2013-04-13 / Top News

Community, City of Mackinac Island Earn Awards for Historic Districts

By Martha Stuit

Community collaboration and the City of Mackinac Island’s involvement in educating citizens during the efforts to establish historic districts earned Mackinac Island two awards from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. MHPN will bestow the Michigan Historic Preservation Network 2013 Government/Institution Award and 2013 Community Award to Mackinac Island at a ceremony Friday, May 10, in Marquette during its annual conference.

The process to establish the historic districts is notable owing to the teamwork among community members and government officials, said Ruth Mills, chair of the awards committee of the MHPN board.

“Both [the city and community] came together to save the historic resources of the Island,” she told the Mackinac Island Town Crier.

A requirement for the awards is showing a positive impact on the community, said Ms. Mills. Mackinac Island’s endeavor not only established the districts but also educated the community about protecting historic buildings.

“We thought [the education process] was a good model,” Ms. Mills said.

The awards are monumental, said Nancy May of Mackinac Island, who sat on the Historic District Study Committee that recommended in October 2012 that the city adopt the districts.

“The more [community members] understand about it, the more they understand that it is a good thing for Mackinac Island,” Ms. May said.

The districts serve to protect Mackinac Island’s history and its appeal to tourists by regulating any changes to buildings in them. The restrictions keep Mackinac Island’s heritage alive, according to Ms. May. Banning cars at the turn of the 20th century set the tone for Mackinac Island to thrive as a charming, historic place that is reminiscent of past eras.

“We are trying to preserve that,” Ms. May said.

She will accept the award on behalf of the community at the ceremony.

Mayor Margaret Doud will appoint someone to represent the city government in accepting its award.

Amy Arnold, preservation planner for the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), nominated the City of Mackinac Island for the government and institution award. She said the government, MHPN, SHPO, and community cultivated a partnership to found the districts. The city’s role was contributing money to bring historic preservation experts to the Island to speak, as well as educating the community, and as a result, “Preservation became more palatable to people,” she said.

Nan Taylor, historical preservation consultant and former field representative of MHPN, nominated the Mackinac Island for the community award and described the districts as “protective tools… to manage the change in the future.”

She agreed that the Island’s late-1800’s feel draws tourists, and historic buildings foster that atmosphere. Mrs. Taylor worked with the Island community starting in 2008.

“They were basically going through a process to preserve their historic resources and beginning to lose some of them. It was brought to our attention [at MHPN] that they wanted assistance with ways to educate the community in preserving these resources,” she said. “We worked jointly with them to try to educate them and assist.”

The community participated in educational workshops about historic standards and economic effects of historic districts. The survey of the downtown buildings and preservation standards were part of the three-year process. Also, numerous community members contributed to the initiative, including Anthony Trayser of Save Our Island, Ms. May, Kelly Bean, and Mike Hart, said Mrs. Taylor.

“I give them all a lot of credit,” she said of the people of the community.

Now, “Mackinac Island has been a treasured tourist destination for Midwesterners for many, many years,” Mrs. Taylor said. “They will protect it for many years now so that all of us can enjoy Mackinac Island.”

Particularly, the districts keep the uniqueness of the Island intact during development and upkeep and also allow people to adapt buildings for new uses, Ms. Mills explained.

“One of the things that people are talking about a lot these days are sense of place and placemaking,” she said.

Placemaking is about defining both what a location is and is not, Ms. Mills explained. For example, Mackinac Island is not composed of strip malls, and many of its buildings are long-standing hotels and tourist destinations.

Another condition for the award is adherence to the Secretary of Interior’s standards for the treatment of historic properties, which require rehabilitation work to be completed according to professional standards that preserve the historic character of buildings. For example, if a building has wood windows, the expectation is to restore those windows, not replace them with vinyl windows. The Downtown Mackinac Island Historic Guidelines serve to govern maintenance and improvements to buildings in the districts.

MHPN gives awards every year but not always in each of its seven categories. Nine awards will be bestowed this year in five categories. Five building awards, one citizen award, one community award, one government and institution award, and one tax credit award are among the honors.

The Delta Upsilon Fraternity House in Ann Arbor, Union Building in Calumet, Broderick Tower in Detroit, Neighborhood Service Organization Bell Building in Detroit, and Kendall College of Art and Design Old Federal Building in Grand Rapids will receive the building awards.

David Bardsley of Drummond Island is the recipient of the citizen award for his work on the De- Tour Reef Lighthouse. The tax credit award will go to the Metropolitan Center in Kalamazoo for using state and federal historic preservation tax credits.

Mackinac Island was the only place nominated for the government and institution award this year, and it competed with one other location for the community award, noted Ms. Mills.

Winners receive a plaque.

Ms. Mills has been on the MHPN board for four years and works with Quinn Evans Architects, a firm specializing in historic preservation, at its Ann Arbor location.

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