Evart Depot on track to become historic district
Historic district commission major step forward
EVART -- The Evart City Council approved the appointment of Diane Carlson and Jennifer Joyce to the Evart Historic District Commission at its meeting April 6.
Carlson will serve a 2-year term and Joyce will serve a 1-year term.
The establishment of the city's Historic District Commission is part of an ongoing effort to get the Evart Depot and surrounding area designated as an historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (MSHPO) requires the city to establish an Historic District Commission before they can approve the application for historic designation.
The appointment of the two members will complete the five-member requirement.
The historic district designation will enable the city to apply for grants to help fund the rehabilitation and preservation of the Depot.
According to assistant city manager Mark Wilson, three things are required to be eligible for grant funds through the National Historic Preservation Act - designation as an historic district, being listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and becoming a certified local government through the National Parks Service (NPS) and the MSHPO.
"We are trying to do all three things at the same time," Wilson said.
In July 2019, the Evart City Council appointed an historic district study committee to pursue the possibility of getting the Depot designated as an historic district and placed on the National Register of Historic Places so that the building could be renovated and, once again, be used for city offices.
Since then, the committee, along with city officials, have been working diligently to achieve that goal.
"The ultimate goal is to get city hall back in the building," Wilson said. "But more than that, we want to preserve the historical nature of the structure.
"It is a community landmark, and through our town halls and surveys, the public has made it known that they want it to be preserved and used for the city offices," he added.
Believed to have been built in 1873, the Depot was owned and operated by the Pere Marquette Railroad until 1929.
Since that time, although it has gone through several different ownerships, the Evart Depot remained in business until in 1988, when then owner CSX Transportation, dismantled the railroad line and abandoned the Depot.
After being abandoned for several years, the Evart Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) obtained ownership of the building and restored it to its 1870s character.
It was used along the Rails to Trails pathway as a community trailway center for the public, and for the City of Evart municipal offices until 2017, when mold was discovered in the building and the municipal offices were relocated to a facility at the Evart airport.
The building is currently being used only for community and city council meetings.
Wilson said they have submitted the preliminary report and application for the National Register of Historic Places, and it has been reviewed and accepted. In addition, the MSHPO has reviewed their application for certified local government status, and approved it pending submission of some additional information.
"We are now consulting with the historical architect that has been assisting the city to determine if we need to hire a professional to help us in the final steps," Wilson said. "With the coronavirus pandemic situation, everything has slowed down."
According to Todd Walsh, the national register coordinator for the MSHPO, the depot qualifies because of its historic significance to the transportation industry.
The presence of the railroad in Evart had a significant impact on the city, and the depot embodies and illustrates that history, he said.
According to Walsh, the listing process is lengthy and involves experts at every level - local, state, and national - reviewing the information and agreeing that a particular site is significant.
To meet the expectations of so many people at so many levels is "truly something special," he said.