BUCHANAN — A piece of Buchanan’s history has been listed among the National Register of Historic Places.
Clark Equipment Campus was approved to be added by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office in January, and officially added to the list in March, said Richard Murphy, community development director in Buchanan.
“Clark (Equipment Co.) is a huge part of our history. They were a Fortune 100 company,” Murphy said. “They were instrumental in Buchanan growing throughout the 20th Century. ... Clark made axles for heavy machinery, including for trucks and tanks in World War II, so they had national defense contracts.”
Murphy said the predecessor of Clark Equipment Co. moved to Buchanan in 1904 and at one time employed more than 3,500 workers before leaving in the mid-1980s.
The Buchanan Preservation Society and the city have been working on a historic preservation plan for two years with Kurt West Garner, an expert on national register nominations.
He said the campus qualified due to its architectural and industrial significance.
“It’s a pretty cool campus,” Murphy said. “That’s how Clark had it set up. Back in their day, there were some large foundries as well, but those are no longer standing.”
The largest building, now called Building 324, is owned by Randy and Jessica Hendrixson, who bought the property two years ago.
Randy Hendrixson said being on the registry means they will have access to grants and programs to help preserve the 80,000-square-foot building, which takes up an entire city block.
“It’s an ongoing process to preserve a brick-and-mortar building that is 105 years old,” Hendrixson said.
Right now, he said they are a little over halfway done replacing about 6,000 bricks.
Hendrixson said a bigger project will be in replacing the building’s 385 windows.
“They estimated the project cost to replace those with era-specific windows is over $2.5 million,” he said.
He said the new windows will be more energy efficient.
“It’s very important that we keep the original look of the building,” Hendrixson said.
He said two-thirds of the building has more than 30 tenants.
“The southern third of the building we have identified as a really great location for a future event space,” Hendrixson said. “We’re a long way off from making that a reality. It’s more of a wish list item.”
Murphy said the next largest building on the campus is Lehman’s Brewery and Farmhouse, which used to be Clark’s laboratory.
“It’s a really cool, old building with high ceilings and lots of windows. It’s a really great gathering space,” Murphy said.
Buchanan City Hall is in a third building on the campus, which used to be Clark’s human resources department and infirmary.
In addition, Murphy said there’s a couple of guard shacks, which were needed for security after Clark got defense contracts.
Running through the campus is McCoy’s Creek, a dedicated trout stream that Murphy said is a tributary from the St. Joseph River.
“When you put a building or property on the national registry, you’re telling a story,” Murphy said. “So, the more assets that you can identify, the more you can tell the story of the history of a small town like Buchanan.”
Buchanan already has several properties on the historic registry, including its downtown district.
“The more that we list on the national registry, the more notoriety, the more architectural interest and the more positive branding (there is) for Buchanan as a beautiful, historic small town in the United States,” Murphy said.
He said plans are in the works to get more historic spots added to the list, including Oakridge Cemetery and Days Avenue District.
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