A historic building that previously housed a funeral home in downtown New Baltimore is attracting the attention of another company in the same profession.
Verheyden Funeral Homes expressed interest to city officials in tearing down the former Christie-Olszewski Funeral Home on Main and Maria streets to build a new funeral home on the parcel. The city became the owner of the now-boarded building after Christie-Olszewski defaulted on taxes, New Baltimore Clerk Marcia Shinska said Tuesday.
Since the building sits in the historic district, New Baltimore City Council recommended Monday night that Verheyden Funeral Homes, which operates in Grosse Pointe Park, Warren and Detroit, go before the city's Historic Commission to discuss possible demolition.
In a Dec. 6 letter to Mayor Larry Smith, Brian Joseph, owner and chairman of Chas. Verheyden Inc., stated the company's desire to move to the waterfront downtown.
"Our interest in downtown New Baltimore remains strong," Joseph wrote. "However, after careful review and consultations of that current building, we have concluded that we cannot make that facility safe to the public."
He proposes the company reimburse the city and county of any back taxes and financial commitment to the property, incur expenses to tear down the building after it is purchase and construct a new building that looks historic to fit in with the downtown, according to the letter.
In addition to those suggestions, Joseph volunteers his company to clean up what he says are "deceased human cremated remains (ashes) within the building" that he noticed during multiple visits to the property.
"There would be a record of location with the city, cemetery and Chas. Verheyden Inc.," he wrote. "You never know when a family may ask for them. I extend this invitation to you because it is the moral, ethical, and spiritual thing to do. However, if you want to have the previous owners take possession of them that is fine, too."
The business, founded in 1908, also owns a three-acre parcel in Chesterfield Township that could be used for the development, but it prefers New Baltimore.
Dating back to around 1900, the brick building eyed by the company in New Baltimore originally was a saloon that cropped up during a building boom, according to New Baltimore Historical Society President Richard Gonyeau.
"I personally would hate to see it go," Gonyeau, who is not on the city Historic Commission, said Tuesday. "If it's too dilapidated to use, I could understand but we've lost so many historical buildings in the last several years. I would hate to see it fall by the wayside."