Promenade Tecumseh preparations under way

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Photos and stories about the West Branch School (pictured in a post card) are being sought. Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

Plans for the 2014 Promenade Tecumseh are already underway even though the home tour is still two months away. The committee has selected five homes for the tour on the weekend of June 7 and 8, and is especially excited about the sixth building — West Branch School on Kilbuck St.

Photos and stories about West Branch School are requested from former students for the committee to use during the tour. The owners of the school are restoring the building, and are also interested in finding out how things looked and were arranged, both inside and outside the school.

“I’m glad to see the people who bought the old school are preserving it,” said Pat VanCamp, chair of the Promenade Committee. “The structure of it is just remarkable.”

West Branch School was built in 1886 at 301 W. Kilbuck St. and was one of three primary schools and Union High School. The building cost $4,400 to build.

There were two rooms with 56 desks and a 20-foot long blackboard each plus a large front hall. Students in the first, second, and third grades attended West Branch School. A second wing was added to the building in 1913.

Tecumseh students attended school in the building until approximately 1970. After the school was closed, the district used it for storage until the 1980s when the building was sold and became a private residence.

Every year the committee searches for buildings with historical or architectural significance. Despite this criteria, homes selected to be on the Promenade Tour are not expected to be like museums.

“The biggest challenge the committee has is to find the perfect homes for the tour. Selection is random,” said VanCamp. “It’s all done by word of mouth, and by asking homeowners to participate. The gracious homeowners of Tecumseh are so good to open their homes to the public.”

Since 1976, the goal for Promenade Tecumseh has been to highlight Tecumseh’s historic district and show the economic, cultural and aesthetic benefits of the community. People come back year after year to enjoy the Promenade and all the history the event offers.

“People promenade for different reasons,” VanCamp said, including to study architecture or to appreciate history. “We have some people who come every year from other states and even from Canada.”

Preparing for the special weekend is not a simple task. The focus is to create activities and entertainment to complement the homes on tour.

“This year we are going to create displays on old schools in honor of the West Branch School’s inclusion on the home tour,” said VanCamp.

The group plans to have a storyteller on the premises telling the stories shared by families who attended West Branch. “It probably takes more than 300 volunteers to put on the event,” VanCamp said.

“The Wheelman” will share their antique bicycles during Promenade Tecumseh. The Historical Museum will be open for those interested in exploring Tecumseh through the years, and historic Brookside Cemetery will offer tours.

“The Promenade booklet from 1976 states,” said VanCamp, “that ‘Time and again, the existence of the economic, cultural and political life of a city is so closely tied to its surrounding area that if the nearby area withers, the city core does too.’ This statement is even truer for 2014.”

In addition to history, there will be a focus on art in the city as Tecumseh celebrates Art in the Park. Advance tickets to Promenade Tecumseh can be purchased after May 19 and by mail for $12, and are good for both Saturday, June 7 and Sunday, June 8. Tickets will be available at British Pantry and Tea Garden Café, Great Ideas, The Daily Grind, and the Tecumseh Chamber of Commerce.

Tickets on Promenade Weekend will be $15. Stories and photos of West Branch School can be mailed to Promenade Tecumseh, P.O. Box 535, Tecumseh, Mich., 49286, or sent to promenadetecumseh-mi@gmail.com. Pat VanCamp, 517.605.3293, is happy to answer any questions.




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