File photo The Hubbell Chimney, which formerly stood on Second Street in Northville.
By CARLA KOLBE
For the Recorder
NORTHVILLE -- The effort of a handful of local residents is close to paying off as they attempt to rebuild a chimney for the annual return of the migrating swifts.
The project they have spearheaded is to replace the Hubbell chimney on Second Street, which was taken down in December.
The chimney served as the home for migrating swifts which travel more than 8,000 miles each year from the Amazon Rain Forest to Northville. Every May 6, since the 1950s, the swifts have made their celebrated return to the village and are greeted with an all-out community celebration.
History has it that in 1861 Ray Hubbell built the Globe Metallic Binding Co. on Second Street. That burned in 1890 and was rebuilt. Sometime later a glove shop was built on the site. All that remained until December was a brick freestanding fireplace that for decades the swifts have adopted as their summer home. The swifts characteristically arrived at dusk, forming an almost erie cyclone, and descend into the chimney.
The chimney held a historic value to many village residents, and was even a featured logo on some Northville paraphernalia.
The chimney was on private property, and all proper paperwork for the demolition was filed. Although no reason was given for the unexpected demolition, it is assumed by many that the crumbling chimney may have been a safety liability.
"The chimney crumbled and toppled over as soon as it was touched by the equipment," said Sheldon Ginter, who observed the demolition back in December.
There are just a few obstacles yet to hurdle. The location has been secured. The property adjacent to the former site was donated for a new chimney. The group submitted a design featuring specifications researched at www.chimneyswifts.org, an organization dedicated to the preservation and education of chimney swifts.
Getting the right permits and zoning approval, and most recently insuring the structure are points that remain unanswered.
The small group has volunteered its time and personal financing to initiate the move. Northville builder Dale Downes has offered his services to build the chimney, and is looking into getting materials donated.
What's left is the timing -- to get all of this done before the swifts return May 6.
Committee member Linda Mosher of Northville would like to see the chimney back up by May 1 for any early arrivals.
"I understand the birds may not even take to the new structure, but at least we have tried," said Mosher.
Since 1961, Mosher and her husband Rusty have enjoyed the annual return of the swifts. Mosher herself would hand out brochures to spectators explaining the story of the swifts and their place in Northville's history.
"I was so sad when I saw the chimney was down," she said. "I have enjoyed this spectacle for so long, and I'm really concerned for the swifts."
Mosher said she would be upset if they didn't at least try to do something, and worried the swifts would skip their annual summering in Northville.
Chimney or not, the annual celebration is scheduled to continue, as it has become an annual community tradition. On Monday evening, May 6, a celebration will continue on the corner of Northville's Bridge and Second streets as it has for decades.
The mystery to be revealed will be the actions, if any, the migrating swifts will take as they return to their summer home at dusk.
For more information on the swifts, or the progress of the project, call Karol Hyde at 863-6979.