Battle Creek

Fundraiser will help continue renovations of house on Fremont

A property at 26 Fremont Street in Battle Creek may eventually be known as the house that love built.

“This project is a labor of love for the Land Bank team and for many of our community partners,” says Krista Trout-Edwards, executive director of the Calhoun County Land Bank Authority.

The historic home has already undergone some major restoration work, but leadership with the Calhoun County Land Bank Authority say there is more work to be done and they are looking to members of the community in order to continue their efforts. Last week, the Land Bank announced its first-ever “MAYDAY” fundraiser with a goal of raising $50,000 to finance ongoing repair and restoration work on the house.

The fundraiser is scheduled to take place on May 1 at the 26 Fremont Street. Tickets are $50 apiece and can be purchased by clicking “Get Tickets” here.

Trout-Edwards says the fundraiser, “is an effort to continue building upon the momentum created at this site last year. We and our partners have already made an investment in this house and we want to support that work.”

Donations will help the Land Bank accomplish the next critical stage of rehabilitation -- stabilizing the exterior of the house. Money raised through this effort will help offset the cost of repairing the exterior millwork, encapsulating the lead-based paint and painting the house in a historically accurate color palette.

“This would be a significant visual boost to this important intersection, and would also address the hazardous lead-based paint,” Trout-Edwards says. “In addition, it would support all of the investment to date and would further assist in stabilizing the structure.”

She says it’s important to engage the wider community in this effort for several reasons, including very limited funding for historic preservation. It also is difficult to raise funds without widespread community support.

“Owning a historic home can often be overwhelming due to the cost of repairs,” she says. “Through our preservation workshops, we connected local property owners with knowledgeable tradespeople to learn skills that they could then take back and use on their own properties. We also see value in saving these properties because they increase property values when they are cared for and maintained.”

The house at 26 Fremont was vacant long before it came through the local property tax foreclosure process in 2015.  The Land Bank’s original goal was to rehabilitate it through a rehabilitation grant that was available at that time.  However, the overall costs were very high and the Land Bank was unable to find funding to complete the rehabilitation. 

In 2017, they started working with the Battle Creek Community Foundation and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) to come up with some different ways of stabilizing the structure.

The most immediate issue was the failing roof, which needed to be replaced to save the structure. “Through a mix of funds, we were able to replace that last year,” Trout-Edwards says. “We then made some other repairs so that we could use the structure as a learning lab last summer for a series of preservation workshops sponsored by MHPN.”

The home was built by prominent pioneer John Carlos Barber in 1870. Barber was a local businessman, operating a Livery on Canal St. He was also a local sheriff and U.S. Marshall. His descendants lived in the house for almost 100 years, and his granddaughter operated the “What Not Shop” out of the house for 20 years in the early part of the last century.

When deciding which properties they will put money into, Trout-Edwards says thorough reviews are made based on available data. She says the staff frequently works with local code and building officials to get a better understanding of their properties.

“We also often ask the city’s building official to review our properties and prepare a safety report that we can then use,” she says.  “In addition to the condition and type of structure, we also consider location, available resources, and occasionally get additional input from professionals if we need more information.”

“It is our hope that the community rallies around this important project and sees the value of restoring historic assets such as 26 Fremont before it’s too late,” Trout-Edwards said. “Your donation, however big or small, will help retain a significant piece of Battle Creek’s history.”

Tax deductible donations can be made online here.

Read more articles by Jane Simons.

Jane Simons is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.