One of several historic structures located on the grounds of the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan currently is receiving a facelift thanks to the generosity of the congregation at Spratt United Methodist Church.
Because of their initiative, the exterior of the 100-year-old white clapboard church building that once served the Spratt congregation is being painted and refurbished. The project first came about when several church members attended the museum's Log Cabin Day celebration held earlier this year and noticed that their former church building was in need of some help.
"When we were at Log Cabin Day, my husband and our minister and a couple of other people just looked at the outside and saw how shabby it was getting to be," said long-time member Karen Herron. "I suggested to my husband that maybe that's something our church could do since it was our church."
News Photo by Diane Speer
Ian Anderson and Jacob Kern of Bliss Painting replace sub-fascia on the old Spratt United Methodist Church building that is part of the Besser Museum’s cluster of historic structures. The painting and refurbishment project is expected to be completed in time for a worship service held there once a year by the current Spratt United Methodist Church congregation. That service is set for Sept. 9.
The suggestion was brought up at the next church board meeting and everyone agreed it was a worthy project. Memorial funds left to the church were tapped into to pay for the painting and repairs, and a young church member working this summer for Bliss Painting checked into the possibility of having the work done by Bliss Painting.
According to Herron, the local painting company willingly took on the project and gave the church a very good deal.
Herron said she and other church members are hoping their efforts involving the old Spratt church will inspire others in the community to follow suit and take ownership of any of the other historic structures at the museum. Museum staff also is pleased with the efforts on the part of the church congregation and Bliss Painting.
"From a staff point of view it was such a blessing and a surprise to have Bliss Painting come through and for the church congregation on their own to see a need and take the initiative," said Interim Director Chris Witulski.
Like Herron, she hopes others will see the value in helping to preserve these historic buildings.
"I think it is something that is inspiring, and hopefully more will do the same thing, be it monetarily or volunteer time," Witulski said, noting that other groups such as Delta Kappa Gamma, with its commitment to Green School, have helped in the past. "To not always have to be asking but to have someone come to your aid is a real shot of encouragement."
Besides the Spratt Church and Green School, the other museum buildings include the Maltz Exchange Bank, McKay log cabin and a small homesteader's cabin. The bank structure, in particular, currently needs major structural work done on it, said Witulski.
The original Spratt Church was erected in 1912. It served the community of Spratt as a prime location for school and church plays, visits by agricultural agents and county health nurses, and many other rural church or community activities. With the construction of a new Spratt United Methodist Church, the old building was relocated to the museum grounds in 1990 on a flatbed truck.
The historic structure now helps to replicate for museum visitors what life was like in Northeast Michigan around the turn-of-the-century. Its upkeep is vital to the museum, said Witulski.
"We are a staff of five here at the museum, and really, without the help of the community like the members at Spratt Church, we could not maintain the facility to the level of excellence that we want to reflect," Witulski said. "We very much appreciate people stepping up and adopting these projects. It's a community institution, and we just greatly appreciate the help."