Coloring book to feature Portage historic homes

December 7, 2017 GMT

History comes in lots of colors besides black, white and sepia-tone.

And even if Portage’s most picturesque historic homes were, in their heyday, painted or whitewashed in neutral shades, there’s no limit to the imaginations of people with packs of crayons, color pencils or markers.

The Portage Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday took a big step toward creating the centerpiece of the historic city’s celebration of May as National Historic Preservation Month, by addressing some key logistics of creating a coloring book featuring historic local homes.

Anna Krause, a North Freedom-based artist, said she and Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Doug Klapper recently drove through Portage in search of historic homes that would lend themselves to a line drawing that people of any age could color.

Other sources, including antique photos and postcards, will be used to help the commission choose, at its Jan. 3 meeting, 12 historic homes to feature in the coloring book.

Members pored through a 72-page, spiral-bound booklet, distributed last year at the Museum at the Portage, titled, “Early 1900s Photographs: A Collection of Portage Homes,” to get some ideas.

Among the issues that the commission will need to decide are:

• Whether houses featured in the coloring book need to be standing today, or whether the book could include structures that no longer exist – or structures that used to be houses, but now have a different purpose. (For example, the Museum at the Portage, 804 MacFarlane Road, is a Georgian-revival style home once shared by author Zona Gale and her husband, William Breese.)

• Whether the presentation of the homes’ images could be presented most effectively in vertical or horizontal layouts.

• Whether each page should include information about each featured house, or whether text should be omitted.

• How much detail the line drawings should include.

Commission Member Erin Foley suggested that each commissioner bring pictures of several houses to the next meeting for consideration – and that the public be invited to suggest houses for inclusion.

If the committee can pick 12 images by next month, Krause said, she should be able to complete drawing the coloring lines, by hand, in time to print the books for distribution in May, at a cost of about $300 for 12 images.

Klapper said tentative plans call for distributing the coloring book free at various locations, including the Portage Area Chamber of Commerce and local museums, during May.

Mayor Rick Dodd has another suggestion: Why not let the coloring book serve as the list for a scavenger hunt, in which people are challenged to find the location of each house? Maybe there could be a random drawing for prizes among all who correctly pinpoint locations of all the homes.

Klapper said a future coloring book might feature other historic Portage buildings, such as businesses, factories, schools and government buildings. This book, however, is expected to include just houses.

The Historic Preservation Commission usually meets at 6 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month in Conference Room One, on the second floor of the Portage Municipal Building, 115 W. Pleasant St.