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December 11, 2019

SVSU to collaborate on restoration effort to preserve historic Saginaw mansion

A collaboration between historical preservationists and the Saginaw Valley State University-operated Saginaw Community Writing Center aims to raise awareness and money for transforming one of Saginaw’s most iconic homes into a multi-use community space.

SVSU's Saginaw Community Writing Center, the Saginaw Art Museum and the group preserving the historic Charles Lee Mansion structure in Saginaw will host a poetry slam contest — with cash prizes to the top three winners — Thursday, Dec. 12, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Charles Lee Mansion site at 633 S. Washington in Saginaw. The poetry contest coincides with an open house at the mansion from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. the same day.

While there is no cost to attend either event, a free-will donation will be held to support the renovation of Charles Lee Mansion.

Built by lumber baron Charles Lee in the late 1800s, the historic site was saved from demolition in 2018 when Ann Arbor Builders, Inc. agreed to a development deal with the City of Saginaw, which owned the property. The preservation effort involves restoring the mansion and creating within it a community meeting space and a shop selling Saginaw-centric items.

Helen Raica-Klotz, co-director of SVSU's Saginaw Community Writing Center, took a tour of Charles Lee Mansion and immediately wanted to collaborate.

“Saginaw is a city that’s rich with history, and I think that any community writing center needs to work to recognize and honor the history of that particular community, as well as the efforts of individuals who are trying to improve the region as a whole,” she said.

Alex Mixter, the project manager for the Lee Mansion Restoration Project, has indicated he wants the site to serve as a "front door to Saginaw" for visitors.

“Alex and all the volunteers that have worked at the Lee Mansion have done a marvelous job over the years of fundraising, of putting in time and labor to preserve this space,” Raica-Klotz said. “For us to come and celebrate through a poetry reading — particularly in Saginaw itself — is a really nice way of supporting their work.”

To learn more about the restoration project or to donate to the Lee Mansion Restoration Project, go to

The Saginaw Community Writing Center is operated by SVSU staff and student tutors, who help residents with writing-based activities during scheduled sessions throughout the Saginaw community. The community writing center was established in part through a partnership with the Saginaw Community Foundation.