Northville group hopes to rebuild swifts’ chimney

NORTHVILLE – On May 6 every year for 50 years, people would gather near an old chimney in the village at Second and Bridge streets to watch a flock of swifts finish their 8,000-mile journey north from the Amazon Rain Forest.

Local residents say the chimney swifts would show up every year.

In December, Village Clerk Wendy L. Reu said, because of the deterioration of the chimney, Arthur Horton, who owns the land it stood on, had it removed.

A group of concerned citizens is hoping to save the tradition. Karol Hyde and other members of the community want to rebuild the Hummell Chimney.

According to Hyde, the goal is to have the chimney rebuilt to give the swifts a place to stay while they are passing through. The particulars about building the chimney have not been established.

“We can’t really have any fundraising until we know how much it is going to cost,” Hyde said.

Hyde said the group would need permits and village approvals to build the chimney.

According to Hyde, the new chimney, if built, will go up on a nearby lot.

Hyde said Horton would not allow the chimney to be rebuilt on his land.

Patrick Barnett, a trustee on the village board, said he’s concerned the swifts may not enter a new chimney.

“I support the fact they are trying to do something, but I would make sure they do their homework,” Barnett said.

Hyde is aware of the concern.

According to the Northville Northampton Historical Society’s News Letter, the swifts made their return every year since the 1940s. Yearly celebrations began in the 1960s to welcome back the swifts.

The birds were first noticed by village businessman Walker LaRowe in the mid-1950s. They swoop into the chimney every dusk throughout the summer until Aug. 23, when they begin their trip back to South America.

The chimney was torn down in December due to it being a hazard due to its crumbling state.

James Klippel, co-owner of Klippel’s Kozy Korner Deli & Cafe, said those coming to see the swifts would bring some business in.

Shannon Laire, Northville Mountain Market manager, said it was a huge event when she was a child.

Laire said if the chimney is rebuilt, it could attract tourists coming to see the swifts, and possibly more customers to local businesses.