Historic Preservation Through Annual Tour

This article was originally published in the Grand Haven Tribune in April 2014, written by Steven Radtke, Executive Director

One visible way the Tri-Cities Historical Museum showcases historic preservation is through its annual Historic Home Tour.  In the past two years, the museum has shifted the focus of its tour away from Christmas decorations to one that emphasizes architectural details and significance.

This year's Historic Home Tour will feature eight homes in Spring Lake on Savidge Street and Maple Terrace, between Parkhurst and Buchanan.  The houses on the tour were built between the 1860s -1920s and cover a range of architectural styles from Second Empire to Craftsman Bungalows.  Homes open for the tour will offer docents who will provide historical and anecdotal information for visitors.  In addition, a tour booklet will provide added information regarding architectural styles for the homes located on the path of the tour, but which will not be open to the public.

The 2014 Historic Home Tour is a two day event.  On Saturday, May 17, tour hours are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Sunday, May 18, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  Tickets are $10.00, on sale beginning May 1 at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum and at the Spring Lake Village Hall.  On the days of the tour, tickets will be sold at the homes featured on the tour as well as at the museum.

Take the time to learn about the rich architectural heritage of the Tri-Cities.  Historic homes have a story to tell.  They add to the beauty and heritage of any city, and should be recognized as an important component of the daily life of our community.

A movement is gaining momentum across the county that dovetails nicely with the concept of historic neighborhoods. More and more "core" communities are being developed, whether rediscovered or new, as people discover the benefits of living in an area that is walkable, much like most communities were in the early years of the twentieth century.

This means smaller communities with localized downtown shopping areas where necessities can be found, such as a grocery store, a dry cleaner, a hardware store and the like. Other businesses like restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores create a community space where people can gather and meet neighbors who are also taking advantage of the amenities.

This model is in stark contrast to what the automobile culture encouraged throughout much of the twentieth century, namely, sprawling, sidewalk-free suburbs where the residents sit in climate controlled isolation from their neighbors, emerging only to get into cars and travel to miles-distant superstores and venues for shopping, work or entertainment.

As this movement grows, people are re-discovering that the houses that their parents and grandparents left behind are still there, ready for new families. The fact that these houses have survived is a testament to the quality of original construction. The care put into them as they are restored for new life demonstrates the charm of timeless design.

These houses are within walking distance of a centralized shopping area, and as people walk, they can appreciate the detailed architecture of the structures that is missed as one zips by in a car. That is what is at the root of historic neighborhoods that cause people to seek out these places, the allure of life at a time when attention could be paid to detail that can only be appreciated at a slower pace; when the emphasis was not always on size and cost but on less tangible ideas like proportion and rhythm, the play of light and shadow across a surface, the mix of textures to create a harmonious whole. These details, so often covered up or removed in a bid for "maintenance free", are what the homeowners in these houses seek to preserve or restore, and the museum is pleased to be able to showcase their efforts with our 2014 spring architectural tour.

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