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Fishtown shanties in Leland to be moved for foundation repair

Gary Langley, an FAA certified sUAS pilot
Interlochen Public Radio


Fishtown officials are looking to move three shanties — historic buildings — from their original location in an effort to repair foundations rotted by high water levels this summer. 

The shanties will be placed roughly 10 to 15 feet back from their current location. They will be encased in weatherproof material to protect the structures from Michigan’s harsh winter weather.

The price tag to move them and replace the foundations is about $1 million, says Amanda Holmes, executive director of Fishtown Preservation. 

Fishtown’s famous Cheese Shanty, a sandwich shop where tourists and locals alike flock, flooded numerous times this summer. It’s one of three buildings that will be moved. 

“The water right now is up over the foundation,” Holmes says about the Cheese Shanty. “You look and see, a foot, up to two feet high of where that water has gotten in several different times this summer.”

The floor of the building actually broke in half and was sealed back together as a temporary fix. A sign on the outside of the Cheese Shanty reads, “I’m broken in half! You can help.” 

The other two buildings are the Morris shanty built in 1903 and Carlson’s Fish. 

The Morris shanty has a sign on it that says, “I need a lift.” Of all the shanties in Fishtown, it’s the only one with a dock halfway submerged under water at any given time. 

Holmes has a looming deadline to replace the foundations of the shanties. She hopes she’ll be able to hire contractors sooner than later but is still waiting on permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and the state preservation office.

“I’m crossing my fingers, basically,” Holmes says, highlighting the need for a quick permitting process. 

She fears that if they don’t start work soon, the shanties and their foundations are at risk of freezing, pulling them further under water. 

“It’s literally like (they’ll turn into) a giant Shanty cube that’s just going to have water flowing underneath it and that could literally pull it right up off of the foundation,” she says.

Holmes has been with the Fishtown Preservation society since 2007, and she’s only seen the surface water in Fishtown freeze during the last two winters. 

Fishtown is working with Historical Architect Gene Hopkins to help with the looming problem.

“We’re going to move them up on dry land and kind of encapsulate them and protect them, because they are so historically significant. And then perform our work and set them back exactly where they were,” says Hopkins.

The goal is to get the Shanties put back on their new foundations by next spring.


This story was featured in Points North. You can find the full episode here.