EMU students preserve vintage farmstead in Leelanau Peninsula through Historic Preservation Field School project

by Debra Johnson, Published June 04, 2012


YPSILANTI - The Campbell-DeYoung Farmstead was a buzz the week of May 20-25 as 23 EMU graduate historic preservation students and six faculty members along with representatives from the Leelanau Conservancy took part in a weeklong Historic Preservation Program Field School.

The farmstead, located in the Leelanau Peninsula just 1.5 miles north of Traverse City, is owned by the Leelanau Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the ecological heritage of the Leelanau Peninsula. The property consists of 145-acres and has several intact vintage farming-related structures including a farmhouse and powerhouse.

"These historic buildings offer our students a wonderful opportunity to observe and participate in recording and preservation of a rare mid-19th century historic resource," said Ted Ligibel of the Department of Geography and Geology and Director of the Historic Preservation Program at EMU. View the video from 2010 Field School.

The group had several projects scheduled for this year's field school that ran from May 20-25th, including interior stabilization of the farmhouse, masonry repairs and restoration to the lower barn, cultural landscape and archaeological assessments and conservation of materials found on the property. In addition, an early 19th century woodfired Home Comfort stove would be restored.

"This year marks our 14th annual Field School, each of which has provided students with a powerful practical application of what we teach throughout the year," Ligibel said. "It is the culmination of their 'hands-on' learning, and has become a signature component of the Historic Preservation Program."

Ligibel's group worked on stabilization of the first floor rooms of the farmhouse. They removed and replaced rotted lath and deteriorated plaster and cleaned quite a bit of the existing objects that will remain in the house. Their goal was to leave the farmhouse in functional condition and "stage" the space for future educational events, classes and docent led tours. 

Kim Long, a second year graduate student from Grayling, MI, said it was exciting to apply the skills and techniques she had learned in class. "We went into one room where half of the ceiling had fallen down and we were able to make the space usable again," she said. "Turning a historic building into adaptive space and seeing all the accomplishments we made was truly a great experience."

Ruth Mills with students

Steve Stier, an adjunct professor who specializes in stabilizing historic masonry foundations worked with seven students on the exterior of the lower barn (circa 1884). The masonry needed to be repaired, restored and repointed. During the restoration process, the students were able to learn techniques used by Stier to repair the mortar around the entire barn.

Another group of students worked with Ruth Mills, another adjunct professor who works for a restoration firm and who is an authority on cultural landscapes. Their task was to assess the entire site and document any changes and also excavate the foundation of a former milk house on the property.

"This experience has been nothing but amazing," said Amanda Wetzel, a second year graduate student from Owosso, MI. "We were trying to find the remains of the old milk house, but instead I actually discovered an underground pipe that nobody knew about which was very exciting." The extensive underground piping system was installed by Louis DeYoung (the immediate previous owner of the farm) to divert water throughout the property for various uses on the farm.

Nancy Byrk, an EMU professor who is an expert in site interpretation and decorative arts, worked with students to remove and identify layers of wallpaper (sometimes up to 10 layers) in the farmhouse. Samples of the wallpaper were delaminated and archived in order to help date the farmhouse. She also conducted oral interviews with local individuals with knowledge of the farm and worked with Conservancy docents who held training at the site mid-week.

"The Campbell-DeYoung property is an ideal site for future field schools and other hands-on job training opportunities," said Jenee Rowe, director of Conservancy Owned Lands for the Leelanau Conservancy. "The buildings are accessible by visitors during docent led hikes and educational workshops on topics ranging from historic preservation, sustainable agricultural practices to photography and plein air painting." The public is welcome to visit the nature trails and for maps and directions, visit the Leelanau Conservancy homepage.

Other participants in the field school included EMU professor, Todd Grote, who directed the initial archaeological assessment of the site, and Clara Deck, senior curator at The Henry Ford who worked with students to re-adhere the countertops in the farmhouse kitchen, stabilize decorative objects, and restore the original 1920s enameled stove.

The field school initiatives are sponsored by the Leelanau Conservancy and supported with a grant of $15,000 from the Michigan Humanities Council.

Thanks to hard work of many students and faculty and the vital grants and partnerships - one of Michigan's historical treasures will remain around for generations to come.

EMU's Historic Preservation Program is the largest graduate program in historic preservation in the nation with 90-100 graduate students. The Historic Preservation Program is a 36 credit hour Master of Science program. Concentrations are offered in preservation planning, heritage interpretation, tourism, and administration, conservation and technology, and general studies. Visit the EMU Historic Preservation Program's homepage to learn more.



Debra Johnson

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