Driving into downtown Ludington, you see a lot of large, historic homes. Many of them are around one hundred years old and were built by the town’s wealthy lumber barons. Some people in Ludington worry about the future of these stately homes. And they want the city to do something about it.
If you own an historic home in Ludington, nothing would prevent you from taking a wrecking ball to the whole thing. Or you could make changes to the outside of the building without concern for the neighborhood’s historic look. But that doesn’t quite sit well with many people in Ludington, some of whom own these historic houses. They would like some assurance that these properties remain standing and keep their historic look. Their answer: an historic district which would preserve the integrity of these homes and a committee has been formed to look into such a district. Jane Carpenter owns a B&B on East Ludington Avenue. It is called the Lamplighter Inn. And it went up around 1892.
Carpenter says, “It was built for a physician, for a surgeon. He practiced here. There was no hospital in Ludington at the time and he was famous for his gold cure for inebriation.”
Carpenter likes the idea of an historic district and she has some knowledge of what that would mean. Carpenter used to own a home in an historic district in Ann Arbor. She said homeowners there could do anything they wanted inside the house.
Carpenter: “If it was on the outside you had to get approval from the historic district commission and I had to do that several times and found that, at least in Ann Arbor, there never was a problem but then I’m a person who believes in historic preservation anyway so usually my plans were pretty well in keeping with what they thought was a reasonable thing to do.”
The proposed district runs along East Ludington Avenue which is the main street that leads into downtown. The district’s length would be about 8 city blocks and there are 79 properties in the proposed district. There aren’t many details in the proposal just yet. The committee wants to look at other cities’ laws before they write their own specific legislation.
Heather Venzke is Community Development Director for the City of Ludington.
Venzke says, “We recently, just outside of town, lost a centennial farm to demolition. Obviously there was some new development going in and that home was torn down so that was a piece of our history that is now gone.”
A Difference of Opinion
Last week, the district’s study committee made its first presentation to the people of Ludington in a city meeting and the floor was opened for public comment. The majority voiced approval for an historic district. But a handful said, not so fast. Tom Tyron owns the Pelter Apartments on East Ludington Avenue. His apartments are near the middle of the district. Tyron told the city that change is inevitable.
Tyron: “I don’t want people telling me what to do with my property. I don’t need any grants from the government to keep my property up. I don’t need any bureaucrats telling me that I should have porcelain commodes. All I need is to be left alone and I’ll pay my taxes and go on living, thanks.”
Bob Snyder agrees. He runs an insurance company in Ludington and lives in the proposed district. Snyder says he would hate to see even more government regulation than he sees now.
Snyder: “As a property owner that’s paying the taxes, that’s paying the mortgage payment I have a real problem going to a committee, even though they’re well-intended, to get their permission, like going to my mother.”
The meeting at City Hall was preliminary – mainly for introducing the idea to the city. Mayor John Henderson said there would be at least two more hearings before anything is decided.