It is hard to believe that it was over a week ago that the 31st Annual Michigan Historic Preservation Network conference ended. Our host communities of Saugatuck and Douglas were incredibly gracious and our attendance rivaled that of our conference just last year in the much larger community of Ann Arbor.
Attendees joined educational sessions following the conference theme of Just Add Water, a natural given our Lake Michigan shore location. But, we certainly were not limited by location. The topic was expanded to locations across the state with sessions on Fishtown in Leland, and a housing project in Detroit that has used recycled rainwater in interesting ways. There was a session on the Modern Architecture of West Michigan, and another about a sustainable early 19th-century landscape in Lake Orion. George Heartwell, Mayor of Grand Rapids, presented the keynote address, sharing his perspective on current Michigan political activities and reminding us that, in the end, it is each locality’s responsibility to steward its natural resources, its economy, and its people to the best of its ability.
Conference attendees visited venues such as the Felt Estate, where our VIP reception for over 100 guests was held, and the rehabilitated pie factory, currently known as the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, where most of our conference activity took place. There were field trips that included the Saugatuck Douglas Historical Society History Museum, The Pump House (complete with a new show mounted in time for the conference), and another trip that included a stop at the magnificent Douglas Union School, a second museum location for the S-D Historical Society. Walking tours, trolley tours, boat tours, and even rides on the Chain Ferry were all available for conference goers. A lucky few participants even had a guided tour of the nearby Presbyterian Camps, where a sign situated near the front entrance repurposed the familiar “Watch for Pedestrians” to “Watch for Presbyterians.”
A perennial favorite for the conference, well, at least my perennial favorite, the MHPN Annual Awards, took on a special flair this year when a large number of the local community joined us to celebrate the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to hometown favorite, Dr. James Schmiechen. Of course, the other Lifetime winners, Michael Quinn, principal at Quinn Evans Architects and Dr. John Halsey, immediate past Michigan State Archaeologist, were not to be outdone either. Presentations for tax credit projects, citizens, communities and governments, cultural landscapes, and preservation gems were all made – watch for more on our award winners soon!
There was an unexpected twist this year at the award presentation – when the tables were turned on MHPN. Early in the evening, Park Smith, A.I.A., announced MHPN was the recipient of the David Evans Memorial Preservation Award presented by the Clannad Foundation and Michigan Architectural Foundation. The grant will support MHPN’s current efforts to purchase, rehabilitate, and relocate our headquarters into the Thelma Joyce Osteen Comfort Station in Old Town Lansing.
In fact, if you too want to support MHPN in this effort, you can cast your vote for us in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Community Challenge! The Challenge will run from 8:00 am June 1st through 5:00 pm June 30th and with the top three vote getters receiving $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000 respectively. Our goal is first place, but we need a lot of votes for this to happen. Oh, and you can only vote one time per email address – so help us spread the word. To vote, you can click here or go to the NTHP Challenge page and look for us on the interactive map.
Thank you, Saugatuck and Douglas, for a great conference, and thank you, Michigan, for your Challenge Votes!
Elaine H. Robinson
Immediate Past President