Friends of Ypsilanti's Freighthouse work to restore landmark

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."  -- Margaret Mead

Just such a small group is trying to make changes in Ypsilanti's Depot Town. The Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse are within a few grants (and about $400,000) of changing the local icon from a vacant, decaying structure to a symbol of resurgence.


"It's the heart and soul of the community," says Bonnie Penet, co-chair of the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse. "It's the one place the community gathers on a regular basis. The farmers market is there and our arts and crafts shows [too]. We voted there."


And it's been like that for decades since the 5,000-square-foot, red-brick structure was built in 1878. It was used a freighthouse for the Ypsilanti train station until right after World War II, when it was converted into warehouse.  In 1979 the city bought it and turned it into a community center, where it made the state Register of Historic Places in 1997.


The Freighthouse was closed in 2004 due to a couple of significant but not insurmountable issues. For instance, the west wall is bowing out and needs to be repaired. A deck attached to the building needs to be rebuilt and the surrounding property needs to be regraded to prevent future water damage. The floor also needs to be refurbished to eliminate trip hazards.


The small-but-growing group of residents is determined to save the building. A recent local benefit concert raised $3,000 and the group has secured a few major grants with more on the way. They are confident the building will be restored to its former glory sooner rather than later.


"We have the blueprints and everything to move forward," Penet says. "We need about $400,000 to open the doors."


Source: Bonnie Penet, co-chair of the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse
Writer: Jon Zemke

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