much of the evidence of the battles as possible, Finan said.

With that in mind, archaeologists are concentrating this year's two-week dig on several spots where Route 4 parallels the river and cuts through portions of the park's eastern riverside edge. Using contemporary maps drawn by a British officer and maps produced from recent aerial photography and other high-tech tools, the team is digging in an area where several British encampments and a hospital were located.

Although no noteworthy artifacts have been found so far, the first week of digging uncovered evidence of one of the fortified positions held by the British 47th Infantry Regiment, Finan said.

Digs are also planned on park property that abuts the river's west bank. Finan said artifacts could turn up near the British line of retreat north along the river, given the natural tendency of soldiers to lighten their load whenever possible.

“We know from other archaeology work done at other locations that during these kinds of retreats a lot of material was scuttled in the water,” Finan said.

“That floodplain area has always been an archaeological hot spot,” said Sean Kelliher, historian for the neighboring town of Saratoga, just north of the battlefield. “I think they'll end up finding some very interesting things.”

Plans call for any battle-related artifacts found during the park service's digs to be put on public display, if possible.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-09-25-11 1611GMT

Last Updated on Monday, 26 September 2011 13:29
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