The Topinabee Depot building was constructed in 1881 and purchased by the township in 1958. Major repair work on the building has been rare, but a major renovation which started earlier this fall is nearing completion. The building now houses the Topinabee Library and a historical museum.
by L. Scott Swanson, Editor Straitsland Resorter
With a major renovation project nearing completion, the Topinabee
Library and Historical Museum should be able to reopen sometime
shortly after the beginning of the new year.
Over the past several months the depot building, which is home to the library and museum, has had: heating and septic systems added; the ceilings modified; and a storage room converted to additional library space.
The building is owned by Mullett Township, but much of the work was financed be a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. The work has been done by Jim Zwar and Jim's Handyman Service.
The depot building was constructed in 1881. The township purchased it from the railway compan in 1958 for $8,500. In the early 1970s the building was jacked up and put on a permanent foundation. The library had been in the building earlier and moved back in 1974.
"Structurally, the building's in pretty good shape, as best we could tell," Zwar said. In doing the renovation, some nails had to be removed. Zwar said the nails were the old square-cut nails, which were probably made by a blacksmith. The nails were saved for the museum.
Putting in a heating system and restrooms were major projects, but Zwar said they were done with an eye toward retaining the building's historical integrity. The bathrooms were installed in a small room at the center of the building. The heating system uses a geo-thermal pump with the indoor portion of the system hidden in a small room above the bathrooms. Prior to the renovation, the building had no bathroom and the only heat came from a small wall furnace. There was also no insulation in the building. Topinabee Librarian Elizabeth Benson said the wall furnace's ability to keep the building warm depended, to some degree, on the direction of the wind.
At some time in the past, a drop ceiling had been installed. That has been removed and the building now has its original high ceiling.
Last fall, before the project began, vandals broke into the building and dumped books from shelves and sprayed fire extinguishers around, generally making a terrible mess. Although there was no direct link between the vandalism incident and the renvation, the repair work began a short time later.
The interior of the building is currently kind of a mint green color. The interior is going to be repainted an off white. The lighting system will also be repaired, the wiring brought up to date and new carpeting will be installed.
Although Zwar says the renovation has been quite a project, it's turned out well. The building has retained its historical integrity, yet it will provide a much more comfortable home for the museum, library and their patrons.