FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Cheryl Hutchinson
When the doors of the Union School in Suttons Bay opened to welcome it’s first students in 1908, it would have been impossible to imagine that 106 years later it would be transformed into four sophisticated, upscale condominiums. But fortunately for all those interested in historic preservation and sustainable building practices, that is exactly what has happened.
The Union School at 513 N. St. Mary’s Street, began construction in 1907 using fieldstone that area farmers brought from their homesteads. It functioned as the local school for Suttons Bay until it closed its doors in 1968 when the new elementary school was built. The ownership of the building changed hands over the subsequent years and, after sitting empty for a decade, it finally ended up on the market last winter. That’s when local entrepreneur, Cheryl Hutchinson found the listing on the Internet and jumped at the opportunity to buy the beautiful old landmark.
“My husband and I were both very excited to see the school for sale and immediately thought of renovating it and giving it a new life. My brothers and I attended kindergarten through second grade there in the 1960’s so we had a special reason to see that this historic treasure be preserved,” explains Hutchinson.
The school’s classrooms have been successfully transformed into four spacious, 2-bedroom condos, all while keeping true to the vision of preserving the historic integrity of the schoolhouse wherever possible throughout the renovation. Hutchinson discovered early in the process, that the bones of the structure were in great condition with stone walls over 3 feet thick at the base. She kept most of the original maple flooring, 14’ ceilings and 9’ windows of the upper level, which were formerly classrooms, but now comprise the unit’s main living areas. Design and construction focused on sustainable practices with Hutchinson insisting that the original wood be recycled and repurposed as much as possible. All of the appliances are energy-star, high efficiency and LED lighting has been installed in compliance with green, sustainable building practices. The original bell tower at the center of the roofline will remain and become the focal point of a fifth condo unit to be complete at a later date.
Hutchinson has been renovating and repurposing historic homes in Leelanau County and throughout the country since the 1980’s when as a student at Michigan State University, she purchased her first investment property – a 1950’s waterfront fishing cottage on Lee Point.
“It’s been a special privilege to be able to give this beautiful old schoolhouse another life”, says Hutchinson. “Knowing that it has been preserved and will maintain its special place in this community and its history is a wonderful feeling.”