Tower Farm remodel completes Fallasburg historic village

Walking through the immaculate white rooms still smelling of fresh paint at the Tower Farm with pristine views of the Fallasburg village and the woods in the back, it would take the wildest imagination to transport you back in time before the remodel. The 1850s dilapidated farmhouse was falling apart, when the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) embarked on the ambitious remodel in May of 2020. It was the last missing piece in the total reconstruction of the historic village due to the limited funding and since it was the last building to be occupied, it provided income to the FHS.

However, the roof was replaced in 2011 and the windows were replaced in 2014 to save the structure from extreme decay. In the years past, the FHS peeled off the asphalt/fireboard siding put on in 1954. Within the past year, the FHS was able to secure individual donations to begin a proper renovation.

The Orlin Douglass/Tower Farm was built by Douglass in 1850.  It was later acquired by the Towers. In 1896, the right half of the farmhouse was moved from a nearby location so that sister-in-law’s, Tower and Steketee, could live together with their families.

The outside had greyish brown color and a layer of green fiberboard had been put on circa 1954 and peeled off during window installation, according to Craig Fonger, a volunteer and webmaster. All the mechanicals were replaced and proper fire blocking was installed to prevent fire from migrating to the second floor.

“COVID presented us with an opportunity we otherwise wouldn’t have had,” said Fonger. “This completes our village restoration and allows us to present a finished product to the world. Additionally the rental income will help benefit FHS.”

“I’m ecstatic about the Tower House rehabilitation,” said FHS president Ken Tamke.

  It has been a very long haul on this project, 30+ years, and the result is stunning.  Were it not for a couple of grants, the Lowell Area Community Fund administered by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation that awarded FHS a grant for a new roof in 2011, and the Lowell Cable Television Endowment Fund which awarded FHS a grant for new windows in 2014, the Tower House just might not have survived.

“The job our remarkable volunteers and contractors did that helped get the home to the finish line cannot be underestimated, many thanks to them,” Tamke said.  “They deserve a lion’s share of the credit.”

Fonger said that nothing in the structure was neither square or plumb.

“At almost every turn we were forced to improvise in some way, in some caseseschewing the assistannce of builders squares and levels and just making things fit,” he said.

But, there was also gratification in the fact that the Tower House was the last property in almost 30 lumberring years of rehabilitation- each succession building on the legacy of preceding FHS boards.

Fallasburg Village has undergone an amazing renewal and is finally to a point beyond damage control, but there will always be something, paint here, repair there, TLC all around.  The life of the preservationist is never boring or without tasks.  FHS is up to the challenge!

Over the last decade, the village has continued to improve buildings, according to the treasurer Alan Rumbaugh. First, the stagecoach was redone, then Blackmer, next the Fallas house, and then Betsy Fallas. The Post Office and and Beckwith Tavern have been nicely maintained. The Tower and Fallas barns have both had major repairs with the Tower Barn getting the Barn of the Year 2014.

The School House had a new front porch/deck put on last year and the entire building was repainted. The old shack beside the Stagecoach House has been torn down adn the double wide across the street has been removed and a new farm type house will be built on that property.

Now that the Tower House has been brought to reflect its past, we have a village street that we can start to promote to the public and build a much bigger following for the FHS.

We hope to have the Tower House disdplay farm artifacts in the FHS part of the house, reflecting the history of the “Tower Farm” and water melon crops. The other half of the house will have tenants that will not only give us some income to promote the village, but hope for them to be an active member, living in the village.

The Misner House will be repainted this summer and some other minor work done on it. The displays in that house would be more in line with domestic items, washing machines, spinning wheels, etc.

The Fallas House would be set up as it would have been in the 1800s. The School House will reflect the life in a one-room school, which was in use into 1950s. The other houses on the street are private residents and have noted on the yard signs.

The original plan was to restore the Tower House creating a museum that represented 20TH century life.  FHS has communicated regularly with the Tower Family and has obtained family mementoes, furnishings, pictures, and artifacts that will be displayed.  We hope to hold occasional meetings, gatherings and outdoor functions supported by our new kitchen with this landmark farmhouse and grounds as the backdrop.

According to treasurer Al Rumbaugh, farming artifacts and memorabilia will be stored at Tower the House. The Tower House will also be used as office to work on program planning and archival projects.

Fonger credited much of the work to Rumbaugh and David Cadwallader who spent many hours on the project.

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