Here’s how you can help the Sanilac County Museum preserve a piece of history
PORT SANILAC – The Sanilac County Historical Society needs the public’s assistance in moving the Bark Shanty / Aitkin House from its current location to the Sanilac County Historic Village and Museum.
Owner Julie Fagan said she and her husband would like to preserve the history of the house rather than tearing it down. Built in 1853 at what is now 71 South Lake Street, next to Bark Shanty Marina, this is one of the first homes ever built in Port Sanilac and one of the oldest still standing.
“Tearing it down would be the easy way out,” Fagan said. “We love the house. We love the history of the house… It has a ton of history and we want to do everything we can to preserve it.”
“It’s worth it,” added Dawn Malek, administrator of the Sanilac County Historical Society.
The Sanilac County Historical Society is currently running a fundraising campaign to help raise the funds needed to move the house to the museum grounds. The company’s board of directors has pledged $ 25,000 of the $ 100,000 needed to move the house.
The company is going to the public for the remaining $ 75,000. The company is currently asking for pledges, or pledges to donate a certain amount of money, to help gauge public interest in the project, as the historical society is currently committed financially to two other projects.
If the company can increase the cost of the project in pledges by February 1, the project will go ahead. Otherwise, the project will not go ahead, the company said. Fagan said they had not yet decided what to do with the house if there weren’t enough pledges.
To get involved, visit fs12.formsite.com/gxZYoN/9hcpcgxcai/index.html. As of Friday morning, the company had raised $ 33,725 in pledges, including a $ 12,000 pledge from Fagan and her husband, Dan Fagan.
“It looks like the community is growing; it’s important to them,” Malek said. “The Historical Society, our mission is to preserve and promote the history in Sanilac County. So hello, it’s right here.”
If the project goes ahead, the house will be used as an Airbnb style rental. The rental income will be used for the upkeep of the house, the upkeep of one of the other 16 museum buildings and as additional income. This would be of great benefit to the museum and to society since the historical society does not receive any government support for its annual budget, Malek said.
The three bedroom, one bath home could be used for family vacations, weekend getaways, weddings, or even business meetings.
The main features of the house include a beautiful large wraparound porch, fireplace, interior columns and what are believed to be original windows. Fagan said the old house also exhibited a few “quirks,” such as a few crooked door frames.
Malek said his favorite feature of the house was the wrap-around porch.
“I’m envisioning bridal showers, baby showers on that porch,” Malek said. “I do so much live music at the museum. I think of concerts.”
Fagan said the couple bought the house several years ago as a personal or investment home. They have used it for personal use, vacation rentals, and even a few wedding rentals.
However, they discovered that the house did not lend itself to year round living, either on their own or as a long term rental. They considered several options before deciding to donate the house to the museum, where they had their wedding photos 25 years ago.
Learn more about the history of the house
The Port Sanilac area attracted loggers in the early 1800s who harvested hemlock bark used for tanning leather. The lumberjack built a bark hut, which was essentially a lean-to, on the site of the current house. According to the historical society, this area became known as Bark Shanty Point because of the great lumberjack that was visible to sailors on Lake Huron.
William Aitkin was born and raised at home when the area was still known as Bark Shanty, before it was renamed Port Sanilac. He married Hattie Jenks and adopted his four-year-old son, Melvin Jenks.
William Aitkin studied law, was called to the bar, and opened a law firm in Carsonville in 1889 with John Farley, a native of Croswell. Around 1894, the Aitkins moved to Croswell, where Will practiced law until around 1920 and became one of Croswell’s principal citizens, the company said.
After Will’s death in 1927, the company said his wife and son honored his memory by offering the Town of Croswell a fund to expand and designate the William H. Aitkin Memorial Library, which opened in March 1931.
Hattie Aitkin also left a library trust in her will that will be used to purchase books, which are still used to expand the library’s collection.
Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or [email protected]