black and white image of the Carriage Garage building in terrible disrepair at the Packard Proving Grounds Historic Site

There is a federal law called the National Historic Preservation Act.  It was enacted in 1966 as a reaction to the nation-wide destruction of “obsolete” buildings under the guise of Urban Renewal.  Our past was being erased as hundreds of historic buildings and sites were wiped off the map.  The law stated that federal projects, or those using federal funds, were subject to the Section 106 review process, which provided steps to determine whether the work to be done would harm a historic site and, if so, ways to avoid or minimize that harm.

I told my advisor at the university about the possible sale of the land parcel that contained the PPG hangar to the US Postal Service.  We agreed that the Section 106 review might be used in this situation.  He gave me the contact information for the Section 106 coordinator at the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).  I then called and relayed the situation to Mr. Robert Christensen at the SHPO who instructed me to send him as much information as I had on the PPG site and a photograph of the hangar.  He agreed that this was indeed a historic site with a rare early 20th-century metal airplane hangar.  He then got to work and within a short amount of time, the US Postal Service hired a historic preservation consultant to conduct a Section 106 review of the PPG.  I could barely contain my excitement.  Things were finally happening for the PPG.

It was indeed a stroke of luck that the first party with designs toward purchasing a piece of the PPG was a federal agency.  The Section 106 review puts a halt to demolition while a site is being investigated.  It also uncovers and brings to light the historic importance of the site.  If it had been a private party buying the hangar parcel, there would have been no Section 106 review.  Demolition and development would most likely have proceeded and my story probably would have had a completely different ending.

To be continued.