NORTHVILLE - The Hubbell Chimney that served as a piece of tradition in Northville where chimney swifts would return each year on May 6 was taken down two weeks ago due to it's poor condition.
For more than 50 years people would gather at Second and Bridge streets to see the flock of birds finish their 8,000-mile journey from the Amazon Rain Forest, but lately the birds and the crowds hadn't been returning.
Village Clerk Wendy L. Reu said with the deterioration of the chimney in the past few years, Arthur Horton, who owns the land it stood on, decided it had to be removed.
The Hubbell Chimney in Northville is shown Dec. 12 as workers take it down.
Photo courtesy of The Rev. Richard Klueg
Don Williams grew up in Northville and remembers how hundreds of people would show up for the event that began in the mid-1950s.
"I grew up just down the street from the birds, so I went to bed with the birds," Williams said. "Every year I was involved with the program, and every year there were faithful people who came. A lot of them knew the history of those birds."
Williams and other locals were surprised to see the chimney removed from the skyline, and Williams wasn't pleased with the decision when a friend told him about it two weeks ago.
"It was very sad, because I'm a great believer that we have to keep our roots," he said. "And with that, we're losing our roots."
Village Trustee Patrick Barnett said he was away when the chimney was taken down and said there was no warning of this happening - that it was all sudden.
He said with all the history surrounding the structure, an advanced warning should have been given.
Still, Barnett said the chimney hadn't served the purpose it had in the past.
"I think [the tradition] kind of waned in the past few years," he said. "I think there were less swifts in the past few years than there was 15 to 20 years ago. As a resident, though, it was a landmark. I haven't thought about the effects of how I personally feel about it. I hate to see anything old destroyed, though."
Williams also is worried about the effect of having less swifts in the area will affect the insect population.
Williams said each young swift eats 3,000 insects each night, and this will certainly result in an increase of the insect population.
"They eat their own weight in mosquitos and black flies each night," he said. "If we lose our chimney swifts and our bats, we'll have an infestation of mosquitos. We are going to have an environmental issue if we don't have them."