This year marks the 11th year of the horseshoe tournament at the Lions Club’s Summer Festival. Brett Grossman, the newest Lion in that year, started it in 2007 and struggled to get 32 pitchers. This year, the club expects nearly 80 participants, male and female, the largest field ever.
“The last few years we’ve capped participation at 64 players but we will be installing a fourth set of horseshoe pits at the pavilion to accommodate more players,” Grossman said. “The tournament has really become a staple for the festival.” He noticed that now the event is getting more and more second and third generation pitchers; guys are able to throw with their fathers and uncles and the event has the spirit of a family reunion.
The contestants like an audience, Grossman observed. Last year’s tournament took nearly eight hours to play but most of the crowd stayed until the bitter end, he said. Dave Stafinski Jr. and Randy Munn were last year’s champions. They will be paired again to defend their title. All other players will be matched via random draw at 11 a.m., Saturday, July 29. Sign-ups are required ahead of time. Grossman can be reached at 269-615-6770.
The cost is $10 to enter and includes a T-shirt for each participant. For the 10th anniversary, six players who had participated in every horseshoe tournament were recognized. They were Ryan Bright, Jamie Hagenbaugh, Scott Hiemstra, Scott Haynes, Dan Mendham and Grossman.
Vicksburg Lions Club will be hosting a Kids’ Night to begin the service club’s Summer Festival on Thursday, July 27 from 6-8 p.m. at the Community Pavilion on N. Richardson St.
During the evening, there will be several games along with arts and crafts available. Each ticket to play costs 25 cents. Games include ring toss, floating ducks, ping-pong, ping-pong ball toss and bean bag toss.
Crafts include making and decorating bookmarks, masks and crowns, says Katie Grossman, community service chair and coordinator of Kids’ Night.
Grossman has been involved with Kids’ Night for the past three years. “The most fulfilling part about this is seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they are having fun playing the games,” said Grossman.
Food specials consist of $1 hot dogs, popcorn, water and soda. A final raffle for a Meijer gift card will be awarded to one boy and girl at 8 p.m. To be entered in the drawing, each child in attendance must participate in at least one game or craft making.
Project KidSight will be offering free vision screenings for children up to age 17 at the event. “A simple photograph can screen for many cognitive eye conditions, so we encourage families to take advantage of this service,” said Grossman.
The Vicksburg Lions Club Summer Festival is the largest fundraiser for the club, and all proceeds go to club projects that focus on vision exams for children, community service projects, charities and many other important causes, according to Grossman.
All activities are staffed by volunteers. Additional help is welcome, call 269-870-0995 or email email@example.com for more information.
Editor’s Note: This issue contains news stories about my son, Christopher Moore, in his quest to restore the former Simpson Paper Mill to its former grandeur in the heart of Vicksburg, in a multi-use development to be called The Mill.
Because of my close relationship to this project, I have asked other reporters to research and write stories about the development. I pledge to our readership that I will have a hands-off commitment to telling the story of The Mill, that I won’t write or edit any of the stories about The Mill during its reconstruction and reportage in the South County News.
It’s important to the veracity and independence of this newspaper that the public does not perceive that I personally am touting one of my own interests. What is important is that people know what is happening in efforts to improve the building and the acreage around it, hopefully to the benefit of the community.
Sue Moore, editor and publisher of the South County News
By Jef Rietsma
A Vicksburg native is proposing redevelopment of an iconic village property at a cost that project executives say could reach $50 million.
Chris Moore, owner of Paper City Development LLC, is the driving force behind The Mill, a multi-use development that would include a brewery, restaurant and taproom, retail offerings, craft food and beverage production facilities, offices, artist studios, event space and a residential component on the 30-acre property.
Moore, 52, is owner of Old Stove Brewery in Seattle.
Jackie Koney, project manager for The Mill, said Moore’s interest in redeveloping the property took root in early 2014 after learning the buildings that comprised the former Lee Paper Mill were slated for demolition.
“Chris had been speaking with the village manager at the time, Ken Schippers, and the village president, Bill Adams, about the idea of an Old Stove Brewing Company in Vicksburg. It was around this time he found out about the plan to demolish the old mill,” Koney said. “When Chris was in town the next time, he went with Bill and Ken to tour the site and Bill happened to mention the county was going to spend $3 million to tear it down.”
Moore’s immediate reply?
“Well, why don’t you give me the $3 million and I’ll do something with it?” according to Koney, who said the wheels of fate were set in motion at that moment.
Koney said she wasn’t surprised to hear Moore’s ambitious plan. The two have been acquaintances since the mid-1980s. Koney recalled Moore worked at the mill during his summers home from college. He was the third generation in his family to work at the mill, Koney said.
“Chris is a big-idea kind of guy, so I really wasn’t shocked when he called and told me his initial plans for the mill,” she added. “I know it’s a place that is near and dear to him and his family, so, no, there was no surprise at all.”
Kalamazoo County currently owns 26 acres of the mill property. The Kalamazoo County Land Bank is in possession of the balance, which includes the newer warehouse area. Koney said the full redevelopment is dependent on funding support and once that puzzle comes together it will take years before completion. Initially, however, Moore wants to focus on establishing Old Stove Brewing Co. and the craft food and beverage production area. The retail and residential aspects will follow.
Converting a former manufacturing property into something new is not unprecedented, Koney said. She noted Moore is incorporating examples used on both U.S. coasts.
Considering the current state of the property, however, the concept could fairly be labeled a stretch. Koney conceded the volume of work is high but added she has full faith in Moore and the team he has assembled.
Regarding the various buildings on the property, surprisingly little will fall victim to the wrecking ball.
“We’re saving the original 1904 structure. It’s the original U-shape building before things were added on,” she said. “We’re planning on taking down most of the non-historically relevant structures, but as far as the historic structures go, we’re going to do everything in our power to save them.” The Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.
The preservation effort has been aided by Kalamazoo County Treasurer Mary Balkema, who has awarded a bid for about $1.1 million for roof work to protect the asset and prevent further deterioration of the east and west wings, as well as the north end.
Koney said Phase 1 of the rehabilitation will likely cost between $25 million and $30 million, funds that will cover big-ticket items such as foundation stabilization, roofing, mechanical, electrical and plumbing.
The Mill is vying to secure grant and loan monies from a variety of sources including the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Others include the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Land Bank and the Vicksburg Brownfield Authority’s Local Brownfield Remediation Fund, Koney added.
Koney said she has been so involved with the project over the past two years, she can close her eyes and envision what it will look like. The vision was confirmed when a master plan was drafted by Ann Arbor-based architect Hopkins Burns Design Studio in partnership with Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio, Frederick Construction, Paper City Development and others.
The property will have two main entrances. One will be at its north end, beyond Bridge Organics, off West Washington Street. An additional entrance will be developed at the south end off West Highway Street.
Paper City Development’s corporate office is on the second floor of the Community Center in downtown Vicksburg.
Chris Moore, Gene Burns, Steve Sielatycki and Jackie Koney hold a meeting on the fifth floor of the mill in the summer of 2015.
Paper rolls and the mill hands in the 1920s.
By Jef Rietsma
A two-year effort that included an arduous amount of documentation and research paid dividends in 2016, when the Lee Paper Mill was awarded landmark status at the state and federal levels.
With the designations in hand, a plan to improve the facility into a commercial, business and residential development will benefit from tax breaks afforded by its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
More important to anyone with a nostalgic attachment to the mill, however, the state and national designations mean the core building on the site since its creation in 1905 will remain.
Gene Hopkins is a preservation architect with Ann Arbor-based HopkinsBurns Design Studio. It was charged with compiling information necessary for the mill’s inclusion on the State Historic Preservation list as well as the National Historic Preservation.
“I remember a few years ago now getting the call to come look at the building for the first time. We did a complete walk around and I remember thinking what a great building this is,” Hopkins said. “I couldn’t help but see all the potential and all the character-defining features, so I immediately saw it as a great building that needed to be saved and preserved.”
Hopkins conceded the integrity of the building, abandoned for more than 15 years, may not be solid. But the tools and resources it will take future owner Chris Moore to bring it to an acceptable standard are in place.
He said its historical value is impossible to overstate. Hopkins said its founding was as a rag mill, wherein fine paper was created out of remnants from cotton and textiles. All other mills in the Kalamazoo Valley region created paper out of wood pulp.
Coupled with the fact the main building and subsequent add-ons are still standing and in a salvageable state provided HopkinsBurns representatives a strong case to state to national historic-preservation officials.
Hopkins and his peers appeared before the State Historic Preservation Review Board in May 2015. The government-appointed panel threw its support behind the request for historic-preservation consideration immediately.
“They are supported by the state’s Historic Preservation Office, so we worked with the office to develop a case and tell the story of why the building is significant,” Hopkins said. “Once the office says that you feel you’ve dotted the I’s and crossed your T’s, and made a compelling case for its historic significance, they put you on the agenda to publicly present to the State Preservation Review Board.”
Hopkins said the plan was well put together, the pitch to the review board went well and its immediate approval for preservation was not a total surprise. He said the 61-page application detailed every facet of Lee Paper Mill’s historical significance and value to Vicksburg.
The next step was a review by representatives from the National Park Service. Its members pored over the supporting documents and gave the green light in September 2016.
“That was a major milestone for this site,” Hopkins said. “At the state level, the feedback they gave us was that this building is very special, very unique, very historically intact, and the fact it was a rag paper mill and not a pulp paper mill made it extremely unique. And how long it survived as a paper mill also made it very compelling. Obviously, the feeling was consistent at the national level.”
The historical designation provides 20 percent federal tax credit.
Hopkins said he is excited for Moore and confident the redevelopment will live up to the hype.
“Chris and the Moore family are incredible, and for Chris to take this on the way he has, he’s going to pull it off; it’s going to be absolutely phenomenal for not only Vicksburg but the whole region of Southwest Michigan,” Hopkins said. “It’s going to be an amazing, amazing project.”
HopkinsBurns is slated June 30 to submit documents to the Michigan Historical Preservation office and the National Park Service for historic-preservation tax credit.
Moore, who resides in Seattle, in 2014 formed Paper City Development LLC to spearhead the redevelopment.
“Fascinating Women” is the topic of Lynn Houghton’s talk at the Vicksburg Historical Society’s July 18 speaker series at 7 p.m. in the Community Center on S. Main Street. The public is invited to attend.
Houghton is well-known for her historic buildings walk through the village of Vicksburg in past years. This time she will stand still at a podium and present a program that will look at several of the women who helped to shape Kalamazoo County enterprises. “Over the years we have learned much about women in our area,” she said. “A few, like Lucinda Hinsdale Stone and Caroline Bartlett Crane, have received accolades and publications. There are many who have not reached that level of notoriety but contributed to the community in many different ways.”
“This program will look at several of these women from many different areas but who all had a common goal and that was to make their community a better place to live,” Houghton commented.
She could be considered one of those special women who have made a difference, said Ted Vliek, former president of the Historical Society. “Her talk and walks around the village have informed us about the architecture and the significance of the beautiful homes and businesses that formed the core of this community.”
As regional history curator at the Western Michigan University Archives and regional history collections, she has a wellspring of knowledge about this area. She also teaches Michigan history at WMU and leads free historic walks around Kalamazoo, co-sponsored by Gazelle Sports and the WMU Archives. She co-authored the book Kalamazoo Lost and Found. She has bachelors and masters degrees jn history from Western and a masters in library science from Wayne State University.
Craft items will be included for the first time in eight years of the existence of the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market. Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki, co-market manager has announced that a Makers Mart will take place during the regular market hours on Friday, July 21 and Friday, September 15 from 2-6 p.m. at the community pavilion.
Shoppers will have a chance to browse the work of local artists, artisans and crafters who make and sell homemade goods. “This is a chance for the Farmers’ Market to allow these specialty products that people love to shop for at other boutique events,” said Meyer-Niedzwiecki.
“We have lots of requests from ‘makers’ each year and haven’t been able to accommodate them because of space limitations. We decided to utilize the space outside of the pavilion for vendors with pop-up tents to exhibit and sell their wares. We’re hoping to give these unique products a market place.” The same day in July will feature Kids’ Plate, a fun time for children to make their own fruit or vegetable dish.
Makers who wish to register must do so in advance by calling Meyer-Niedzwiecki at 269-568-0580 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org by the deadlines of July 14 and September 8. It will be first come, first serve for booth locations on the lawn of the pavilion.
An article in a local newspaper in 1967 led Warren Lawrence to help form a new organization in Vicksburg, a committee to preserving and presenting the village’s heritage.
Intrigued by what he read, Lawrence became one of the charter members of the Vicksburg Historical Society, now celebrating its 50th anniversary.
The Society is staging a temporary exhibition, “VHS at 50: Five Decades of Vicksburg Historical Society,” exploring the history of the Society, the Depot Museum, Historic Village, and people such as Lawrence who helped make these resources available to the community.
Through photographs, documents and artifacts, visitors will discover the stories and people that shaped and continue to shape the Society. Visitors can learn about the origins of each structure on the historic campus, including how the Union Depot became the Society’s headquarters, see examples of past exhibits, and find out how a little glass hat helped the Society grow.
The exhibition also highlights memorable events supported by the Society through the years, including Vicksburg’s historic 1972 Centennial Celebration and contemporary events such as the Battle of Sunset Lake and Harvest Festival. The exhibit will be installed in the Depot Museum from July 22-November 22. It is open free of charge Wednesday through Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
The public is invited to celebrate with a 50th Anniversary Party and Exhibition premier on Saturday, July 22 at the Depot Museum where Lawrence’s contributions to the Historical Society will be honored. The ceremony kicks off at 1 p.m., followed at 2 p.m. by cake, punch, and the official opening of the new exhibition through 5 p.m.
Visitors are encouraged to stroll through the Historic Village and gift shop. For questions about the Society, exhibition, the 50th anniversary party, or membership, please call 269-649-1733 or stop by Wednesday through Sunday from 1-5 p.m.