A Sign of the Times…

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When you travel down the road, do you pay attention to the road signs? If you do, you will notice that there are many different types – all in different shapes and colors. Some tell you to stop, while others tell you how fast to go, and still others tell you where things are such as the next gas station or rest area.

One particular sign of interest is tourist oriented directional signs, or TODS. TODS signs are found on state trunklines and state roads other than limited access highways (mainly “M” routes). Cultural, historical, recreational, educational, or commercial activities are eligible for TODS. Until recently, it was quite laborious to list a historic resource on a Michigan Department of Transportation TODS sign. The vendor in charge of the TODS program, Interstate Logos, took the approach that historic resources were not eligible for TODS signage. They even told a potential applicant to not bother submitting an application because it would not be considered.

Despite the statute clearly indicating that historic resources were eligible, Interstate Logos dug in its heels until MHPN got involved. An active committee, including MHPN partners the Michigan Historic Commission and the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, and led by MHPN members Pam O’Connor, Alan Robandt, MHPN Executive Director Nancy Finegood, and MHPN’s lobbyist, Michael Frederick, MHPN got engaged and met with MDOT officials, including Director Kirk Steudle.

A little more than a year ago, MHPN’s lobbyist met with the MDOT Director. At the first meeting, Director Steudle asked for additional information regarding how many signs and sites would be impacted by a change in policy. He also recognized that other states were more robust with their historic resource application with TODS. MHPN membership took on the task of gathering detailed information about signs, locations, and historic resources in Michigan that could be eligible for TODS.

In the fall of 2013, the MHPN team met with Director Steudle and MDOT staff that oversaw the TODS program and all agreed to significant program changes. They then worked with MDOT staff to suggest improvements to the website, eligibility, and even the application process – it was all designed to follow the intent of the law and promote historic resources in our local communities.

Today the TODs program includes eligible historic resources! So the next time you are out driving, pay attention to the road signs. Do they list a potential historic resource such as Mackinac Island or invite you to visit historic Buchanan?

MHPN’s involvement in the government affairs arena allowed us to drive policy changes to the benefit of our members. MHPN lead the way in two important areas. First, MHPN membership stepped up and helped by being a resource, crafting thoughtful policy suggestions, and being the voice for historic preservation.

Second, MHPN’s direct relationship with MDOT Director, Kirk Steudle, paid dividends. As the old political saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” We are the recognized voice for historic preservation!

After all, it’s about bringing new life to historic neighborhoods … It’s about main street remaining a good place to shop … It’s about historic farmsteads and lighthouses, factories and churches being vital parts of Michigan’s landscape … It’s about choosing how your community grows and changes … Most of all, it’s about you getting involved.

Please contact us if you have any questions or if we can be of service!

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of service!
The Frederick Group
216 N. Chestnut (yes, it’s a historic building!)
Lansing, MI 48933
Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/frederickgroup
Follow us on Twitter: @Mfrederick19


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Metal Stripping and Illegal Scrapping Kills Historic Buildings

From comments made by Nancy Finegood, MHPN Executive Director to the Illegal Scrapping Legislation Work Group 

Metal stripping and illegal scrapping kills historic buildings.  The loss of historic buildings is killing Michigan’s cities like Detroit, Saginaw, and Flint.  Our historic buildings are what make our cities and towns unique, what sets us apart from others and differentiates us from being just another suburb.  Schools, churches, warehouses, and homes:  these comprise the fabric that makes up each town’s identity.  Protecting our historic buildings from illegal scrapping is good for residents, good for communities, and good for Michigan.

Our old buildings were built with quality materials, fixtures, and ornamentation—including metals.  The loss of this fabric decimates buildings.  Here’s how:

From the outside, the loss of metal roofing makes buildings vulnerable to water infiltration and other weather-related damage as well as providing entry for vandals.  Loss of metal architectural features—everything from ornamentation to statues to railings—detract from the economic value of the building, meanwhile disconnecting us from the story of why these structures are meaningful to us.

On the inside, stripping of interior metals—from the water pipes to electrical wires to sprinkler systems—make these buildings uninhabitable and skyrocket their rehabilitation costs.  Frequently, even those losses are overshadowed by the secondary damage done.  Sprinkler systems set off by electrical shorts as wiring is ripped out or the removal of plumbing fixtures setting off floods that destroy hardwood flooring and plaster before anyone can even notice it has happened.

What we’re left with is commonly referred to as an eyesore.  A building once honorable and meaningful now stripped of everything that made it unique and left to be condemned by the public as a nuisance.

The Vetal Elementary School on Westwood Street in Detroit was the victim of illegal scrapping when vandals devastated a congregation’s dream of opening a church in the vacant school smashing marble in search of hidden piping, stealing toilet fixtures, and setting off the sprinkler systems making the basement into a swimming pool.

The Edwin Denby memorial at the Brodhead Armory on Belle Isle—an enormously historic bronze relief that decorated this wildly important piece of historic architecture—was carefully extracted and sold who knows where.

And in Flint… this from the Executive Director of the Salem Housing CDC:

We have been of the opinion that our problems with illegal scrapping and lack of law enforcement are so well known that people are coming from out of state to scrap here in Flint.  We know that by far and large most illegal scrapping is being done by locals but the magnitude of the problem has grown so that even out-of-staters are drawn here to make a quick buck.

Let me say that the problem of illegal scrapping has become so prevalent that we now preemptively remove furnaces, water heaters and aluminum siding from any of our properties that we know are going to be vacant longer than just a very few days.  We will also have people stay in our houses just to prevent illegal scrapping.  All of our houses have alarms and we have armed response from a private company.  None of these measures are a guarantee, just a help.

Why should these organizations that are working so hard to save and restore our Michigan communities, bear the additional burden of the expense of protecting their buildings from scrappers?

There are countless other examples.

Michigan needs its historic buildings.  They are the landscape by which we understand where we came from, who we were, and who we can become.  It’s what makes cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids places to come visit, to see something unique. Stripping and illegal scrapping decimates these buildings.  In already cash-strapped towns like Flint, Pontiac and Detroit, erosion of a building to this level makes rehabilitation cost prohibitive and resuscitation nearly impossible. But we can deter scrappers.  With the right legislation, we can make it harder for a scrapper to sell a truck full of stolen steel piping, copper wiring, or a statue from a local church.  

If we want our communities across Michigan, to continue to grow and thrive, we need to protect our historic resources, our buildings, and our communities.  And that means deterring those that seek to rip them apart.  

Posted in buildings, historic, historic preservation, Legislation, Preservation, Scrapping, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Timber Frame Barn Building 101

image262_reducedIf you were lucky enough to have attended the 33rd Annual Statewide Preservation Conference in Marquette last May you may have witnessed one of the best examples of team work ever demonstrated.  While I would love to claim it was the effort put forth by the Conference Planning Committee, I would be over looking the contribution to Vendor’s Showcase by the Michigan Barn Preservation Network and a group of local residents.


Late in the day on Thursday, May 9th, the 11 members of a local 4H group and their parents gathered in the Vendor’s Showcase for one of the most interesting experiences of their lives. Under the direction of Vera Wiltse and Steve Stier from the Michigan Barn Preservation Network, the quarter size timber frame barn was erected, between a display by the MSU Extension Office and a group of preservationists working to save part of the Western Michigan University campus from demolition by the University.

image022_reducedIt was more than just about the fun of the experience, because participants learned terminology – what is a brace, a post, a plate, and a bent.  All explained and used over and over during the construction; they had to do math to understand the scale of the barn and deal with the angles needed to make the barn stand at the end; and most importantly, they learned teamwork.  For each bent, a team leader was selected among the students, who then assigned people to different tasks.  Students positioned (and sometimes repositioned several times) each component of the frame to erect the barn components.


From plate to rafter the barn was erected in under three hours – when everyone gathered for the photo opportunity – and to smile with pride over a job well done!


The barn was commissioned by the National Barn Alliance with a grant via assistance from Russ Mawby.

To learn more about how you can work with the Michigan Barn Preservation Network (MBPN)  to erect the traditional timber frame barn check out their website.  You can also see more from the MBPN in 2014, when they join us for the 34th Annual Conference in Jackson, Michigan!image248_reduced
The design and construction of this ¼ size 19th century barn timber frame
model has been funded by a grant from the Arnesby-Russ Mawby Fund of the
Battle Creek Community Foundation. The National Barn Alliance owns the
model and it is on loan to the Michigan Barn Preservation Network.

Posted in Barn, buildings, Conference, historic preservation, Marquette, Michigan, Preservation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Second Spring… updates on the Michigan State Scrapping Bills

The Frederick GroupAlbert Camus once said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”  Autumn is a time to enjoy the bounties of Michigan’s harvest, reflect on nature’s beauty with the changing of the colors, and renew our efforts to recognize and preserve Michigan’s rich cultural and architectural heritage.  Part of those efforts include protecting historic resources from metal scrappers – people who decimate our heritage for a quick buck.

Back in June the House Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Representative Hugh Crawford, held several hearings on House Bills 4593-4595 which deal with scrap metal theft.  Chairman Crawford appointed Representative Klint Kesto to assemble a bi-partisan workgroup during the summer recess to forge a compromise.

Before being elected to the House of Representatives, Rep. Kesto was an assistant Wayne County Prosecutor and lead efforts to combat scrap metal theft.  His background and detailed knowledge of the issue made him a natural choice to lead this effort.

Rep. Kesto’s legislative aide, also a former Wayne County assistant prosecutor with experience with scrap metal theft, met individually with various stakeholders over the summer to solicit input, including MHPN’s lobbyist.  MHPN, through Executive Director Nancy Finegood, crafted additional suggestions for strengthening the bills.

Rep. Kesto, joined by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, convened a bi-partisan workgroup of all interested stakeholders in late August.  At the meeting, Executive Director Nancy Finegood gave a passionate argument regarding the devastating impact scrapping has on historic properties.  In some cases, scrap recyclers are presented with stolen scrap materials – materials ripped from abandoned homes, foreclosed properties, and historic buildings.  They in turn sell the scrap materials to smelters.  It is an insidious cycle where everyone profits from the wrongdoing.  Part of the compromise is strengthening the regulations of how the scrap materials are accepted.  This would entail taking a photograph or video of the material, verifying the seller’s identity, and waiting several days for certain items before payment is made to ensure that the material is not stolen. The Committee favorably reported the bills and they now await action by the full House of Representatives.

After the House dispatches the bills, the Senate is expected to take up the issue; although its fate is uncertain.  Several recycling businesses remain concerned about the bills despite attempts to craft a reasonable solution.  MHPN will continue to lobby for passage of these needed reforms.

As with the upcoming election, politics has entered into the scrap metal debate as well.  Rep. Tlaib has been an ongoing and active proponent of the scrap metal reforms.  As she is term-limited in 2014, she has announced her intention to run for the State Senate.  That means that she will challenge Senator Virgil Smith in the Democratic primary.

In response, Sen. Smith has introduced his own bills to address the issue of scrap metal theft and to neutralize this as a campaign issue.  Sen. Smith’s bills, Senate Bills 468-470, take a different approach to the issue by focusing on the actual people who do scrapping by requiring them to obtain permits.  This is in contrast to the House Bills which focus on the recyclers that purchase the scrap metal.  In addition, Senator Tupac Hunter has introduced bills that mirror the House Bills.  It is uncertain which bills the Senate will consider.

Autumn affords us a different perspective on the beauty of nature and the team at MHPN will continue advocating for and advancing the interests of historic preservation.  MHPH’s Executive Director Nancy Finegood, MHPN’s Public Policy Chair Greg Saxton, and MHPN’s Board President Melissa Milton-Pung will continue to lead our efforts to preserve, protect, and enhance our historic resources!

After all, it’s about bringing new life to historic neighborhoods … It’s about main street remaining a good place to shop … It’s about historic farmsteads and lighthouses, factories and churches being vital parts of Michigan’s landscape … It’s about choosing how your community grows and changes … Most of all, it’s about you getting involved.

Please contact us if you have any questions or if we can be of service!
The Frederick Group
115 W. Allegan Street, Suite 200
Lansing, MI 48933
Like us on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/frederickgroup
Follow us on Twitter:  @Mfrederick19

Posted in buildings, Michigan, Preservation, Right-Sizing, Scrapping, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loving Historic Bay City

guest blog by Shelley Whitehead, Treasurer, Center Avenue Neighborhood Association

What’s not to love about Bay City!  The Tall Ships have just left town, thousands shared in viewing these magnificent ships.  The smart visitors even took in some of Bay City’s best historical architecture.  Extra tours were offered for several of our beautiful churches, Bay City’s lighthouse, and the historical Center Avenue Neighborhood.  Don’t fret if you missed visiting this during the Tall Ship Festival, there are more good reasons to visit us in the next few months.  Our historic architecture is here to stay.

CenterAvewithHouseandChurches-1Bay City is fortunate to have 2 historic districts. The Midland Street district is on the west side of Bay City. This district is primarily commercial businesses that are privately owned and operate in historic buildings that have been renovated. The Center Avenue District is a large residential neighborhood of 880 homes. This area has over 13 different styles of architecture including many kit homes. The Center Avenue Neighborhood Association (CANA) has a great website that offers more information and a walking tour.  The walking tour takes approximately 1 hour to walk the 1.5 miles and highlights 21 homes.  Visit www.CANABayCity.org for more information.

ExampleofanAladdinHomePlan your Bay City architectural trip around one of the events listed below or just come for a relaxing weekend.  For lodging try either the Webster Historic Inn www.historicwebsterhouse.com or the Keswick Manor www.keswickmanor.com.  Both are in the Center Avenue Historic District and within walking distance of downtown.  Dine in one of the many privately owned restaurants  in the Midland Street District or downtown Bay City’s east side.  The Bay County Historical Museum has a wonderful display featuring Aladdin kit homes of which Bay City was home.

Upcoming Bay City Events

September 14, 2013:  “Appetite for Antiques? Come lunch & learn” hosted by the Questers Wenonah chapter, an educational opportunity to learn about antiques. Visit www.michiganquesters.org for more information.

September 27-29, 2013:  “River of Time Living history encampment” Re-enactors set up camp along the Saginaw River providing an educational chance to learn about the life of the early settlers. Hosted by the Bay County Historical Museum www.bchsmuseum.org

October 13, 2013:  “Tour of Homes” a chance to visit homes in the Center Avenue Historical District and the west side of Bay City.  Hosted by the Bay County Historical Museum www.bchsmuseum.org

I look forward to seeing you around town or walking through my Center Avenue neighborhood, you won’t be disappointed!

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Back to Life: Detroit’s NSO Bell Building provides a new home for many…and is the site of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network’s Fall Benefit!

by Janet Kreger, MHPN Founding Member and Past President recently provided the following blog to the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM)

 “Whatever could that huge old building be good for?”  This thought may cross your mind as you view the latest 30 minute TV episode of “The Bright Side.”  Featuring historic preservation projects from around Michigan, the show includes a segment on the restoration and reuse of the NSO Bell Building in Detroit. What you learn as its story unfolds is that this stunning historic building was perfect for reuse as permanent, supportive housing for Detroit’s homeless.


The Bell Building began life in 1929 as the 12-story brick phone exchange housing Bell Telephone operators making manual connections.  Its Art Deco design was by the Detroit architectural firm of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls that created other city landmarks such as the Guardian and Penobscot Buildings. 

The fact that it had fallen into disrepair blinded many to the fact that the building was sound and its open floor plan could accommodate virtually any new function.  But the Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO) saw its potential as a centrally located landmark for a neighborhood it would both serve and revitalize.  NSO is a 57-year-old private, nonprofit, social service agency that serves Detroit, Wayne County, and Oakland County.  It provides accessible programs designed to strengthen and empower individuals in their communities, support families, and help those in need.

The Bell Building provided what NSO needed to house both its programs and permanent housing for those with special needs. NSO leadership, however, had to structure a financial package that would make redevelopment possible through a mixture of state and federal programs, its own equity, and assistance from foundations and human services organizations.  Additionally, the NSO’s use of the State Historic Preservation Tax Credit provided an opportunity for the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) to be involved.  The results are a beautifully restored historic building that now provides 155 one-bedroom units and is the service and administrative headquarters for 200 NSO staff. 


The NSO Bell Building would seem an unlikely choice for a gala, but not to the MHPN.  The MHPN was founded in 1981 as Michigan’s membership organization for those involved in preserving the state’s historic resources.  While its working board and 6-member staff focus on community outreach, educational programming, and advocacy, work is set aside for its Fall Benefit!  Gala locations over the past 18 years have included a train station, botanical gardens, a Grand Army of the Republic building, a yacht club, and more.  What the venues have in common are their historic significance and the fact that they are either little known gems or rarely open to the public.       

Because of the MHPN’s involvement as a partner in NSO’s project, it is the perfect venue for its 19th Annual Fall Benefit to be held Friday, October 25.  The evening includes pop-up dinner fare, a hosted beer and wine bar, building tours, silent and live auctions, and, this year, the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to a noteworthy Detroit preservationist, Susan Mosey, President of Midtown Detroit, Inc.

Everyone is invited to attend the MHPN’s Annual Fall Benefit.  It will be the perfect evening, don’t you think?  See a building that has caught your eye from the expressway for years, learn about its restoration, help not one but two organizations committed to community revitalization, and, best of all, have a great time in Detroit!

Architect – Fusco, Shaffer & Pappas, Inc.
General Contractor – O’Brien Edwards Construction
Photographer – Christopher Lark, Inc.

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“If you find a turtle sitting on a fence post, you know it didn’t get there by itself.”

On May 10, 2013, Tom Friggens was awarded a Michigan  Historic Preservation Network Lifetime Achievement Award for “devoting over thirty-five years to the recognition and preservation of the Upper Peninsula’s historic and cultural sites.”

With his permission, we are pleased to be able to share a little about his career, and then, the moving words shared with the over 100 audience members that evening during his acceptance of the award.

Tom Friggens has devoted his 37-year professional life to introducing others to the history of the Upper Peninsula. Even before received his BA in History with Honors from Albion in 1971, he had served three summers as an interpreter at Fort Michilimackinac. After receiving his MA in American History from Wayne State in 1973, he joined Michigan’s Bureau of History the following year and soon had his first field assignment in the U.P. He was hooked and never worked downstate again.      

As a graduate student in 1973, Tom served as a contract historian for Fayette State Park where he would later become a regional supervisor of the museum operation. 

Tom, seated lower right, with his Bureau of History Colleagues, Fort Wilkins, 1975

Tom, seated on the ground (right), with his Bureau of History Colleagues, Fort Wilkins, 1975

From 1974 to 1985, he served at Fort Wilkins State Park located at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Tom became known for putting the Fort’s interpretation on firm historical and archaeological footings, writing pieces such as Fort Wilkins Yesterday and Today with Patrick Martin in 2000, or earlier with Joseph Schroeder in 1987, developing the “Fort Wilkins Historic Site Living History Program’s Role Player’s Manual” that continues to serve in the Fort’s interpretation.

During his career, Tom authored texts on what it was like for soldiers and their families simply to live at Fort Wilkins. He wrote about diet; about the anguish of witnessing shipwrecks; about trying to heat their homes as Lake Superior’s winter winds lashed. This scholarship enlivened museum exhibits with the sights and sounds of army life and the costumed portrayals of soldiers and their families using a living history program on which Tom collaborated with NMU’s Department of History.

Tom Friggens seated at his desk in the Michigan Iron Industry Museum

Tom at his desk in the Michigan Iron Industry Museum

Tom next moved to the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee in 1986, starting as an Historian, moving into the Directorship, and holding the title of Upper Peninsula Sites Coordinator for the Michigan Historical Museum System before his 2011 retirement. The Museum stands in the ravines of the Carp River at the site of the first iron forge in the Lake Superior Region. Tom continued to write both scholarly and popular works such as 1998’s No Tears in Heaven: The 1926 Barnes-Hecker Mine Disaster, and in 2011, an article for the Chronicle titled “Hard Rock and Iron Souls.” Today, Tom’s work and that of many others enriches the 48-mile-long interpretive trail extending from the Lake Superior shore in Chocolay Township to the Village of Republic, passing through Marquette and the mining communities of Negaunee and Ishpeming.

In 2006, Tom presents at Fort Wilkins.

In 2006, Tom opened a new exhibit at Fort Wilkins.

Tom is a familiar presenter throughout Michigan and has taken leadership roles in several state and local historical organizations.  He has taught at NMU and Michigan Tech, consulted with other museums, and encouraged countless historians, educators, and students. Along the way, he has received honors including, in 2006, the Charles Follo Award, the highest recognition given by the Historical Society of Michigan to a leader in U.P. history.

Tom with his MHPN Lifetime Achievement Award

Tom with his MHPN Lifetime Achievement Award

It’s a bit unnerving to hear one’s name used in the same sentence as ‘lifetime achievement.’  I’m reminded of a conversation with our dear daughter-in-law Debbie at the time of my retirement…

“Dad,” she asked, “are you excited to start a new chapter in your life?”

After some thought, I said “yeah . . . But, I wish it didn’t come so near the end of the book.”  (Now, two years later, we must be approaching the index . . . and I can only hope it’s a very thorough, very long index.)

There’s an American folk adage that says “if you find a turtle sitting on a fence post, you know it didn’t get there by itself.”

Many of my former colleagues in several state agencies, universities and communities, as well as a legion of talented seasonal interpreters, rightfully share in this award (As does Mary, the center of my life for more than 40 years).

In our travels since retiring, Mary and I have poignantly experienced the theme of this conference:  “The Ingredients of Place.”

Most recently, we toured England, where we lodged two nights at Cape Cornwall in a St. Just B&B which was once home to three generations of my family.

We slept in my great-great grandfather’s bedroom, next to my great-grandparent’s room, and across the hall from the room my grandfather shared with his brothers.  By chance, I stood in the room where my grandfather was born on the anniversary of his birth 130 years ago.

For a brief but moving visit, we trod where my ancestors had, absorbed sights they had known, and identified camera angles of photographs they had taken more than a century ago. . . .  We experienced a sense of place.

Whether by profession or avocation, society is tasked to preserve and perpetuate the heritage entrusted to us by our forebearers for succeeding generations.

My point is this:

If the soldiers and their families who once served at Fort Wilkins could return across 17 decades, they would again feel at home in a built and natural environment that has changed little since 1844.

If the immigrant laborers could return to Fayette today after 125 years, they would still recognize the former company town and majestic dolomite bluffs that surround its deep-water harbor.

And, if the pioneer entrepreneurs who birthed Michigan’s iron industry could visit the museum today, the forested ravines of the carp river valley would stir their memories.

For these are ingredients of place – physical, intellectual and emotional touchstones with the past.

When we have run our final race and, in retirement, passed the baton, may it be said of each of us that we met our commitment to those who went before us, and our responsibility to those who follow.

Let that be our legacy:  that we were good stewards of the past – who simply strove to do our best to preserve a rich natural and cultural heritage for our children . . . And for their children.

I’m not sure you’ve selected the right person for this award . . . But, before you change your mind, I accept it on his behalf, with heartfelt thanks.

Tom Friggens

Awards Ceremony - Lifetime Achievement - Thomas G Friggens

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