A newly proposed plan for the Huyser Farm House envisions renovating the structure into a Living Legacy Center, a building for multiple uses such as a parks office, history site or gallery – at a cost of about $125,000. The plan will now be distributed for review.
The Laketown Township Building Authority unanimously accepted the 34-page plan on Thursday, Aug. 17, meeting a six-month deadline that, if not fulfilled, would have meant the end of the home at Huyser Farm Park, 4188 64th St.
The 1939 home of Manuel and Lilah Huyser, both of whom have passed away, was donated to the township along with 102 acres of land for a park in 2001. The house was unused for more than 20 years. The parks commission decided on March 15 to hand over the home’s fate to the building authority and told the group to have a plan for the building by Sept. 15. If the deadline was not met, the house would have been recommended for demolition.
“You have in your hands a very, very doable plan,” Township Manager Al Meshkin told authority members Tom Shuff and Bob Schaftenaar.
The plan presented Thursday was researched and assembled by Patty Meyer, executive director of the Felt Estate, and Meshkin.
“This document aims to provide a practical and doable restoration plan, a plan that honors the legacy of Manuel and Lilah Huyser, who lovingly cared for the house and land,” the report said.
The plan examined the history of the site, and earlier proposed options for the house and the easement with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. That easement puts limits on certain uses of the property.
The most economical and feasible adaptation of the house is to restore the home for multiple purposes so it “functions as a Living Legacy Center.”
It would tell the story of Laketown’s past of agriculture on smaller farms, highlight architecture from the post-Depression era, offer a place to display historical artifacts, provide a place for a community garden, and open up volunteer opportunities.
“As a Living Legacy Center, the home can (and should) also serve other functions, perhaps as a parks/history office as well as a staging or classroom area for nature tours in the park,” the report noted, adding that it could also be used for art displays.
“All of these options are low impact, low traffic, and would not generate revenue associated with commercial use,” the report said. “Having multiple uses keeps the house occupied, used, and a vibrant part of the community.”
The report was clear that the site would not make money for the township.
“It won’t make money. It will make memories. That’s the watchword,” said Shuff, chairman of the authority.
The report estimates the cost of the project between $100,000 to $125,000, including work on the roof, septic system, well, electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and asbestos removal.
The house would not be brought up to standards to be a residence but would be modified to be usable.
“We keep it very simple to when the Huysers lived there,” said Meshkin. “We’re not modifying the house much at all.”
The plan included estimates for the work from area companies.
“This is the direction I hoped we’d go,” said Shuff. He was also chairman of the parks commission when that group transferred responsibility for the house to the building authority earlier this year.
Cleanup around the house has been ongoing this summer.
A crew from Escape Ministries in Holland cleared landscaping and painted the home. Security cameras and wi-fi are planned for the site.
For more on the Huyser House, visit www.Laketowntwp.org.