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The Hillsdale His­torical Society awarded Deb Wasnich with the restoration award award for pre­serving this log cabin, orig­i­nally built in 1837. | Facebook

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.