Student works to preserve Ypsi

Last year, Ypsilanti’s Historic District Commission handled over 100 applications, put on six training workshops, proposed a new city ordinance to protect and preserve historic signs and wrote a grant application for money to do the preservation. All this work was done without any permanent staff.

Connie Locker, a second year student in EMU’s Historic Preservation Graduate Program, provided service to Ypsilanti in return for paid experience. An intern who works 15-20 hours a week in the office of Ypsilanti’s Historic District Commission, she is the only staff person for the HDC, and reports directly to Senior Planner Teresa Gillotti.

Locker said she loves the variety of the work, which ranges from taking
minutes of HDC meetings to answering questions about the historic district’s rules affecting modification of homes, to organizing and teaching workshops.

The hallmark of Eastern Michigan University’s Historic Preservation Program, which offers both a Master of Science degree and a graduate certificate, has been its continued commitment to providing needed services to communities. It exemplifies the mutual benefit of ongoing collaboration between a university and its home town, according to Professor Ted J. Ligibel who directs the program.

The program has a high rate of placement. About 70 percent of graduates are employed in the field within a year of graduation, according to Ligibel.

She also said the organizations for which graduates work tend to be high quality, including the state historical societies of Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Tennessee; the Frank Lloyd Wright Oak Park Studio and the Detroit Historical Society.

All of these qualities drew Locker to the program after she was graduated from Kent State University with a degree in history. She applied for the HDC internship in December 2010 and has held it ever since.

One of Locker’s assignments was to draft an ordinance to assign historic preservation status to a set of landmark signs in Ypsilanti, including one familiar to all EMU students: Peninsular Paper. The sign is presently almost illegible, and sits in Peninsular Park just west of the apartments that share the “peninsular” name. Locker has applied for grant funding to restore all the signs.

The other historical signs to be preserved are the Tap Room sign, Haabs sign, Rapid Shoe Fix, Bull Durham Tobacco, Theatre marquee, Terry Bakery, Trojan Dry Cleaner and the Hudson sign.

Locker planned and taught workshops in 2011 that included Introduction to Historic Preservation, Historic Window Repair, Basics of the Ypsilanti HDC, Historic Architecture of Ypsilanti and Researching Your Historic Home.

Locker also worked on a current project of the program: an old farmstead in the DeYoung Natural Area on the Leelenau Peninsula’s Cherry Bend Road.

Students have identified valuable objects such as early 20th Century wooden toys, pocket watches and letters and deposited them in appropriate museums, as well as repairing windows and foundations using historically correct methods and materials, according to the Leelanau Conservancy’s website.

According to Ligibel, at least two students each year work for the Ypsilanti Historical Museum, whose handsome building at 220 North Huron is a shining exemplar of preservation.

A sign in front of the building highlights the fact that, as EMU was expanding in the 1960s, students lived in the building. Now, EMU students work to preserve similar landmark buildings all over Michigan.

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