Deliver Benefits to the Public

Connecting to historic preservation through a large adaptive-reuse initiative at the Chittenden Nursery

CADILLAC, Mich. — Volunteers from HistoriCorps have been hard at work during the past few weeks at the Huron-Manistee National Forest’s Chittendon Nursery helping to renovate the former cone shed into living quarters for temporary employees.

Renovations include: insulation for year-round use, repair and repainting siding and roof vents, replacing current doors with period appropriate doors, repainting the structure, and installation of energy efficient double-hung windows. In addition to repurposing the structure, the crew is retaining building materials, such as windows, doors, and hardware, so they can be repurposed for use in other construction projects.

Chittendon Nursery served as a hub of activity during the reforestation efforts of the 1930s, with the distinction of being the most productive tree nursery in the world for a time. With much of the eastern and Midwestern United States stripped of their forests and urban unemployment driving men to the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Forest Service created Chittenden Nursery with CCC members as the primary laborers. Opened in 1934, the nursery supplied seedlings and transplants for regional planting and featured several buildings, including a greenhouse. The nursery operated for almost 40 years before finally being closed in 1973 due to insufficient demand for seedlings.

In cooperation with the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Forest Service leveraged the nursery’s production of pine, spruce and hardwood trees to reforest more than 101,000 acres in the Manistee National Forest between 1934 and 1942.


HistoriCorps project foreman John Rossi plans work for the incoming crew of volunteers. A new group of volunteers arrive at the historic Chittenden Nursery each week to help restore and repurpose a former cone shed that will become living quarters. Forest Service photo.

HistoriCorps volunteers place new siding on the cone shed to winterize the structure. Once the siding is complete, workers will replace the ventilation panels that were used to dry pine codes so the seeds could be extracted. The ventilation panels will restore the original appearance of the shed. Photo courtesy of John Rossi, HistoriCorps.