Detroit preservationists outraged over log cabin demolition

Posted at 7:27 PM, Mar 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 19:27:23-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Preservationists on Detroit's east side are outraged after a Civil War-era log cabin was demolished late last month.

The Halleck Street cabin, disguised with a modern-looking exterior, was discovered during a Wayne State archaeological dig last year. According to Greg Kowalski with the Hamtramck Historical Museum, square metal nails gave the structure away; those nails weren't made after the 1890s.

The structure was torn down by a contractor Feb. 22, who bid on the property from the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

Kowalski fought to keep the cabin off the Land Bank's demo list, hoping to move it to Hamtramck. When the structure was first built, Halleck Street was in Hamtramck Township.

"I did come on a Wednesday and the building was here. And when I came back on Saturday morning it was gone," he told 7 Action News.

Now all that's left of the 16 X 20 cabin is an empty pit, sandwiched between an empty lot and several more abandoned homes.

"This one could have been preserved. All they had to do was remove it from that list, even temporarily," Kowalski said.

According to the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which aims to rid the city of dilapidated structures, the property was already well into the demolition process when it learned of its historic significance.

"It had already been contracted for demolition by the time that we were alerted that there was something special about this property," said Land Bank spokesperson Alyssa Strickland.

Kowalski gave the Land Bank a proposal to keep the log cabin standing in January, but Strickland said around $10,000 of taxpayer money had already gone into the structure for testing and abatement.

The contractor, Strickland said, decides when to tear down buildings once they've been awarded the project.

Caroyln Shepherd lives just down the street from the cabin site.

"I used to go over there as a kid," she told 7 Action News.

Shepherd had no idea then, of the home's hidden history.

"I've been here over 65 years. There could be another one somewhere around here," she said.

Kowalski, who said all that's left of the cabin now is some wallpaper and salvaged wood, hopes the Motor City learns from this loss.

"Detroit has got a long reputation for destroying its history," he said.

The Land Bank posts structures slated for demolition on its website; anyone who thinks a structure may have historic value should report it here.