Land bank seeks to restore historic Battle Creek homes

By KALEA HALL

Battle Creek Enquirer

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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — For seven decades, 26 Fremont St. was home to one Battle Creek family.

Members of the Barber family died here, got married here and operated a small gift shop inside.

But the house passed to other owners in the 1950s, became apartments and then became empty, abandoned. The Calhoun County Land Bank Authority took it over in a 2015 tax foreclosure.

The land bank now has plans to restore it, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported.

“Often when buildings are restored, it serves as a catalyst for other investment in nearby homes,” said Land Bank Executive Director Krista Trout-Edwards. “Preservation of these assets, especially in local historic districts, has also been documented to increase property value.”

The house at 26 Fremont St. “could be a lot of different things,” she said. This summer, it’s been a laboratory of sorts, the site of “practical preservation” workshops conducted with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, where homeowners learn from tradespeople how to restore older homes.

The land bank owns 26 historic homes that it doesn’t want to demolish, but that need to be rehabbed. It wants to use the workshops to get the word out.

It also has other homes it wants to restore, like 373 Riverside Drive, known locally as the Warren B. Shepard house and considered Battle Creek’s oldest home.

The land bank took ownership of the Shepard house last year after a tax foreclosure. Since then, the home has been evaluated by an engineer and found to be structurally sound.

The house at 26 Fremont is an 1870s Victorian with five bedrooms, intricate woodwork, stained-glass windows and a turret or small tower that faces the street.

To rehab it would probably cost $200,000 to $300,000, Trout-Edwards estimated. Funding to restore historic homes comes from a variety of sources including grants, loans and the land bank’s own fund.