Ferry Street District in Niles receives $50K grant, one step closer to National Registry

What’s happening: Efforts to add the Ferry Street District in Niles to the National Register of Historic Places received a boost earlier this month, as the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office announced receiving a $50,000 grant from the Historic Preservation Fund. The $50,000 was awarded as part of that fund’s Underrepresented Community Grant program, which itself is administered by the National Park Service.

What it is: Established in 1846, the Ferry Street District is site to one of Michigan’s oldest Black communities. The eight-block neighborhood retains many of its original 19th century buildings and continues its legacy as a center for the Black community there. Historic sites include the Ferry Street School (1867); Second Baptist Church, which is now the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church (1849); the Franklin AME Church (1888); several historic homes throughout the neighborhood; and more.

Why it’s important: “The African American community in Niles is among the oldest in the state. The neighborhood continues to be a home and gathering place for this community, anchored by two churches, a masonic lodge and the Ferry Street School,” says Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Officer Mark A. Rodman. “This cultural history will resonate as part of the National Register nomination, which in turn will enable other benefits such as access to the new State Historic Preservation Tax Credit program.”

Next steps: The $50,000 grant from the Historic Preservation Fund will be used to hire a preservation consultant, who will then complete a survey of the district and submit its nomination to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

Progress in placemaking: “The Ferry Street area is rich in history and remains an active neighborhood with a church and resource center. The city’s Master Plan emphasizes history as a tool for revitalization,” says Christina H. Arseneau, director of the Niles History Center. “Documenting the untold stories here will contribute to pride of place for local residents and enhance placemaking efforts throughout the city of Niles.”