Governor recognizes Old Rugged Cross church preservationPublished 9:04pm Thursday, April 4, 2013
Gov. Rick Snyder Thursday announced Pokagon’s Old Rugged Cross church restoration as one of six 2013 Michigan historic preservation awards.
Awards will be presented at 9 a.m. May 1 in the Capitol rotunda.
There will be a delegation to accept the award, including Bob and Molly Shaffer, Berrien Springs contractor Dale Layman, Pokagon Township Supervisor Linda Preston and Pokagon Band Chairman Matt Wesaw.
A Pokagon Fund grant is helping develop a museum.
The 15-year church restoration has been going on longer than the award program instituted in 2003 by the State Historic Preservation Office, part of MSHDA, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
Awards recognize outstanding historic preservation achievements reflecting a commitment to preservation of Michigan’s unique character and the many cultural resources that document Michigan’s past.
“We’re not really sure how we got it,” Molly Shaffer said, “but we’re really excited.”
Shaffers bought the church between Dowagiac and Niles in July 1998 before it collapsed. Built 151 years ago in 1862 as a hops barn, it became a church in 1876.
The Old Rugged Cross Foundation formed as a multi-denominational, non-profit corporation which owns and manages the privately-funded restoration of the landmark placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Two years after the Rev. George Bennard of Albion debuted the hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross,” during a revival visit, the building was bought by a farmer who removed the sanctuary floor and moved in livestock.
Shaffer said they became aware they were being considered in December and have been sitting on the news for about a month until the governor’s official announcement.
“The projects we recognize demonstrate the difference historic preservation makes in our communities,” Snyder said. “The rehabilitation and reuse of existing buildings — particularly in our cities — is vital to spurring economic development and preserving a sense of place.”
Previous recipient projects include private residences whose owners used state historic preservation tax credits, the rehabilitation of the Ottawa Street Power Station in Lansing; the excavation and study of the Riley Mammoth Site in Ionia County by the University of Michigan; the rehabilitation of De Tour Reef Lighthouse; the rehabilitation of the Richter Brewery in Escanaba; and window rehabilitation workshops taught by the Michigan Historic Preservation Network.
“Preserving our historic and archaeological sites takes hard work and collaboration,” MSHDA Executive Director Scott Woosley said. “Each of the six teams of people being recognized this year demonstrated outstanding commitment to doing everything right and to working together to make good things happen.”
In fact, the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon (Old Rugged Cross Church) and Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater were singled out for “representing years of effort by local citizens to raise money and volunteers to restore significant buildings in their communities.”
“Each year, the Governor’s Award program gives us an opportunity to recognize and thank just some of the people responsible for preserving Michigan’s rich cultural heritage,” said State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway. “The projects we recognize are merely a fraction of the work being done throughout Michigan to preserve historic buildings and archaeological sites and transform communities.”
• Ferris State University and its Kendall College of Art and Design, Christman Capital
Development Co., the Christman Co., TowerPinkster Architects, Hopkins
Burns Design Studio and the City of Grand Rapids for the rehabilitation of the U.S.
Federal Building (Kendall College of Art and Design), Grand Rapids.
• The Old Rugged Cross Foundation Inc., D. Layman Construction Co. and the
Community of Pokagon Township, for the restoration of the First Methodist
Episcopal Church of Pokagon (Old Rugged Cross Church), Pokagon Township, Cass
• Tibbits Opera Foundation and Arts Council Inc., Tom Roberts, Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.,
Grand River Builders Inc. and the Greater Coldwater Community for restoration of
Tibbits Opera House, Coldwater.
• Glenn D. and Jeanine Head Miller for rehabilitating the Milton and Kittie Geer
House, Superior Township, Washtenaw County
• Neighborhood Service Organization; Fusco, Shaffer and Pappas; O’Brien Edwards
Construction; and Kidorf Preservation Consulting for rehabilitating the Michigan
Bell and Western Electric Warehouse (NSO Bell Building), Detroit.
• The Detroit Land Bank Authority for demonstrating a true understanding of the value of
historic preservation through NSP2 rehabilitations it completed in Detroit historic
Dowagiac Daily News