Nearly 30 people gathered in the historic Will Carleton Poorhouse Oct. 22 to celebrate the restoration and preservation of homes and barns in the surrounding area.
Mary Foulke, who has been a board member of the Hillsdale County Historical Society for about 15 years, is responsible for finding the buildings and presented each of the awards.
“I love when it all comes together tonight and you hear all of the stories, it makes me wish I could have seen these things in person,” Foulke said.
Waldron Grain and Fuel received the first award of the night. Joel Rufenacht said the original building was a depot and stop on the railroad. Rufenacht said the depot began a passenger train service around 1887.
“The original depot, as far as I know, was built sometime between 1887 and 1910, and we believe the original one burnt down in July of 1910, so this one should date sometime after July 1910.”
Rufenacht said his grandfather purchased the building sometime around 1950 or 1951; he does not have the deed stating the exact year. In addition to the building, Rufenacht said his family purchased the whole right-of-way for one mile out of bankruptcy.
Now, the building is used to store seed, but Rufenacht said there was a time when the biggest business was the coaling yard. Rufenacht said the coaling yard was on both sides of the grain elevator.
“I remember when I was younger, we would get in loads of coal right up until about 1975, but nothing like what they used to,” Rufenacht said. “I mean they used to get in 50 or 60 cars a year and it was a lot of effort to unload them by hand.”
The Walworth Home, owned by Tom Walworth in Hillsdale, also received an award. Walworth said the home was originally built in 1858, and he purchased it in 1985 for his family. Walworth said he began restoration in 1990. However, a decade later Walworth said the the old boiler failed and he had to restart the restoration process.
“I came home from Christmas shopping, and the whole house looked like a giant greenhouse,” Walworth said. “There was wallpaper peeling off, water running out of the chandeliers, so that necessitated the entire house to be renovated at once, and that was finished about 2005.”
Two years later, Walworth said he had to overcome another obstacle in the restoration process.
“We had lightning strike the house in 2006, and the house caught on fire,” Walworth said. “Fortunately, it didn’t do a lot of damage, just burned a hole through the roof, and the fire department was able to get it under control with some assistance from the local citizens.”
After the lightning strike, Walworth said he redid and repainted all of the ceilings.
“It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of work, but like any old house, it never really ends,” Walworth said.
In addition to celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary, Bill and Elsie Hayward received an award for their centennial Hayward Farm. Bill Hayward said the farm has been in constant work from the 1870s to the present day. Although the farm has had beef cattle and hogs in the past, Bill Hayward said it is currently a grain farm.
Bill Hayward originally planned to pass down the farm to his son. Unfortunately, his son died when he was just 17 years old in a farming accident. Now, Bill Hayward plans on passing down the farm to his daughter. The Haywards welcome many young people from all over the world to help with the work on their farm.
“We’ve had multiple young people work for us over the years, and there not just our employees, they’re our family,” Elsie Hayward said.
One summer, the Haywards hosted a young woman from Brazil.
“The woman from Brazil got married here, three or four years ago, and invited us to the wedding,” Bill Hayward said. “I ended up escorting her down the aisle as her father.”
In addition to the these awards, the Grosvenor House Museum in Jonesville received an award last year, but was not able to attend to the ceremony. Members of the Grosvenor House Museum Association attended this year’s ceremony to talk about the history of the Grosvenor House Museum.
Ann Johnson, a member of the Grosvenor House Museum said Ebeneezer Oliver Grover hired Elijah E. Myers to built the five bedroom mansion for him and his wife, Sally Ann, between 1872 and 1874.
“The house is an Italianette irregular, meaning it does not have a cupola on top,” Johnson said. “It was years ahead of its time with central heating, indoor plumbing and flushed toilets. Carbide gas provided light in the wall lamps and chandeliers.”
In addition to these unique features, Johnson said the house has 12 foot ceilings and eight hand-carved, marble fireplaces. Johnson said the house cost $37,500 to build and the workers were paid 8 cents an hour and worked 12 hour days.
“The home was in the Grosvenor family until the 1850s and it went through a series of owners, and was used as an apartment house, and then again as a private residence,” Johnson said.
The house became a museum in 1976 and now offers private tours, special events, and open houses throughout the year.
Another historical home, the Harper House in Somerset, earned Craig and Deborah Bos an award. Although the Bos could not attend the award ceremony, Foulke provided information about the house.
According to Foulke, the Harper House was built in 1883 and then sold to Bos in 2009. Foulke said the house sat empty for 20 years prior to 2009. While all of the original woodwork was still intact, Foulke said the Bos had to rewire the electrical system and redo the plumbing.
“Being a teacher, I think history gets pushed to the side, and it’s just so important to realize where you come from to where you’re going,” Foulke said.