Stabilization utilizing wire mesh
January 31, 2023, White Pigeon, Michigan residents were able to witness the installation of a special wire mesh that is part of the work to stabilize the building. Stabilizing and securing the building are key steps before repair and restoration can begin.
Blair Bates, owner of Building Restoration, Inc., has a long history of working on and restoring historic building, some of which were in much worse condition that the one that currently graces downtown White Pigeon.
The article below describes the interior of the building and some of UHBBI’s ideas about the restoration. It should be noted that as the project progresses and UHBBI speaks to the experts, plans will be adapted base on sound suggestions from those involved.
Although the goal is to preserve the historic authenticity of the building, which includes a front facade that has not been altered, the building will obviously be brought up to code. This has always been UHBBI’s intent, and the experts will be helping us to make sure everything is done up to the highest possible standard.
A proposed museum
It is time for this 19th Century site to bring history’s lessons to 21st century children and adults. Part of the restoration plan includes turning one of the storefronts into a museum where visitors can learn about the history of the Union Hall Block Building and the area around it.
Why is it call Union Hall Block Building? What role did it play in the community? What kinds of businesses did it have? (Hint, they included a harness shop, dry goods store, and a tin smith).
During its lifetime, the building served many purposes and is thought to have been used by Abolitionists involved in leading runaway slaves to freedom in Canada. Although the five tunnels that ran under the streets were designed to allow pedestrians to avoid the muddy road, it is not hard to see how they could also serve to hide the movement of fugitives.
Like many other Michigan towns, White Pigeon had a Union school. It started out as a wooden building. Later, the school used the Union Hall Block Building as a temporary home until they were able to finish construction on a new brick building of their own. It is believed that this is how Union Hall became part of the current building’s name.
An old newspaper clipping alludes to an Opera House in White Pigeon. It is thought this may be referring auditorium which takes up the entire second floor of the two-story portion of the building.
The auditorium was used for a variety of cultural events, as well as for school purposes. Once the foundation and brick are restored, one of our goals is to restore the auditorium and make it available for local cultural events, including plays and concerts.
In 1926, the local Masonic Hall Association purchased the third floor of the western half of the building. They used the site until 1997, when they sold it to the previous owner of The Tasty Nut Shop, Marjorie Hamminga.