The Hillsdale County Historical Society held its 38th annual “Restoration, Preservation and Beautification Awards” on Oct. 28 at the Will Carleton Poorhouse, where the society celebrated three properties.
The historical society honored Deb Wasnich for the restoration of her 1800s log cabin, Hal and Beverly Bradstreet for the preservation of their John P. Cook barn, and Bob Kline for the beautification of his home.
The tradition of the award ceremony started in 1981. The process for deciding award recipients takes a whole year.
Board member Kathy Fowler was in charge of the project, and said the event is a way to recognize homeowners who take the time and effort to restore and preserve historical homes and barns in Hillsdale County.
“I think some other counties may have more substantial historic homes,” she said. “But our county certainly has a large number of homesteads that have been taken care of and people have preserved them over the years.”
The historical society allows anyone to nominate people in the county who have done something noticeable to their home to be considered for an award. The majority of entries, however, come from members driving around the county in search of unique property restoration and preservation.
There are 10 cities in Hillsdale County, which Fowler said is why the society actively encourage people to submit personal nominations.
Deb Wasnich’s home, which won the award for restoration, is an 1837 log cabin. The cabin had been covered with siding outside and drywall inside but, after a fire sparked by lightning, Deb Wasnich’s husband, Scott Wasnich wanted to rescue the square logs. In May 2001, they began building the cabin in another location with each log individually removed and transferred. By December of that year, the home was reconstituted without any additional nails.
The result is a one-room cabin that now serves as the Wasnich’s home, complete with the Keiser family’s wood stove from the 1900s.
Beverly Bradstreet said she has a strong appreciation for antiques, and her husband Hal Bradstreet is a forward-thinking engineer. Both were made to preserve historic buildings, their daughter Laurie Lapham said.
In the mid ’80s, a historic barn behind the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house on Hillsdale Street was going to be demolished. The house was part of the John P. Cook estate, one of the founders of the city of Hillsdale. Free Methodist Church owned the building but decided to expand, thus needing to dismantle or demolish the estate. The historical society asked the Bradstreets if they would be interested in saving the building because the society considers it to be the oldest standing barn in the county.
The Bradstreets, with their combined love for historic preservation and affinity for how to engineer structures for their best use, took over the project of moving the barn.
Hal Bradstreet engineered a plan to fit the barn on a separate property and hired Amish who specialize in moving buildings. With Hal Bradstreet’s guidance, they cut, moved, and reassembled the barn in a new location.
They have since put on a new metal roof that has lots of different valleys. Lapham said the roof is very intricate and beautiful. The only alterations they have made on the interior is removing a partition wall to host more people as they use the barn as a venue for events. Since the events often require a dance floor, they have also recently put in oak beams to support the upstairs, as well as a small, rustic bathroom. The barn did not require many renovations due to the precise movement of the barn.
The Bradstreets estimate the barn was built around the 1860s, around the same time the DSP house was built. The original estate included the DSP house, the little brick barn, and the Bradstreet’s carriage barn.
After 28 years since beginning the preservation project, Lapham said the award means a lot to her for her mom and dad’s sake. Her parents took on the barn to help preserve history, not only for themselves, but for the good of the community.
“People call it the jewel of Hillsdale County,” she said. “My parents had enough love to preserve it and that’s special to us.”
Fowler said she drives by the beautification winner every day.
Kline said his beautification process began in 2009 when he bought a run-down home in Hillsdale for a low price but was ready to put in significant time and effort to renovate the property. Kline painted it green at the city’s request, but he decided to repaint it orange this past summer.
Kline said he realized the house was built in 1929 after discovering newspapers stuffed between the floor joists with dates from that year. Kline said he’s now focused on updating the kitchen. Next he will work on the upper cabinets, one of which opens in both the kitchen and dining room.
In order to continue honoring people such as the Bradstreets, the society plans to continue the awards tradition as long as it can.
“It’s an incredible undertaking for our honorees,” historical society board member JoAnne Miller said. Although Fowler has only been a board member for the past few years, she said it is worthwhile to recognize people for their work.
“It has encouraged people to take pride in their historic homes or barns, to keep them up, to preserve them, and to try to beautify the property,” she said.