Seeking input: Survey asks about preservation; historic district proposed

May 17, 2019

An online survey that is open from now until June 17 is gathering information about what Ludington-area community members think about historic preservation efforts within the City of Ludington.

The online questionnaire is an initiative of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network’s Community Assessment program, with funding and support from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the State Historic Preservation Office.

The survey is designed “to capture the (community’s) perception of historic preservation in the present and thoughts for the future,” according to a press release about the survey.

“The assessment is intended to provide the community with a snapshot of (Ludington’s) current historic preservation ethic and efforts and create a blueprint of recommendations and resources for advancing historic preservation in the community,” stated the release.

Anyone can access the survey online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/LudingtonCommunityQuestionnaire.

The survey findings will be presented at a public meeting Wednesday evening, June 26. The specific time and location are yet to be determined.


The assessment program is in conjunction with an effort led by Ludington resident Ray Madsen, who is proposing that a section of East Ludington Avenue apply to join the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.

Madsen is currently a member of the Ludington Planning Commission, but his efforts do not involve the planning commission because no zoning changes would be required. He wants Ludington to have a historic district so that buildings in the area can be nationally recognized for their historical significance, Madsen told the Daily News.

The proposed district would be East Ludington Avenue from Delia to Staffon Streets.

Those city blocks are the location where the majority of Ludington’s lumber barons built their late-Victorian houses during the years 1870 to 1910, Madsen said. The area includes approximately 80 properties, but only the historic buildings would be recognized.

Madsen said he mailed letters to each of the property owners in the proposed district, inviting them to attend a meeting at 5 p.m. May 22, in the Ludington Library. Representatives from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the State Historic Preservation Office will be present at the meeting to answer people’s questions, he said.

The meeting will provide the property owners with details about the proposal and will seek their input about whether or not they want a historic district.

“I’ll only advance this if they say this is something they would like,” Madsen said.

Since he mailed the invitations, Madsen said he’s received messages from some property owners saying they don’t want to become part of a historic district because they don’t want any restrictions mandating what changes can and can’t be made to their properties.

Madsen insists there wouldn’t be any restrictions imposed on property owners, and that all historical preservation efforts on their properties would be voluntary.

“Preservation should be a result of people knowing it’s historic and why they need to preserve it,” he said. “I don’t want to force anything.”

Madsen noted that in 2011 and 2015, there were discussions by the planning commission about creating a historic district. What was proposed at those times would’ve created zoning ordinances and a historic district commission to oversee and restrict property changes, but those efforts stalled after hearing objections from property owners.

“What I’m proposing here is not what was proposed before,” he said.

Madsen said he sympathizes with the property owners because he lives in a home on Gaylord Avenue that is about 150 years old, and he doesn’t want anyone telling him what to do with his property.

“What I propose is that we apply for National Register historic recognition of East Ludington Avenue without creating any city ordinances that would impede your ability to do what you want with your property,” Madsen stated in the invitation.

The new proposal also wouldn’t include creating a historic district commission, he said.

The National Register of Historic Places, which is managed by the National Park Service, states on its website: “Under Federal Law, the listing of a property in the National Register places no restrictions on what a non-federal owner may do with their property up to and including destruction, unless the property is involved in a project that receives Federal assistance, usually funding or licensing/permitting.”

Having ordinances and a historic district commission that mandates preservation requirements is a city’s choice, Madsen said. Ludington could choose not to have them but still register as a historic district, he said.

In addition to districts, individual properties can also apply to be on the National Register of Historic Places. Some landmarks, such as the Mason County Courthouse and the SS Badger carferry, are already listed on it.