VANDALIA, Mich. - A historic monument in Cass County is getting a second chance. Renovations have been going on at the Bonine House in Vandalia. More than 150 years ago, the home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
In December of 2010 a group called the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County purchased the home. One of the walls was crumbling from the building. “I think we were pretty close to losing the house for good,” said Mike Moroz Director of ‘Friends of the Bonine House’, the group overseeing the renovations. “The brick was separating from the wall.”
The building is 170-years-old and had been vacant since 2001 before the group purchased the building. Donations have been a large part of funding for the renovations. “We’ve had donations from $10 to $10 thousand,” said Cathy LaPoint a member of the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County. LaPoint said locals answered the call.
James Bonine, one of Cass County’s founding fathers was also a station master for the Underground Railroad. Countless slaves, seeking freedom, stopped at the Bonine property on their way to Canada.
Vandalia was the intersection of two major Underground Railroad routes. The small town has a rich history of Civil War times. “Telling that story and using the Bonine House as a focal point for telling that story is what we’re trying to do,” said LaPoint.
So far the group raised $100 thousand to keep the house standing but other areas of the home in disarray. There are holes in the roof that need to be fixed and numerous places inside the home that need to be updated.
The Society said community donors will need to be the key to finishing renovations.
Once completed the plan to use the home as a museum and a community meeting room. The price tag for everything in total will be somewhere around a $500 thousand.
Donations can be made to the home at this website.