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Apostle Islands Historic Preservation Conservancy

Established in 2006, the AIHPC is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the many historic properties and cultural landscapes in the Apostle Islands region on northern Wisconsin.  Beginning with a core group of families who hold longstanding property interests in historically-significant buildings on Sand and Rocky Islands, in some cases dating from the late 1800′s, the Conservancy represents a wide range of interests throughout the Chequamegon Peninsula.

 

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Today in Chequamegon history: the unforgettable Mr. Valley.

Bayfield County Press, May 4, 1889: "Boat builder Valli (sic) launched his yacht last Saturday and the universal verdict is that she is a beauty. The trial trip was to have been taken to Michigan Island but owing to the unpleasant state of the weather the trip had to be abandoned. She proves a fine sailor however and will be in great demand when the tourist season commences."

Ed Valley of LaPointe was surely one of the most memorable characters in the region's history. Not only was he an exceptionally skilled carpenter and boat builder, he also seems to have been a rebel against traditional gender roles. His 1933 obituary noted,

"Besides being a boat builder the eccentric old gentleman was also a shoemaker. He made shoes, not only for himself but for others and many of the shoes he made were the envy of women who visited the island. Perhaps the most outstanding eccentricity which made him well known was his habit of wearing high heeled shoes. He made the shoes himself and put on them the high heels such as are worn by women. Having small feet, the Imprints of his shoes were those of a girl.

"Many years ago his peculiar habits of dress were more pronounced than of late years. At times he would put on a kimona and his high heeled shoes, do his hair up in brightly colored ribbons and go downtown."

An earlier news article praised Mr. Valley for the effort he expended in color-coordinating his outfits, and his bold sense of style: "If he wears tan (shoes) he has white laces and if he has white tops the laces are black. His favorite shoe is a three tone color combination – a black patent leather bottom, tan tops, with white laces... He generally dons a pair of trousers that reaches just below the knees. This costume sets the hightop shoes in bold relief." The article hinted that he preferred wearing corsets and other ladies' finery to customary male attire.

Valley's sense of style extended to his home, which was distinctive enough to become a minor tourist attraction: "Ed Valley lives in a house constructed by himself according to his own tastes. It has a unique architectural design unlike ordinary dwellings. The building has a prominent steeple and numerous gables. Two porches grace the lower floor and one the second story. Fancy carved designs have been placed under the eaves of the gables.One of these contains the letters "Ed V." and is noticed by most tourists..."

All indications are that Valley was well-liked and accepted in the community. To quote the "Superior Telegram" in 1927, "He is known as the island's handy man. It is said he has unlimited knowledge about all kinds of wood working and is proficient when it comes to machinery. Whenever anything is broken or needs mending, the neighbors seek Ed Valley."

If there was any controversy about which of the island's outhouses Mr. Valley was permitted to use, the news articles did not report it.
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