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Orion Township preserves its history



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From left, Former Township Supervisor JoAnn VanTassel, Park Coordinator Dave Osstyn and Custom Welding Co. Owner Steve Leach stand by the recovered 10 foot windmill head. Photos by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
December 05, 2012 - Orion Township is doing something to preserve its history and the evidence can be seen at Friendship Park at the corner of Clarkston Road and Baldwin.

The site of the old Porritt Barn, a 1920s barn that was moved to the park in 2000, will soon get a bit more crowded when two more historic structures are reassembled at the park.

The first is a school house built at the corner of Baldwin Road and Silverbell in 1859 that is being restored. The second is a classic windmill that sat at a residence on Joslyn Road.

The former property owner where the windmill stood, Edward Kovar, was concerned about what might happen to the structure.

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So the Orion Township Parks and Recreation department got together with Custom Welding owner Steve Leach to tear it down and move it to Friendship Park.

"JoAnn Van Tassel contacted the people who owned the windmill and found out they were happy to donate it to the park," said Orion Township Park Coordinator Dave Osstyn. "At that point, we approached Steve Leach, who is a good guy in this community who was extremely instrumental in this process. He knows someone who has a crane, so we met on Nov. 10 and took it down.

"We're still trying to figure out how old the windmill is, but it's rumored that the Youngs and the Porritts owned the property at one point. These two families have been in the area forever."

In the spring, the windmill will be reassembled next to the school house and serve as an educational tool to show students how they could be used to pump water and generate electricity. The parts are inspected to make sure they are still secure and once erect, it will stand 58 feet tall.

Meanwhile, the school is in rough shape, according to Osstyn, with rotten floor boards and cracking plaster, but a crew is working to bring it back to its original state, with most renovations planned for the spring.

"This was built and then people just modernize it, like drilling in and putting in electricity," said Osstyn. "We're just trying to make sure it's safe and functional. It will be used as another educational tool to see what it was like to go to school back in the day. On a side note, we're looking for people that went to the school and have memories or pictures."

One such person is an employee of the Township - Ross Wait, who attended the school and is now in his 70s. During a visit to the building, Wait pointed to things he used to do during the school day.

There were names of former students scrawled on the wall where it's believed coat hooks used to hang.

But besides the building, Osstyn said, they are seeking authentic equipment and items from the school.

"We haven't had anyone else come to us yet," he said. "Maybe someone has one of the old desks - we have one right now - but we would like to put those on display."

There is $10,000 to spend on renovating the building, but Osstyn believes his team will be well under the budget, with only $1,000 for electricity, $800 for insulation and so far $700 for the floors and wall estimated, though the project has been put on a temporary hold until the numbers are finalized.

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