Efforts to save historic building at Orchard Beach State Park receive Governor’s Award

What’s happening: When you think about Michigan state parks, architecture isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. Forests, bluffs, and beaches, yes. Camping sites and winter and water sports? You betcha. Architecture and design? Not so much. But architecturally significant buildings can be found just about anywhere, including, yes, Michigan’s state parks. Efforts to save one such building from potential ruin, the Shelter Building at Orchard Beach State Park in Manistee County, were recognized at the 19th annual Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation on May 5. The relocation and restoration of the Shelter Building took home the award, along with six other historic preservation efforts across the state.

What it is: Built on the bluffs of Lake Michigan at Orchard Beach State Park in 1947, the Shelter Building is considered one of “the finest examples of rustic park architecture found in Michigan’s state parks,” according to the State Historic Preservation Office. Unfortunately, part of the building’s appeal — its perch atop the bluffs, overlooking Lake Michigan — also threatened its very existence. Changing water levels, erosion, and slope failure combined for a precarious situation for the Shelter Building and the Department of Natural Resources decided to move the historic structure in 2020.

On the move: At the end of 2020, officials moved the Shelter Building 1,200 feet back from its original location, cataloging the historic limestone to rebuild terraces and breezeways. Additions include a new foundation, utility services, and ADA-compliant bathrooms.

Why it’s important: “Historic resources and archaeological sites tell us about the past and help us define Michigan’s unique identity,” says Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Martha MacFarlane-Faes. “Their preservation is vital to Michigan’s present and future as they contribute to vibrant communities and our understanding of the past.”

Winners’ circle: In addition to the relocation of the Shelter Building at Orchard Beach State Park, winners of the 2022 Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation include the Crapo Building rehabilitation in downtown Bay City; rehabilitation of the Thompson Block in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town; efforts to preserve Fishtown in Leland; redevelopment of the Old-Merchants Bank and Trust Company in Battle Creek; stewardship of the Alpha House in Detroit; and stewardship of the Kalamazoo State Theatre in Kalamazoo.