The Dexter Area Historical Society has received $75,000 from a Certified Local Government (CLG) grant to further their preservation work with Gordon Hall.
The funds will be used to hire a consultant that meets historic preservation qualification standards to prepare plans and specifications detailing the interior rehabilitation of Gordon Hall. Built in the early 1840s, this building was the private residence of Judge Samuel W. Dexter, a pioneering Michigan resident and land baron who had a significant impact on the early development of Washtenaw County.
“Certified Local Governments are communities that have taken extra steps to preserve their historic properties,” said State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway. “There are around 30 CLG communities in Michigan that benefit from public officials who view historic resources as assets and are committed to preserving them.”
The CLG grant was awarded to Dexter Area Historical Society (DAHS) by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office on July 17, 2018 to begin renovation plans for the interior of Gordon Hall. Total cost for the planning process is $125,000 with 60% provided by the grant and 40% raised by DAHS.
“Once we have these plans and specifications, we will be able to begin to do some work inside Gordon Hall. We’d like to renovate one room quickly, so everyone can see and be inspired by this beautiful building and its history”, said Beverly Hill, President of DAHS.
Built in 1843 by Judge Samuel Dexter, Gordon Hall is the grand Greek Revival house that has watched over the City of Dexter and its growth and development for 175 years. Judge Dexter’s family lived in the house until about 1900. After a series of owners left it dilapidated and abandoned, it was purchased by Katharine Dexter McCormick, granddaughter of Samuel, in 1940 who struck up a partnership with the University of Michigan to restore the home to living condition. In 1950, McCormick donated the house to UM, who converted the interior to 4 modern apartments. DAHS plans to reverse that conversion, restoring the house to its original interior configuration.
DAHS member Caryl Burke tells us, “DAHS acquired Gordon Hall from the UM in 2006. In the fall of 2014, we burned the mortgage from that purchase after receiving many donations from the community including a large donation from Wally Fusilier. In 2016, a grant from SHPO permitted us to remove the aluminum siding from the building and to restore the west porch to its original configuration.”
Grants from the Dexter Lions Club and the Rotary Club of Dexter funded the removal of about 1000 linear feet of asbestos pipe wrap from the basement. And the Dexter Lions Club also funded construction of a handicap ramp on the north side of the building. DAHS and its team of dedicated volunteers has the goal of completing the renovation of Gordon Hall in time for Dexter’s bicentennial in 2024.
CLGs are counties, townships or cities that partner with the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service to preserve their historic and cultural resources. These entities demonstrate ongoing commitment to historic preservation through the enactment of a historic preservation ordinance, the formation of a historic district commission, the ongoing survey and designation of properties, and public education.
The CLG grant program is intended to augment existing local financial support for historic preservation activities. Grants are awarded annually and must be matched with local funds. For more information on CLG funding, visit www.michigan.gov/shpo, click on Projects and Programs, then select Certified Local Government Program.
If you find the story of Gordon Hall intriguing and would like to learn more, you can visit the DAHS website at http://www.dexterhistory.org/
You can also find much more on the history of Dexter at the Dexter Area Museum located at 3443 Inverness in Dexter. Hours are Fridays and Saturdays from 1-3pm.