Miniwanca to rebuild deteriorating Assembly

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After years of leaning and disuse, the beloved Assembly at Miniwanca will see new life in 2023. Visitors to Girls Camp last year saw the nearly century-old building propped against wooden supports, unable to be used for the 2021 program season.

Senior Director of Infrastructure Andy Mulcahy said the AYF began monitoring the structure’s lean in 2017, when it measured a difference of 6 inches from the bottom to the top of the front wall. In fall 2019, it rapidly shifted another 1½ inches.

“Unfortunately, the building was actively moving and deemed to be unsafe to use,” Mulcahy said. “We set up extensive bracing to support the structure and began working with an engineering firm to figure out how to revive Assembly.”

Miniwanca and the AYF Property and Maintenance Committee considered three possible solutions: a steel infrastructure inside the building to completely take the weight of the existing structure; removing the roof to reinforce the walls with multiple structural improvements, then rebuilding the roof and dormers; or completely rebuilding Assembly.

“Each plan came with its own costly price tag,” Mulcahy said. “After much deliberation, we made the difficult decision to take the building down and build a new Assembly.”

The AYF is working with HDJ Architects and Engineers in Grand Rapids to design a space that honors the legacy of Assembly, which was built in 1926 then added to in 1930, 1936, 1938, and 1953. Mulcahy said the existing fireplace and original mill stone will remain in place, and the new structure will be built around them.

With an eye to history and budget, the Miniwanca team has also carefully removed items to be reused in the new space, including the windows, doors, electric fixtures, cabling, outlets, and the state flags. Assembly has been deconstructed ahead of summer 2022, and the space in front of the Assembly Amphitheater will be prepped for outdoor use. Construction on the new Assembly will begin after the program season.

“As with the Fellowship Building, we know how important these historic structures are to our Miniwanca Founder Family,” Mulcahy said. “We hope to honor their legacies by repurposing key parts of the original buildings to create new spaces for youth to explore and enjoy for decades to come.”