In its heyday, the Pere Marquette Train Depot in Alden served as a hub of activity in the quaint cottage community on the shores of Torch Lake. Once known as the “finest depot on the line north of Grand Rapids,” more tickets were sold to Alden than any other spot along the line. A popular evening pastime in Alden in the early 1900s was to watch passengers disembark from the “Resort Special” and head to one of the area’s many summer camps.
Now a State of Michigan Historical Site, the depot closed in the 1960s and sat vacant on and off until 1986, when the railroad sold it to Helena Township. It has since been restored and serves as a public park and museum with rotating displays on the area’s lumbering, boating, railroading, farming, family life and history.
The Alden Depot is one of many nostalgic and historic landmarks Paul Evans has captured through his Rephotographing Michigan project. With his camera and old postcards packed in the car, Evans has embarked on a project to record then-and-now images of businesses, landmarks and downtown streetscapes.
Many people enjoy taking weekend road trips to explore Michigan and landmarks they remember seeing as children, and Evans hopes his project will spur interest in visiting some of the sites.
“Even though they may live in Michigan, it brings different areas to light for people,” he says. “It’s an incentive to visit and travel around the state more.”
Evans, 31, lives in Alpena and says Rephotographing Michigan is a photographic exploration of the changes in Michigan over the last 100 years. He starts by collecting postcards and researching the location and how it looks today.
“I decided to use postcards because there are so many of them,” he says. “It’s all based off of what I can find for each city. It’s usually buildings because you can match up the architecture.”
In his spare time, he travels to various cities and seeks out points of interest — streetscapes, storefronts, schools, state parks, churches, camps, cottages, summer resorts, train depots, lodges, businesses, public buildings and restaurants — and captures them from the same vantage point as the vintage postcards. The images then are posted side-by-side on his website and Facebook page, organized by city and peninsula for easier searching.
“I’ve really enjoyed growing up in Michigan and I’m rediscovering the state through the project. A lot of people have written me and are looking at these locations when they plan out places to go.”
— Paul Evans
He began the project more than a year ago and has posted more than 200 images so far.
“There’s not really a number,” he says of how many sites he hopes to capture. “I’d like to cover regionally all of the state. It’s just kind of a hobby. It gives me something to do with my weekends.”
Evans has a degree in photography from Grand Valley State University and, while a student there, did a similar project where he took photos of a single location in two seasons.
“I’ve really enjoyed growing up in Michigan and I’m rediscovering the state through the project,” he says. “A lot of people have written me and are looking at these locations when they plan out places to go.”