Old buildings store history.  If they live beyond their first lifetime, they do so because someone cares.  In this case, someone cared a lot.  The resulting transformation was dramatic.  You may have read about the old IOOF hall on Vining Street on this website.  An article in January, 2021, told its story.  Suffering from age and neglect, it faced a now or never verdict.  Annette Fink, who designed the Welcome to Clark Lake Sign, had a vision.  “This would make a terrific art studio,” she thought.

The first question, could it be saved?  Mike McKay and M-R Builder diagnosed its ills.  The internal structure was weak, but it could be reinforced.  Was the building available for purchase?  Yes, but the owner’s sentimental attachment had to be addressed.  Would the proposed restoration satisfy Columbia Township’s rules and regulations?  Yes, but it took many months, meetings and permits.  Would it take tremendous time, effort and money?  For sure.

To glimpse the challenge, check out these photos taken before work began.

  • Framed photo
  • The stage--later used by Irwin Bloom as a work bench
  • What song was last played on this piano?
  • Second floor with IOOF symbol on north wall
  • Stairway to second floor, guarded by ???
  • Blackboard on first floor, west wall

After the Memorial Day Parade, a few visitors were invited into the renovated surroundings.  This is what they saw.

Annette Fink says “my inner voice said ‘do this.’  It felt right to do for the community, and it was a joy.  I am grateful that I have this place and the opportunities it offers.”

What happens next?  Annette Fink wants to make art.  By invitation, she will bring individuals together for projects for the benefit of Clark Lake and other local communities.  Eventually, the space may also serve for exhibitions, sales of art, and workshops.   If you would like more information and/or think you would like to volunteer, you can reach Annette at artisticaf.co@gmail.com.

The story of this transformation goes deeper.  So, plans are afoot to reveal its secrets.  Learn what the building was hiding, and the monumental effort it took to bring this project to a successful conclusion.  More photos/video are on the way.

Learn more about Vining Street history.  You’ll want to know about the coffin that was found in the building.

A Clark Lake Mystery: What is this Building and What Happened in It? – Clark Lake Spirit Foundation

The IOOF Lodge Gets a New Owner – Clark Lake Spirit Foundation

The Secrets Houses Hide, Part 2 – Clark Lake Spirit Foundation

Clark’s Lake Gets a Post Office – Clark Lake Spirit Foundation

Got a Dime? – Clark Lake Spirit Foundation