#Michiganplacesmatter Spotlight: Midland

by Scott Slagor

Have you ever been driving along I-75 and thought, “I keep seeing signs for Midland, I wonder what that place is all about?.” Hopefully, you have marked your calendar for this year’s MHPN conference: Always Seeking Modern; May 13-16 in Midland. I made a trip to Midland myself a few weeks ago to investigate what architectural gems conference-goers may find.

The first thing I noticed driving into the city was its vibrant downtown; with busy and crowded streets early on a Saturday morning. I immediately pulled over to get a better look at the 1924 Arts and Crafts style Midland County Courthouse. The courthouse has beautiful tall windows, stone cladding, and murals that depict the county’s picturesque forests, and cultural heritage of Native AmericMidland County Courthouseans and early Euroamerican settlers.


West on Main Street, along the Tittabawassee River, is a fabulous residential district that contains some of Midland’s earliest residences. Many of these date from the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth century, with occasional mid-twentieth century surprises. This neighborhood is the focal point of one of the conference tours.

West Ave HD

Midland is known for its mid-century Modern architecture. The well-known mid-century architect and native Midland son, Alden B. Dow, designed numerous residences and buildings throughout the city with innovative and pioneering designs, as did some of his contemporaries. The post WWII wealth in the community prompted a boom for high style modern buildings throughout the city. Several of these residences are included in conference tours.

mid-century house

Another set of striking resources across the city are fabulous mid-century Modern churches. Each one was completely unique, and frankly unlike any Modern church I had seen before. The First United Methodist Church, across from the courthouse, does not resemble a church at all from the exterior, rather a public building with its low roof and overall horizontal emphasis. I slammed on my brakes driving by the 1967 Blessed Sacrament Church. I found myself awestruck by the graceful rise of the circular roof to a very Modern steeple. Both churches are featured on a conference tour.

UM Church

blessed sacrament
Driving around Midland is a visually appealing experience. The city has a wealth of popular and high style architecture spread along its tree-lined streets. I highly encourage exiting the freeway and checking it out. If you seek the most informative visit, be sure to attend MHPN’s annual conference: Always Seeking Modern. Remember, conference prices haven’t been increased since 2008, plus there is special student/senior and many of the  individual tours and sessions have al a carte pricing so there is really no good reason not to attend!

*all photos are courtesy of Scott Slagor

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by Tim Bennett


The Greek Revival Warner house was built in 1855 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Warner pioneer homestead, located in Brighton Township, Livingston County, Michigan, was occupied by five generations of the family for over 170 years. The property was first purchased by Timothy Warner, a settler from Livingston County, NY, in 1841 for $384. The farm progressed from an eighty-acre untouched “wilderness” to nearly five-hundred acres of cultivated land in six sections of the township. At its peak, around 1875, it was listed as the 11th largest farm by acreage in Livingston County. The original residence included a log cabin that provided the family with the comforts of home for roughly fifteen years until it was destroyed by fire. In its place, a Greek Revival frame house was built in 1855. The home still stands today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a largely unmodified example of mid 19th century residential architecture. Historical, genealogical, and archaeological research has been featured in periodicals such as the Chronicle, the Michigan Archaeologist, and Michigan History magazine. Archaeological fieldwork has been ongoing for seven seasons yielding thousands of artifacts from dozens of categories. The Warner site (20LV334) is one of the few historic sites in the state excavated by a direct descendant.

Due to financial difficulties, the now 12 acre farm was sold on land contract that concluded in May 2014. However, just months later, in December, the farm was purchased by my wife and I, a sixth generation descendant of the original pioneers. The actual process of purchasing the property was anything but straightforward. One of the most surprising roadblocks involved the inability for most banks to finance a property with agricultural use. We were informed that any mortgages underwritten through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac would not be approved for properties listed as agricultural. Fortunately, despite encountering a number of other hurdles to surmount, determination and perseverance ultimately prevailed.

Students, Michigan Archaeological Society members, and family members assist in excavation.

Students, Michigan Archaeological Society members, and family members assist in excavation.

Besides the obvious connection that a family pioneer homestead provides, the property offers much in the way of our research interests and activities centered around historic preservation, genealogy, archaeology, and history. Immediate plans for the house include rehabilitation of the exterior. The previous landowner provided a discount to the tenants to scrape and paint the siding. They did scrape much of the paint off this fall but it quickly became too cold to paint. So next spring we plan on removing the old paint and giving it a fresh coat of white with forest green accents on the trim as well as making repairs to some of the siding and trim. The interior has had work to repair the plaster in line with National Register standards and is actually a considerable improvement over its previous condition. My wife has already been selecting period wallpaper to cover the plaster walls. We are planning on furnishing the home with circa 1900 era items and a number of family members and friends have already generously offered to return or loan period heirlooms. We also plan to use the house to display excavated materials found at the site.

Tim Bennett excavates Feature 15, a post Civil War era trash pit that produced hundreds of 19th century artifacts.

Tim Bennett excavates Feature 15, a post Civil War era trash pit that produced hundreds of 19th century artifacts.

Continued archaeological work is also planned. Despite seven field seasons at the site, there is still much to investigate and a number of research questions to be answered. Of particular interest will be completing excavation of the dry-set stone-lined well that yielded thousands of artifacts dating from the 1850s to 1910. The contents of the well deposited in the 18” shaft appear to be a clean out of the house in April 1910 when my great grandparents were married and moved in. Over seven cubic feet of cultural material has been recovered from the well including a wide variety of ceramics, shoes, irons, wood barrel staves, glassware, cast iron stove parts, glass chimney globes, bottles, marbles, etc.

We intend to continue farming on the property. I’ve spoken with the farmer renting the hay field about possibly plowing it next spring. The plowed field will allow us to do a detailed surface survey to determine if there were any other outbuildings or artifact concentrations beyond the yard adjacent to the house.

In the coming months we hope to get a bronze National Register plaque for the house potentially with an image of the house on it. We’re also going to be looking into applying for a Michigan Historical marker.

I’ve been making wheel thrown pottery for nearly 20 years and we recently incorporated a company called Pleasant Valley Pottery, named after the Pleasant Valley area where the farm is located. The items offered by Pleasant Valley Pottery are actually inspired by 19th century artifacts recovered at the site as well as other historic sites around Michigan. We hope that pottery sales will help support at least in part some of the preservation endeavors as well as costs for property taxes, insurance, and upkeep. We have been encouraged by sales of PVP items around the state this year and look to expand into other historic preservation institutions.

As usual, we will continue our outreach efforts through presentations, published articles, and participation at various events. So far, I’m scheduled to present at Chippewa Nature Center, Midland, on March 11 and will participate in an event regarding historic ceramics on August 20 at Walker Tavern, Brooklyn. We also hope to participate in Archaeology Day at the Michigan Historical Center, Lansing, again in October this year. One article regarding an interesting find at the site is pending publication in the Michigan Archaeologist and several others are in the works.

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#michiganplacesmatter: A Guide to Historical Road Trips Though the Peninsula State.

By Scott Slagor, MHPN Communications CommitteeMPM _Scott Slagor

Highways are dull. Even the most scenic of highways become monotonous after hours or, even minutes, and offer little insight to the communities they bypass. Have you ever found yourself wondering about the towns you pass on regular highway journeys to an annual family vacation, or wedding on the opposite side of the state? Do you have a hunger to understand the cultural identity of Michiganders and the state’s history? I have found myself wondering these things, and over the past couple years have developed a knack for finding historic gems off the beaten path across the state.
I actively post pictures of my journeys to Facebook, Instagram, and soon Twitter. I have gained numerous followers, and many want to know how I find these places. It is sometimes assumed I find these resources through my job, for which I travel often, but in reality I seek out historic places in my everyday life. The steps I follow are shared below so you can discover your own #michiganplacesmatter!

Be Intentional  

Downtown block, Business 131, Constantine, Michigan

Downtown block, Business 131, Constantine, Michigan

A Michigan Places Matter road trip does take some planning, if you know you have to be at a wedding shower 100 miles away in the early afternoon, budget a couple extra hours of travel time to take the side roads. You will be thankful for the extra time, it is easy to get distracted on these road trips, to linger on the Main Street shops and side street neighborhoods of the communities you pass through. Know ahead how much traveling you anticipate and which places you want to visit.

Google is Your Friend

William G. Thompson House and Gardens, 101 Summit Street, Hudson, Michigan

William G. Thompson House and Gardens, 101 Summit Street, Hudson, Michigan

Mapping your road trip isn’t difficult. You can simply type your destinations into Google Maps and click the “avoid highways” option. Many GPS units also have this option. I like to alter the routes by clicking on the map to make points, and dragging them to neighborhoods I want to include. Generally, I have found that there is an old State or U.S. road that will provide a direct route, and pass through historic downtown cores. Using the maps, I also investigate areas that are natural locations for historic places. In addition to old major roads, look for waterways and railroad tracks, such resources were natural places for unique industries and neighborhoods to develop.

Really, Google is Your Friend!

Before you visit a community, it is a good idea to see what places it values. I will often review my map and do an image or web search on the communities I plan to drive through. This may reveal places that are less obvious to a passerby, and will often cue you in on places to stop. For instance, I would not have found the William G. Thompson House and Gardens in Hudson, Michigan were it not for a Google search. The house is located several blocks off the main drag, and I would have missed it entirely were I not intentional.

Review Online Databases and Local Organizations

Block of buildings in the Old Town Historic District, Lansing, Michigan. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Block of buildings in the Old Town Historic District, Lansing, Michigan. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Databases are helpful in finding properties that have been designated. The National Parks Service has an online database that includes properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. However, that website is currently out of commission and is soon to be updated. In the meantime, you can download a spreadsheet with all of the National Register listings. If that is too much of a hassle, I have found that Wikipedia usually has a reliable list of National Register listed properties, entered by county. By searching the community name and “historic preservation” or “history” the search usually turns up locally designated historic districts, or historic societies, which generally include broad range of places.

Bring a Camera, Share Your Photos

One of my most popular #michiganplacesmatter photos, received over 100 likes on Instagram.

One of my most popular #michiganplacesmatter photos, received over 100 likes on Instagram

This last step is not mandatory, but preferred. If you find a great farmstead, or downtown streetscape, or manufacturing center on your trip, share it with the world! Upload your photo to social media, and use the hashtag #michiganplacesmatter to raise awareness of the beautiful places across Michigan. Your experiences will inspire others to seek out the beauty in historic places within their own town, and even travel to our beautiful state.

Now that you’re equipped with a methodology, get off that highway and explore! To view the previous road trips of myself and others, search #michiganplacesmatter on any social media source. If you have a particular place you want shared, you can contribute to this blog, email your entry to: mhpncommunications@gmail.com.

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A thank you …

To my mentors and the Michigan Architecture Foundation

As a young child, I grew up in a neighborhood surrounded by several acres of wooded space and wetlands, and I spent many hours hiking, riding my bike and building forts, enjoying the solitude of exploring on my own. One day, a majority of the property was sold to a development company and new condominiums and parking lots took the place of my childhood woodland escape.

I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have an appreciation for the environment around me and a need to preserve it in whatever way I could, so it’s no surprise that I gravitated toward a career in architecture and preservation.

Cody at work on the Kimball House Porch

Cody at work on the Kimball House Porch

In high school, I enrolled in a construction course at the Calhoun Area Career Center, where we built a house from the ground up. During this time, the CACC received a grant from the MHPN which allowed students to work on a variety of side projects, with an emphasis on the preservation trades to be overseen by local architect, Randy Case. Under his guidance and with the help of the MHPN grant, we worked together on the Kimball House Porch Project. This was my first exposure to historical renovation and under Randy’s mentoring, I learned many important skills; historic details, code compliance, and became familiar and competent in using the CAD software, Revit. When the school year came to an end, Randy hired me as an intern to work in his office, where six years later, I still remain.

Cody at the Potter Block, home of Architecture+Design

Cody at the Potter Block, home of Architecture+Design

Having had an early, supportive mentor in Randy, I realized how important it was going to be to surround myself with passionate, professional co-workers. That’s why I pursued work at Quinn Evans Architects during my senior year of undergrad. While there, I worked on many diverse projects; from the east steps of the Capitol building to a multilevel housing project in Detroit. Again, I was fortunate to work with passionate, professional, detail-oriented people who motivated and mentored me to new professional levels.

John Quincy Adams was quoted as saying, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the “leaders” in my life. I am extremely grateful to them, the MHPN, and the AIA Michigan President’s scholarship for the opportunity it affords me in pursuing my professional goals and ambitions. I look forward to a future which includes getting married this summer, finishing graduate school at the University of Michigan, and continuing to work with professional architects to preserve Michigan’s unique architecture.

With gratitude,
Cody M. Newman


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Law & Sausage…

The Frederick Group logo

October 2014

There’s an old adage about watching law and sausage being made. “You never want to watch law or sausage being made. If you have to pick one, pick sausage.” More often than not, what you begin with is very different than the end results.

Earlier this year, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger began an effort to examine all taxing authorities centered on tax increment financing or TIF. There were anecdotal stories of local authorities using TIF funds for various things. In fact, Brownstown Township, uses their TIF funds to fund their entire township fire and police operations.

Several meetings were held with authors of the original laws when they were enacted in the 1970s and 1980s. Those meetings considered the original intent of the TIF issue as well as more recently enacted laws.

Publication1As a result of the meetings, a 90+ page bill, House Bill 5856, was drafted to substantially reform TIF through additional transparency and reporting requirements, limit the spending abilities of authorities, and control the TIF authorities’ ability to capture revenue. The intent was to take a bold step and create a new TIF act which would incorporate all the various TIF laws under one master statute and repeal some outdated and unused TIF authorities.

After the summer recess, the Legislature returned in September for four weeks of scheduled session. Upon release of the draft bill, numerous groups lined up both in support and opposition to the bill. Rep. Eileen Kowall, the sponsor of the bill, indicated that the bill was a work in progress and that more changes should be expected.

After numerous stakeholders, including MHPN, shared their views with Rep. Kowall, the proposed bill was dramatically scaled back to about 30 pages and only impacted downtown development authorities (DDAs). The new bill retained several transparency requirements from the original draft as well as allowing some local units of government to opt out of the TIF provisions.

MHPN has offered several amendments which address the impact of blight. Rather than focus on demolition, MHPN has suggested that mitigation of the blight be accomplished through rehabilitation. Our amendments have been adopted.

In addition, House Commerce Committee Chair Frank Foster has indicated that he will support incorporating Senate Bills 21 & 22 into HB 5856. Recall that Senate Bills 21 & 22 protect historic properties in Downtown Development Authority districts from improper demolition and codify the State Historic Preservation Office.

All of this is likely to change as HB 5856 will continue to undergo revisions and amendments. What will not change is that MHPN will monitor the legislation, advocate for historic preservation, and be the recognized voice for historic preservation in Michigan. We will continue to update you on changes to the legislation.

As the old saying goes, “You never want to watch law or sausage being made. If you have to pick one, pick sausage.”

Please remember to vote on November 4th and support candidates who care about bringing new life to Michigan’s 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
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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Barbeques and the Ballot Box…

The Frederick Group logo


The summer is a wonderful time to enjoy all that Michigan has to offer including its rich historic heritage! Families are flooding the ferries to travel to the breathtaking Mackinaw Island, driving around Belle Isle for a nice view and the city as well as watching a family movie in their local historic theater.

While families are doing all of those things and more, the Michigan Legislature has started their summer recess. Legislators will likely be out campaigning and meeting with their constituents until session resumes in the fall.

This year is going to be an important election year for all levels of government because everything is up for election. August 5th is the Primary Election and the November 4th is the General Election. Some Incumbent legislators have primary challengers, there are open seats with no incumbent that are being hotly contested and everyone is patiently waiting to see who will come out on top in the August 5th Primary Election.

At the Federal level, one of Michigan’s U.S. Senate seats is up for the taking. U.S. Senator Carl Levin is retiring and Republican Terri Lynn Land, the former Secretary of State, or Democratic Congressman Gary Peters will fill his shoes. Currently, it is a tight race in the polls but is showing that Peters has the lead. Michigan’s 14 U.S. House seats will all be contested by both parties as well.

At the State level, Republican Governor Snyder is being challenged by Democrat Mark Schauer. Their main focus will be winning the November General election. That race is fairly close as well, but is showing that incumbent Governor Snyder has the lead.

The Michigan House and Senate races are all underway too. There are many hotly contested races all over the state. The Frederick Group has scheduled dates all throughout this summer where we will be out volunteering for numerous candidates. These volunteer days build new friendships and strengthen
our relationships with the existing legislators for MHPN’s benefit.

This fall is expected to be an important time for Historic Preservation. MHPN, along with the Frederick Group, will be pushing our agenda in Lansing to benefit historic preservation. One part of our fall agenda, Senate Bills 21 & 22, will be to enact these two bills that will protect historic properties in Downtown Development Authority districts from improper demolition and codify the State Historic Preservation Office.

As you are enjoying that summer barbeque, reflecting on the beauty of Mackinac Island, and visiting your local historic theater, please remember to vote on August 5th so we can help elect candidates who care about bringing new life to Michigan’s 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 would like to volunteer with the MHPN public policy committee, have any questions or 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: www.facebook.com/frederickgroup
Follow us on Twitter: @Mfrederick19

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Thank You Jackson!

2014_MHPN_Brochure FINAL tinyThis is a public “thank you” to the community of Jackson, Michigan, where the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) presented its 34th Annual Statewide Preservation Conference on Wednesday through Saturday, May 14-17, 2014. Titled “Michigan Places Matter: Discovering How Your Community’s Cultural Resources Can Make Your Placemaking Unique,” Jackson was a great setting for our discussion. Located at the intersection of major Native American trails and later the junction of major railroads, it became a center of industry, culture, and noteworthy architecture that today makes it a “place that matters.” The conference was superb and we had a great time!

With 34 conferences under our belts held in 23 different communities, we can tell you that the conference was a solid success from every perspective – overall turnout, sessions, tours, networking, Twilight Tour, Keynote Address, Awards Ceremony, Saturday Historic District Commissioner Training, and so much more.

Dean Anderson - Don Weir - Bart Hawley 9

While the conference is the largest educational gathering for Michigan preservationists each year, let’s talk first about the economics of the conference. Did you notice that JTV provided year-long coverage of our development of the program, giving us a chance to attract our audience? Did you see that our participants began arriving on Wednesday before the conference and that some stayed afterwards to “Make it a Jackson Weekend”? On Thursday, did you happen to be looking when our participants spilled out the doors of our conference headquarters – the Commonwealth Commerce Center – to buy lunch downtown, or that on Friday, the MHPN name was up on the marquee of the Michigan Theatre where our annual awards ceremony was held?


A modest estimate of the dollars infused into the local economy by these activities is based on the MHPN’s $16,000 spent directly in town multiplied by three, or $48,000. And that doesn’t account for people who stayed at other that the Country Inn & Suites, our conference hotel, or went out for dinner, shopped, and enjoyed a nightcap.

Beyond dollars spent, the success of the conference was reflected by the number of people who participated. We started Wednesday night with 100 guests gathered at The Ella Sharp for our Annual VIP Reception for local dignitaries, MHPN donors, elected officials, local conference planners, and the MHPN’s leadership and staff. There were 168 enthusiastic conference-goers registered for Thursday’s programming during the day and the early evening’s Vendors’ Showcase, with over 30 of them taking the guided walking tour at twilight, “The Heart of Jackson’s Downtown.” Plenty stayed for the pub crawl that followed!

Leaving center on walking tour

On Friday, 166 registered for the day’s programming. The day was highlighted by our keynote speaker, Elizabeth Blazevich, Director of the Center for Design and the City at the American Architectural Foundation in Washington, DC. Her presentation – titled “Design and Cultural Heritage: Instilling Value in the Places that Matter” – not only amplified our conference theme but, coming from a professional with strong Midwestern ties, struck familiar chords with the 90 guests gathered in the sanctuary of St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church to hear her. Friday evening was capped off by the 23rd Annual MHPN Awards Reception and Ceremony with131 guests gathered at the Michigan Theatre of Jackson, your absolutely wonderful “Spanish Palace” on Mechanic Street!Tibbits Opera House image of Jackson Theatre

When duplicates are removed, we had 348 people participate in conference activities; 66 were from Jackson, or the Jackson area, equaling 19% of the total. How does the total of 348 compare to recent years? Having the 5th largest turnout the MHPN has had to-date, the gathering in Jackson is only surpassed by Flint in 2012 with 389 participants, Marquette in 2013 with 382, Ann Arbor in 2010 with 360, and Dearborn in 2008 with 352. With 31 Michigan counties represented in Jackson – or 37% of the state’s 83 counties – the top five groups of participants registered specifically for our sessions and tours included Wayne County with 53 participants, Ingham and Washtenaw with 46 each, Jackson with 40, and Oakland with 28. Included were participants from all quadrants of the Lower Peninsula as well as from Marquette and Houghton in the U.P. From out-of-state, we had registrants from our Midwest neighbors – Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin – and also from Washington D.C. and Colorado. The MHPN realizes that this audience is still not fully recovered from the recession. Appropriately, we kept registration costs at their 2008 level for yet another year, offered almost a dozen scholarships, and invited volunteers to receive deeply discounted registration in return for their services.

Friday Lunch & Mayor Welcome-0176 (7)_small

Finally, it is important to note that our educational programming at the conference remained exceptional. An indication of this was that almost every element of the Jackson program was accredited for continuing education credits by the American Institute of Architects, the American Institute of Certified Planners, and the MSU Master Citizen Planner Program. From Mayor Jason Smith’s “Welcome” during which he shared with our participants that “Looking to, and saving, the past is something that our city is committed to, to ensure our continued success into the future;” to sessions with titles as varied as “Claire Allen: A Regional Architect Based in Jackson,” “Reviving an Unusual Building Type: The Prison,” “The Myths and Musts of Working with Your Old House,” “Michigan Modern,” and “The Hidden World of the Archaeological Laboratory;” to tours that explored the churches, parks, and railroad history of Jackson, the intellectual content of the conference remained strong.

Friday CCRG Archaeology Session-0343 (35)_small

All in all, we found the residents of Jackson warm and hospitable and we all were impressed by the visual richness of Jackson’s wonderful downtown, its public and religious buildings, its engaging, walkable residential neighborhoods, and more. We applaud the City’s citizens and leaders for working to keep this exceptional building stock intact and vital for the entire state to enjoy.

You can bet we are singing your praises and will return soon!

Janet L. Kreger 2014 Conference Co-Manager
(with Co-Manager Elaine Robinson, a proud Jackson resident)
Michigan Historic Preservation Network


Photos courtesy of Amanda Davis Photography, Amara Frontczak, Elaine H. Robinson, and Tibbits Opera House
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