“Finally, our DeYoung Natural Area farmstead is about to blossom,” says Leelanau Conservancy Executive Director Tom Nelson.

“For everyone who cherishes this iconic farmstead and natural area  as a gateway to rural Leelanau, the Conservancy has fabulous news. Work has commenced to restore the circa 1855 mustard-colored farmhouse as a functional hub for volunteerism and joint conservation initiatives.”

Vintage Building and Restoration, which specializes in historic properties, has been hired to make the farmhouse a usable space, says Land Steward Chase Heise. “We’ll be adding some modern conveniences while maintaining the  historic character.” A new well was recently installed, and plans are  underway to repair joints in the large barn on the east side of Cherry Bend Road to straighten the walls and stabilize the structure.

The Conservancy preserved this 191-acre property in 2006 in partnership with Elmwood Township. The TART trail bisects the land, and a Universal Access trail leads to a lakeside fishing and viewing platform for all to enjoy. Upland trails wind past heritage-variety apple trees and over a small stream, offering sweeping views of Cedar Lake. Much of the shoreline—over a mile of frontage—is protected and contains wetlands critical to the health of Cedar Lake.

The DeYoung Farm is a place rich in history. The farmstead is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was once owned by Louis DeYoung, an innovative farmer who was the first in the area to bring electricity into his home with a homemade water wheel.

Almost immediately after the property was purchased, the Conservancy put a new roof on the house to stem water damage in progress. It also rebuilt the front porch and installed new doors on the lower barn. Thanks to a grant, the Power House, where Louis generated electricity via an underground waterwheel, has been largely restored. Graduate students from Eastern Michigan University’s historic preservation program have also been involved over the years in restoration work and cataloging artifacts from the farmhouse.

The natural area has seen the benefits of several partnerships with local community groups. School children, volunteers and organizations like the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians have removed invasive species, planted hundreds of trees and helped to establish an “Edible Trail’ community garden here.

The house and barn have potential as gathering places for staff, board, volunteers and partners. “But first, there’s a lot of work to be done,” says Chase. “Our contractor is committed to following the Secretary of the Interior’s standards on the treatment of historic properties.”

That includes keeping items like the Home Comfort wood cook stove, rooftop lightning rods and porcelain door knobs. Refinishing the beech floors that Louis laid himself in the 1930s is also a priority. “There are so many cool little things to discover, like the intricate trim work on the exterior windows of the house,” adds Chase. “We want to utilize what’s already there, and if it’s not usable or fixable we will recreate it.” If all goes as planned, work on the house will be completed by the end of summer.

Press release provided by Leelanau Conservancy

Photo(s) by Emily Stuhldreher