Preserving the Past,
Celebrating via Technology:
MAF Virtual Event Highlights Architectural Preservation Projects, Honors Donors


This year has seen many organizations, including MAF, use technology and creative ways to bring people together. MAF recently held its 2020 Historic Preservation Donor Recognition Virtual Event via Zoom. The purpose of the event was to recognize and show appreciation to MAF’s donors for their support, and to highlight two restoration projects supported by MAF, Mackinac Island’s Biddle House and Starkweather Memorial Chapel, recipient of  the 2020 MAF Evans Graham Preservation Award.

Attendees, which included members of MAF’s Historic Preservation Committee and Evans Graham Preservation Award Jury, were treated to presentations by Phil Porter, Director Emeritus, Mackinac State Historic Parks, on the Biddle House; and Barry LaRue, Project Manager, Highland Cemetery Association, on the Starkweather Memorial Chapel.

“Both Biddle House and Starkweather Chapel are projects that have positively impacted the preservation of historic architecture in Michigan,” said Carl Roehling, FAIA, MAF board member and chair of MAF’s Historic Preservation Committee. “Neither project could have happened without the dedication of Phil and Barry to shepherd them, or the resources and support provided by MAF, our donors, and others who understand the important role these structures play in Michigan’s architectural history.”

MAF’s association with Biddle House goes back to the foundation’s roots. In 1957, the Michigan Society of Architects (now AIA Michigan), established the Michigan Architectural Foundation, after helping to fund a significant restoration of Biddle House. The project was the impetus for more than sixty years of MAF fundraising and support for projects that benefit communities, preserve architectural history, and increase awareness of the important role architecture plays in our lives.

Over the years, MAF has supported multiple restoration projects at Biddle House, which dates to the late eighteenth century and is one of Michigan’s oldest structures. The house was purchased by fur trader Edward Biddle in 1831, who settled on the island after the War of 1812 and married island resident Agatha de LaVigne, who was of Odawa Indian ancestry. The most recent MAF grant helped update several exhibits, including one on the history of Native Americans on Mackinaw Island.  See the video of Phil Porter’s presentation here.

Starkweather Memorial Chapel, located at Ypsilanti’s historic Highland Cemetery, is the 2020 recipient of MAF’s Evans Graham Preservation Award grant. The $10,000 grant is supporting the restoration and adaptive reuse of the 1888 funeral chapel for use as a venue for lectures, weddings, and private and community events. Designed by renowned architecture firm Mason & Rice, the sandstone, copper and brick Richardsonian Romanesque-style chapel was built as a memorial to John Starkweather from his wife Mary Ann, both prominent members of the Ypsilanti community. See the video of Barry LaRue’s presentation here. The project is the 23nd recipient of the grant.

In recent years, MAF’s Donor Appreciation Event has honored grant and scholarship recipients at an in-person reception held every spring. MAF plans to again hold future Donor Appreciation events in person, as well as offer other virtual events that will expand access to those not able to enjoy face-to-face event attendance and participation.  Click here to watch the virtual event in its entirety.

To read about other historic preservation projects supported by MAF’s Evans Graham Preservation Grants, click here.