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Dexter Area Historical Society Reveals Master Plan for Gordon Hall

The plan outlines a 10-year proposal for restoring Judge Samuel Dexter's historic home.

By this time in 2020, Gordon Hall could have renovated rooms, walkways and more parking for hundreds of people who visit the historic home near Dexter.

Those plans are detailed in a 182-page master plan document to be released by the Dexter Area Historical Society (DAHS) in the coming weeks.

Funded with a $25,000 State Historic Preservation Office grant, the document outlines the society's plan for fully restoring Gordon Hall, home of village founder Judge Samuel Dexter, to its original 1863 condition.

“Having a master plan helps us when we’re applying for grants,” historical society member Paul Bishop said. “This plan shows people what we’re trying to accomplish and it shows potential funding sources that we’re a viable organization.”

Bishop said the society’s 10-year goal is to restore the home’s interior dwellings, which were significantly modified into faculty apartments for the University of Michigan after Dexter’s granddaughter Katherine Dexter McCormick donated it in 1951. In 2006 DAHSM purchased the house from U-M with the intent of making it a community resource and an extension of the historical society museum's activities.

“Gordon Hall was well maintained by U-M, and today is in relatively good condition. However, its electrical systems are inadequate, and its central heating system long ago failed, resulting in the installation of an expensive and inefficient electrical radiant heating system,” the society states in the master plan. “The most unfortunate condition is the modifications made to the interior when it was converted to apartments. The arrangement of spaces bears little resemblance to the original dramatic central hall arrangement, and offers little material to help tell the story of the house, its original owner, and its role in the community.

“Spaces are also small and cramped and thus do not permit the house to be used in a manner that will serve the community and generate an revenue stream necessary to support the house’s maintenance and help pay a large mortgage.”

DAHS President Gil Campbell said the master plan provides a prioritized schedule of recommended actions for the near-term, mid-term, and long-term maintenance and rehabilitation of the property.

“Everything hinges on our ability to obtain grants,” he said. “Most of the grants will be for brick and mortar work.”

Proposed projects include interior room restorations, restoration of an exterior axial walkway that extended east from Gordon Hall to Dexter-Pinckney Road, parking for approximately 50 to 60 vehicles, and an area for a community garden, among others. The DAHS also wants to relocate its museum at the current location on Inverness Street to the Gordon Hall property.

While restoration requires removing some of the buildings more modern facilities—such as the vehicle garage—Campbell said the DAHS has no intent of turning Gordon Hall into a house museum with roped off rooms unavailable to the public.

“It is intended that the entire restored house be available for public and private functions,” the master plan states.

Bishop said as the house is restored, the DAHS hopes the grounds will be used for more community events similar to the event this year that raised $19,000 toward the Gordon Hall mortgage.

“We’re saving this property for future generations,” Bishop said. “Hopefully Gordon Hall will one day be to Dexter what Central Park is to New York.”

For more information on the master plan, visit the DAHS website.

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