Long-vacant church torn down

Building more than 100 years old


BIG CREEK TWP. — One of the oldest churches in Oscoda County underwent the process of being torn down in June after being left dormant for years.

Supervisor Randy Booth said that a couple years ago the township pursued having the old Methodist church building, located at the corner of 10th and Deyarmond, torn down because of the condition it was in. However, owner Cal Gossage obtained a building permit to repair it.

“The township’s stance has been as long as it’s under the building permit in the county that he was supposed to rebuild the building, there was really nothing we could do,” Booth said. “Really I didn’t see him make any progress in the last two years.”

Booth said Gossage braced up the walls’ structure and took down the damaged roof. But, after this forward progress, the project stopped.

“I never really talked with the gentleman after that point,” Booth said.

Gossage said he tore the building down to due to financial issues and because his health prevented him from making necessary improvements to the building.

“Me and my wife decided to tear it down and go a different route,” Gossage said. “I wasn’t going to break myself putting a roof on it.”

Gossage said he also was getting a lot of negative feedback from the community about the state of the building currently. He was hoping to turn it into a community hall and spent an estimated $20,000 on the building.

“It just disappoints me that I put so much heart into that community to get that kind of response,” Gossage said.

Booth said that in May he was contacted by Oscoda County Building Inspector Tim Whiting, who said there was no longer a building permit for the structure.

“He wasn’t making any progress on it in the last year or so,” Whiting said. “In the state it was in it either had to be fixed up or torn down.”

When improvements weren’t made, Whiting condemned the building as a safety hazard in May.

“Once I do that to a building, then the township takes over,” he said. “It’s their responsibility to see that it either gets fixed up or torn down.”

Whiting said public opinion was split on whether or not the building should come down, but it came down to whether or not the building was a hazard.

“I was kind of rooting for the owner,” Whiting said. “I just thought it would be kind of neat to see it fixed up and used for something.”

Whiting said the church did have the potential for being restored, but it would’ve taken a significant amount of money. He said this would’ve included getting a roof for the building and redoing things like the electrical and plumbing.

“Right from the get-go it was going to be a pretty expensive proposition,” Whiting said. “It wasn’t going to be a short-term deal.”

Booth said the church had been owned by private individuals in recent years.

“It’s been vacant for about 20 years,” he said.

According to a history of the county by the AuSable River Valley Historical Society, the church was deeded to Lucy Lewis. It was built in 1906 and its minister was J.G. Hart, who had a congregation of six.

“It’s another piece of Oscoda County history gone,” Whiting said.

"Nobody else in the community is trying to restore old buildings, they're trying to tear them down," Gossage said. "But because nobody else is doing it, the community seems to want to tear me and my wife down."


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