The Mitchell Research Center’s old building might look newer inside and out, if it receives funding from the city and historic grants.
The Mitchell center is the light purple building on Manning Street next to the Hillsdale Community Library and has suffered water damage and weathering over the years.
The plaster ceilings in the Mitchell Building are in need of repair. after some water radiators leaked into the wood and plaster, said Bonnie McCosh, the center’s vice president. The ceiling in the ballroom on the third floor need to be repaired or changed, she said.
“There’s no way to replicate this kind of plaster design,” McCosh said while pointing out the intricate designs on the ceiling. “It’s very difficult — most old buildings like this have lath and plaster, and that’s kind of hard to repair unless the person knows what they’re doing.”
The original designs were created by Italian artisans, but the beauty is also the problem that the city is now trying to tackle.
“The ceilings aren’t drywall, they’re plaster,” David Mackie, Hillsdale City Manager said. “The third floor plaster are ceilings are coming down.”
The capital improvement portion of the 2018 – 2019 proposed budget details the city’s plan to fix the ceilings: “The complete stripping and replacing of the aging materials is planned, replacing the old plaster/lathe [sic] ceiling with new drywall and a fresh coat of paint.”
The proposed budget will also allow change the way the exterior looks, but it also serves to keep the house in tact. Mackie said that the some of the outside structure such as the siding and the underside of the eaves are rotting and in need of repair.
“The exterior of the building has several areas where the wood has rotted due to exposure to weather conditions,” the capital improvement section continues. “These areas will be repaired/replaced and a complete repainting of the exterior wood siding, soffit and fascia is planned.”
The Center is also waiting to hear back from evaluators about whether it would be feasible to strip the paint off the building to expose the yellow brick underneath, McCosh said. The Center is also exploring the possibility of historic grants to pay for that process.
The city council is scheduled to take the proposed budget to a vote early next month.
The house has quite a history, and it continues to help other uncover their own history.
Charles T. Mitchell began construction of the house in 1868 and finished it the next year, according to Hillsdale’s walking tour pamphlet. The house was left in a will to the city, and in 1908, the building became the Mitchell Public Library.
It has since come to house the Mitchell Research Center, whose purpose is to “make collected and donated research records and materials relative to genealogical, historical and archival subjects available; to provide needed or requested assistance to the public; and to continue indexing and compiling research materials for Hillsdale County and beyond,” according to Hillsdale Community Library website.