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Published: 7/11/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

TOWERS SHORTENED FOR STABILITY

Historical society hopes action forestalls possible demolition

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The tops of the Irish Hills towers were removed this week  to stabilize the structures. The landmarks have drawn visitors for viewing the landscape. The tops of the Irish Hills towers were removed this week to stabilize the structures. The landmarks have drawn visitors for viewing the landscape.
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ONSTED, Mich. — The tops of two historic sightseeing towers were dismantled in an effort to stabilize the Irish Hills landmarks and prevent demolition.

Cambridge Township officials gave the Irish Hills Historical Society, which owns the 1924 towers, until Aug. 1 to come up with a plan to stabilize the deteriorating structures and pay for repairs.

The township could require the northern Lenawee County buildings along U.S. 12 to be razed if safety and building issues aren’t addressed.

This week, crews finished removing the towers’ tops, trimming an estimated 18 feet from the once roughly 64-foot-tall structures.

The society’s President Donna Boglarsky paid $20,000 for the work and hopes the progress will convince officials to give the group more time to raise money necessary for a full restoration, which could cost roughly $300,000.

“We’re all confident that the danger now is going to be completely gone so their issues should be pretty much a moot point,” Ms. Boglarsky said.

She said shortening the structures should lessen concerns about them toppling over. Plus, many of the broken pieces that have dropped from the building tumbled from the tops.

Township Supervisor Harvey Hawkins said the society still must submit a plan for future work and financing to be evaluated by the township’s dangerous building committee, on which he serves.

Officials could consider granting an extension and delay the demolition process.

“The idea of taking the tops off, they thought it would release some of the stress from the buildings. It might not cause them to fall as soon. That will have to be seen and proven,” Mr. Hawkins said.

The structures were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The recently removed tops date to 1972. Research will be done to determine what era to recreate when replacement tops are made, Ms. Boglarsky said.

Workers removed about 18 feet from the top of the towers to stabilize the structures, which Cambridge Township officials have said could face demolition unless a plan is in place by Aug. 1. Workers removed about 18 feet from the top of the towers to stabilize the structures, which Cambridge Township officials have said could face demolition unless a plan is in place by Aug. 1.
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“It’s been a mixed-emotions kind of thing, sitting there watching that whole process,” she said of the removal of the tops and the observation decks that circled them.

In upcoming weeks, she plans to cover the big holes left on the stubby towers with a temporary roof.

Ms. Boglarsky and her late husband, Ron, purchased the towers in 1976 and operated the roadside attraction until the end of the 1999 summer season. For years, tourists paid to climb to the top and peer down at the verdant, hilly scenery that gave the region its Irish Hills moniker. This spring, Ms. Boglarsky handed over the deed to the nonprofit society she formed.

The society launched a fund-raising drive to save the towers and has raised about $1,800 so far. Ms. Boglarsky said the society could repay her with future donations for the recent work she financed.

A matching grant announced this week from the Historical Society of Clinton, Mich., gave her a “boost of confidence.” The group from the small town about 10 miles east of the towers, pledged to match donations made by July 31 up to $200, for a total gift of $400.

“Part of the reason we’re doing this is we’d like to see other organizations and even industries or businesses pick up this idea and do likewise,” said the group’s archivist Sharon Scott of Clinton, Mich.

Ms. Scott hopes the donation will prove to the township — before its imposed deadline — that the old buildings have backers.

Much work and fund-raising remains, but Ms. Boglarsky said sheering off the tops is key to the preservation effort.

She spent a lot of time at the site watching the dismantling work and handing out informational brochures to curious passersby.

The Irish Hills Historical Society’s Facebook page, where she posts project updates, amassed nearly 700 followers, but donations are still “somewhat on the slow side,” she said.

“As long as I know that we no longer have a dangerous building designation that is going to be just a huge, huge step for us, and the rest of it will come slowly,” she said.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6056, or on Twitter @vanmccray.



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