People and passion save a 1926 treasure

Oakland County Heritage Conference, September 2014, Buhl Estate at Addison Oaks (Oakland County EDCA)
Oakland County Heritage Conference, September 2014, Buhl Estate at Addison Oaks (Oakland County EDCA)

Oakland County’s 2014 Heritage Conference on historic preservation was built on the idea of the ripple effect: Projects start small but gain strength as more people get involved and inspired. The effort to save Brady Lodge at Bay Court Park in Independence Township illustrates this principle.

Built in 1926 and used for many years as a mess hall for Boy Scouts at camp, the Brady Lodge is an historic and architectural treasure, from its cinder block and orange brick construction to the bell tower with its oxidized copper roof.  Preservation of the Lodge has been considered by the township for a number of years.

In 1990, CWA prepared a detailed site plan for Bay Court Park. The Township carried out several park improvements however the Lodge was never renovated. By 2012 it was in disrepair, used by the township to house maintenance equipment.

In 2012-13, CWA planner Alexandria Stankovich, then an intern with the Oakland County Economic Development and Community Affairs (EDCA) department, researched the history of the site and helped survey and document the condition of the structure.

“Historic preservation requires passion and commitment,” Stankovich said. “It also requires expert knowledge, political support and funding, but without passion a project will never get off the ground.”

Ron Campbell, a senior planner and preservation architect with Oakland County, recognized the significance of Brady Lodge. In the past, he had worked with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and their statewide organization offered the township a $30,000 matching grant for the roof restoration.

Current condition of Brady Lodge, Bay Court Park in Independence Township (Oakland County EDCA)
Current condition of Brady Lodge, Bay Court Park in Independence Township (Oakland County EDCA)

The Brady Lodge was built by George Brady, whose great grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War and whose grandfather, Brigadier General Hugh Brady, established Fort Brady in Sault Ste. Marie.

“This project represents everything that we stand for — preserving a building for use by the public — a building built by a descendant of patriots who fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, a defender of Detroit and so much more,” said Michigan State Regent Zandra Baker.

Stankovich joined Ken Elwert, the township’s director of parks, recreation, and seniors, and Jackie Hoist, a local AIA preservation architect, to present the results of the study at the Heritage Conference and again at the Michigan Recreation and Parks Associate Conference.

“Preservation cannot exist for preservation’s sake,” she said. “There is growing evidence to support the economics of historic preservation and adaptive reuse for the private sector, but it can be a hard sell for communities, particularly townships. Places are worth saving when they can be effectively reprogrammed to attract new uses and visitors, and establish a more vibrant place.”

Rendering of restored Brady Lodge interior with proposed farmers’ market (Oakland County EDCA)
Rendering of restored Brady Lodge interior with proposed farmers’ market (Oakland County EDCA)

The DAR and township funds were used to repair the roof of the Lodge. The township anticipates using the building  for rentals, weddings, arts and crafts fairs and a farmer’s market. Phase II, estimated at $210,000, would restore the kitchen, bring the main floor up to low intensity use and provide new windows, water, historic signage, electricity, restore doors, lights and bays, security and tables and chairs.