2009-12-12 / Top News

Hubbard’s Annex Plans Move Forward

By Karen Gould

A unique Mackinac Island summer cottage community, Hubbard's Annex, is on the way to earning protected status as residents seek to have the area designated a local historic district. A public hearing Tuesday afternoon, December 8, at Community Hall drew no opposition and little public comment, other than one resident who expressed support. According to the committee studying the issue, support among residents is virtually universal.

Over the last two years, property owners have worked toward the designation and in August, a preliminary report that addresses the historic significance of the area was submitted to the state.

"In looking at all of the Department of Interior materials to guide us in drafting this preliminary report, they contain a number of samples of historic districts around the country, including summertime communities," said Dan Shea, chairman of the Hubbard's Annex Study Committee. "What was very impressive to me was that there was nothing in the United States that I saw in all of these publications that came close to Hubbard's Annex in its preservation and in its natural beauty."

On the west bluff of Mackinac Island, Hubbard's Annex is approximately 50 acres, extending from Annex Road down to the shoreline. To the north is the Elliot and Rita Sue Cohen property and to the south is state park land on which the West Bluff cottages are built.

Some homes in the community have remained in the same family for more than 80 years. Many of the narrow Annex streets have never been paved, and some have disappeared into the lawns of property owners. There are no curbs or sidewalks.

Seventy-six homes, barns, parks, and geological formations make up the proposed district. Of those, 60, or nearly 80%, are more than 50 years old and considered historic. Some of the Island's geographic landmarks are in the Annex, including Pontiac's Lookout, Lovers Leap, and Devil's Kitchen. Only four houses and one radio and television tower there don't contribute to the Island's National Historic Landmark designation.

Along with its natural beauty, the area has a rich history among its residents. The land was granted by the government to Ambrose Davenport, a veteran of the War of 1812, who developed it as a potato farm. He sold the property in 1855 to Gurdon Hubbard, who figured prominently in the development of Chicago, and who platted the Mackinac Island property for a summer cottage community.

Early residents included U.S. Senator Francis Stockbridge, who later co-founded the Mackinac Island Hotel Company, which built Grand Hotel in 1887. Later, William R. Day, a former U.S. Secretary of State and later a Supreme Court Justice, was a resident. He died on the Island in 1923.

About 20 people attended the hearing Tuesday, including Annex resident Cordie Puttkammer, who publicly stated her support for the district's formation. The city has received no other comments on the proposed district, said Mayor Margaret Doud, who attended the meeting.

The city, however, had received three inquiries for a copy of the study committee's preliminary report, said zoning administrator Dennis Dombroski.

Public hearing comments are required to be incorporated into the study committee's final report, which is due within one year of the public hearing, said Mr. Shea. When the report is complete, the city then can adopt or reject the establishment of Hubbard's Annex as a local historic district. If adopted, at the same time, a Historic District Commission must be appointed. The study committee is expected to make recommendations to the city on commission candidates.

"Everyone in the Annex is behind the effort," said Mr. Shea following the hearing. "They don't view it as a threat or a limitation on the ability of homeowners to take care of their property.

"Our whole thing is preservation of Hubbard's Annex. I like looking out from my house knowing that for 40 years, it really hasn't changed much, but every place else I go in the country, there's change. It's nice to go to a place where things are basically still the same. I want to preserve that."

After the hearing, Woodbluff resident Chuck Kleber said he supports the group's efforts.

"They will be a splendid example for the rest of the Island of what can be done," he said. "The Annex is providing education in the form of a realworld example."

In October, the city adopted a Historic District Ordinance, which enables the city to designate an area as a local historic district. Hubbard's Annex is on the way to becoming the city's first.

"If this is passed," said committee member Dan Wightman, "it will be unique to Hubbard's Annex. Now will it grow more than that? That's yet to be seen."

Committee members used the Island's application for its National Historic Landmark designation as a resource in their preparation of the preliminary report.

The Hubbard's Annex study committee members include Chris Straus, Melissa Straus, Lorna Straus, Shannon Schueller, Rosalie Roush, Mr. Shea, and ad hoc member Mr. Wightman, who is an alderman and on the city's planning commission.

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