Historic Fenton seminary may be demolished - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Historic Fenton seminary may be demolished

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FENTON (WJRT) -

(04/03/14) - A Mid-Michigan's woman's efforts to save a historic building may be coming to an end.

The 147-year-old seminary has been lost to tax foreclosure. Penny Crane bought the Fenton Seminary 20 years ago and hoped to turn it into a bed and breakfast, but it may soon be demolished.

"I'm not just losing a house, this town is losing a historic building," Crane said.

The Baptist Seminary opened in 1868. The three story fieldstone house is on the National Register of Historic Places. Crane bought the building nearly 20 years ago with hopes to create a bed-and-breakfast. It was condemned in 2004 after a fire and has been crumbling to pieces ever since.  A few days ago another chunk collapsed.

"With the extra load of rain and the melting snow, the front attic windows fell," said Crane.

At the same time, Crane was told she was losing the building to tax foreclosure.

"Right now there's between $25-30,000 in taxes against the place. I'm not going to pay it," Crane said.

Even though the building is in horrible shape, Crane believes it can be saved and its history preserved.

"This building could be here for another hundred years to help a lot more people show their children and grandchildren what everything was about, what our history was about, what it smelled like, what it felt like, what people went through, how heavy those stones were to carry all the way up," she said.

Crane says if the building is demolished, she hopes some of the stones and other materials can be used to restore other historical buildings.

Fenton officials say they've been trying to work with Crane for 10 years, but time has run out.

"It's had two collapses since December. We've been contacted both times by the fire department," said Brad Hissong, Fenton building and zoning administrator.

Now the city might move to fence it off and bring it down.

"A six foot high metal fence that will keep kids out of it. Then make arrangements to get the structure down and safe at least. It's a shame, it was a beautiful building," Hissong said.

"It's unfortunate the building has fallen into such disrepair, but at this point, it's become a public safety issue," said Lynn Markland, Fenton City Manager.

No outside agency has come to Crane's rescue with enough funds to restore the building.

"I would say the building is probably too far gone at this point. It's probably been too far gone for quite a few years now," Markland said.

Crane says Fenton leadership doesn't care about its historic buildings - but Markland and Hissong say that's not true.

"The library that's in the old post office for example. The current Fire Hall Restaurant which is the historical fire hall, so the city has put a lot of money into some of our historic buildings," Markland said.

There is no hard and fast date to demolish the seminary, but Crane says on that day, she will cry.

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