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Planting Irish Roots in Downtown Alpena

Posted on March 16th, 2018

As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this Saturday, we reflect on the history behind this holiday which brings us high spirits and full bellies. Locally, Alpena has some of its own Irish roots.  Read on to learn some history about one of Alpena’s most prominent Irishmen, as well as information on Irish celebrations taking place this week in the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes! 

Meet Peter Owens. Peter was born in Ireland in 1841. Years later Peter immigrated to Alpena, Michigan to pursue the American dream of becoming a business owner. In 1885, at the age of 44, Peter had the Owens brick block constructed in downtown Alpena. The Owens block location is where Peter ran his mortuary and furniture business where he sold picture frames and other various items made from wood. This may seem like an odd business duo to us today, but at the time this was fairly common practice.  In addition to services for his mortuary business, Peter Owens operated a livery for funeral vehicles to provide for families of the deceased. 

133 years later, the Owens block continues to serve local businesses in Downtown Alpena thanks to an Irish immigrant pursuing his American Dream. Today, the Owens block houses the banquet room at the historic John A. Lau Saloon in Downtown Alpena.

(Information provided by Special Collections at the Alpena George N. Fletcher Library

What will you be doing on St. Patrick’s Day this Saturday? Many local pubs and restaurants are celebrating with boiled corned beef dinners and Guinness specials. Check out the events calendar and Facebook pages of your favorite hangouts to see what’s happening, such as the “going green” event below: 

“Going Green”– hop on Alpena’s trolley Saturday evening for safe passage to multiple Irish Celebrations! The trolley will be running to Austin Brothers Beer Company, Barilik’s Tavern, Black Sheep Pub, Chief’s Bar & Grill, Fresh Palate, Latitude’s Tavern, Naylor’s 10th Avenue Bar & Grill, Players Pub & Grub, and Sports Page Lounge. Tickets can be purchased for $10 per person. You may purchase tickets at Thunder Bay Transportation Association, Alpena Chamber of Commerce, Alpena DDA, and most of the participating businesses listed above. 

Whatever your plans may be for celebrating Irish traditions, we hope you have a fun and safe time in Alpena: Sanctuary of the Great Lakes!