In a world where so much is being demolished for something new, John and Peggy Zachel have preservation on their minds.
“When everything is being torn down, we’re doing just the opposite,” Peggy said. “We feel differently than most people do.”
In addition to a past donation of a wooded area for preservation by the Michigan Nature Association, the Zachels have also found a way to make sure their North Morenci school remains standing long after they’re gone.
The Zachels recently completed the process of donating a historic preservation easement for the 111-year-old school house to the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHNP).
The easement is a voluntary agreement between the property owners and the preservation group to limit the use of the school in order to protect the property’s historic value.
“An easement is a particularly useful historic preservation tool in several respects,” wrote Nancy Finegood, executive director of the MHPN.
The easement permanently prevents demolition, neglect and inappropriate alterations to the exterior. It allows the Zachels to retain private ownership of the property while requiring them to maintain the exterior in the proper historic fashion.
“An easement binds not only the Zachels but future owners, as well,” Finegood said, “ensuring that the property will be maintained and preserved by future owners.”
The easement “runs with the deed” in perpetuity.
“Michigan Historic Preservation Network is pleased to be the holder of the easement on the wonderful historic North Morenci School House where local children still have the opportunity to learn about the history of their community,” Finegood added.
While visiting the Zachels last week, Finegood praised their efforts at saving the school.
“There’s not a lot of people that have the passion for preservation that you and John have,” she said.
The MHNP has 12 easements statewide, Finegood said, adding that, “We’re really quite particular about what we accept for easements.”
With all costs of the easement paid, the Zachels are ready to celebrate the completion of the process.
Tours of the school and other activities are planned for the public from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 5 at the school, located at the intersection of M-156 and Ridgeville Road, two miles north of Morenci.
Activities are planned for children and take-home materials will be available. Cookies, lemonade and other refreshments will be served.
A silent auction is planned to help raise funds for the school. Auction items collected so far include a crocheted tablecloth from Carma Sutton, a large selection of first-day covers from a stamp collection, U.S. Navy mess hall silverware, old vinegar cruets, old crocks, handkerchiefs embroidered in Switzerland and more.
Baked goods will also be sold and fresh produce will be available, including raspberries, if ripe.
All former students who studied at the North Morenci school are offered honorary membership in the North Morenci School Society, a group dedicated to preserving the school. Former students are all urged to attend the celebration and recall their experiences as youngsters at the school.
Peggy Zachel recalled the help she and her husband had from community members in restoring the school—a project led by Jack Sampson—and she hopes the public will attend the celebration.
“It’s a gift to the community,” she said about the restored structure.