Buchanan on historic registerPublished 5:58pm Monday, May 28, 2012
Buchanan’s historic districts celebrated National Historic Preservation Month in a big way during its Memorial Weekend Un-Sanctioned festivities.
A large plaque on Front Street at Mill Alley was unveiled, with one side dedicated to Buchanan’s National Register Historic District and its Arts and Historic District.
While the two historic districts share some common areas they also have distinct differences. The National Register Historic District, according to the plaque, “has served as the city’s commercial, civic and cultural center since Buchanan’s 1830s founding, and includes properties from as early as the 1840s.” It tells of the great fire in 1862, which leveled half of the city’s mostly wooden buildings.
Several of the historic buildings in downtown now show off new bronze markers that tell of their importance to the city’s history.
The Arts and Historic District “was created in 2001 in recognition of downtown’s history as Buchanan’s cultural center, as well as its commercial and civic heart.”
The district includes the Tin Shop Theater, Pears Mill and Mill Race, the Common and Farmer’s Market, McCoy Creek Trail to the south and the Buchanan Art Center several blocks west.
Mayor Carla Cole served as emcee for the event and accepted a certificate of special tribute to the City of Buchanan from the State of Michigan, presented by Sen. John Proos’ representative, Adam Mensinger.
“Mill Alley, where we stand today, once provided horse-and-buggy access to several of Buchanan’s many mills, which played an important role in Buchanan’s early economy,” Cole said. “About 1914, we filled Mill Alley with a movie theater. In 1991, we re-opened Mill Alley recognizing that Pears Mill was an incredible community treasure. Today, Mill Alley again provides access to the mill.”
Former Berrien County commissioner and long-time Buchanan resident, Don Ryman, explained how the city’s original Historic District Study Committee was formed in 1973.
“In the late 1960s and early 1970s, some of us in Buchanan were concerned that our valuable architectural heritage, which was an important part of the persona of the community would unthinkingly be destroyed,” Ryman said.
A study was undertaken and historic sites documented.
“We were authorized to hire Jack Hobbs, a senior architecture student at Notre Dame University, to do a study of the historic architecture of Buchanan.”
Hobbs identified more than 750 historic buildings in Buchanan, taking pictures of them.
and sending them with information about each building to the State Historic Preservation Office in Lansing.
Several years ago, the city hired Pamela O’Connor, of Preservation Practices in Kalamazoo, to undertake the study that led the National Register Historic District on Sept. 2, 2009. On Nov. 11, 2011, again following O’Connor’s guidance and direction, a second district was listed in the National Register.
The Buchanan North & West Neighborhoods Historic District covers about 166 acres and holds 701 resources, including houses, barns, garages, several sacred and commercial properties, a park, street stairs and others. It has 23 different architectural styles and its construction dates range from the 1840s to the early 1960s.
Alan Robant, a Buchanan businessman, has spearheaded many of the efforts, which gained the city much of its historic recognition, and is now helping to organize residents of the newest district to get plaques similar to those marking downtown buildings for their homes.