Archived Story

Restoration starts at Bonine House

Published 11:59pm Monday, November 7, 2011

VANDALIA — Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC) announces restoration of the southwest corner of the original 1840s Greek Revival portion of the James E. Bonine house at the corner of Penn Road and M-60 has begun.
Building Restoration Inc. of Kalamazoo is handling this technically difficult piece of the restoration project.
Tom Nehil of Nehil-Sivak, structural engineers, calls the task of supporting the second floor, while dismantling 12-inch thick brick walls of the first floor, as “more difficult than meets the eye. Shoring needs to be strong and secure enough to hold up the walls and roof safely while men work underneath and, at the same time be capable of raising the southwest corner back to level and gently easing the distorted west wall back to plumb.
“The age and deteriorated condition of the brick and stone make supporting this historic structure a delicate business, requiring careful consideration of conditions during the repair process.”
Mike Moroz, president of URSCC, describes the process as “temporarily supporting the upper portion of the corner by sandwiching the existing walls with steel beams and supporting them. Then comes the painstaking task of dismantling the crumbling walls, one brick at a time, and removing the foundation.
“Next is reconstructing the foundation and rebuilding the brick walls, using original salvaged brick along with mortar and methods of masonry construction appropriate to the historic nature of the Bonine house, while leveling the first and second floors. When completed, the facade will be restored to a stable condition and close to its 1870s appearance.”
Experts determined the Bonine house was constructed during two different eras.  The original house was built in the mid-1840s as a simple four-room Greek Revival common to this area. After the Civil War, the house underwent extensive remodeling in the Second Empire style, popular in Paris between 1860 and 1880, adding the tower with its mansard roof and an addition to the back that included the dining room, kitchen and parlor downstairs as well as four bedrooms upstairs.
Work on the southwest corner is projected to be complete by the end of the year.
Subsequent phases include exterior masonry repair, restoration of the tower, re-roofing the house and structural repair and restoration of the 1850s Gothic Revival carriage house at the corner of M-60 and Calvin Center Road.
Bonine house will become a UGRR education and community events center. The carriage house will be used as a museum and education center as well as a community events location. Both buildings will act as focal points for UGRR activity.
in the area, attracting UGRR enthusiasts from around the world. There is a self-guided tour available at the historic marker in Milo Barnes Park in Vandalia.
Moroz notes that funding for these restoration projects is being sought from a variety of sources and asks everyone to become a part of the legacy of the Bonine house and carriage house.
Tax-deductible donations can be sent by mail to URSCC, P.O. Box 124, Vandalia MI  49095 or donate online at www.urscc.org. URSCC can be contacted at (269) 445-7358.

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