How does a 28-year-old start begin the journey of redeveloping a 131-year-old mansion in downtown Saginaw?
“It really began with me hating Saginaw, and wanting to get away from here,” says Alex Mixter, the man leading The Lee Mansion Restoration Project. “So I moved away.”
Mixter says that the impulse to “get out of town” and move 300 miles away came from feeling disconnected from his hometown, and so he began working on the documentary Re: Saginaw.
“I was trying to find the good things because I was tired of hearing all the bad things,” he says.
During the project, Mixter then moved another 1000 miles away to Denver but was becoming even more connected to Saginaw.
“I met Bill and Kevin who did the amazing restoration of the Wolfarth House Landmark & Historic Home,” he says, “and just being there does this kind of thing to you - the inspiration of ‘Wow, these houses can be incredible.’”
That’s when Mixter found out there were plans to tear down the Lee Mansion.
“There’s a real beauty to historic places, an intangible element,” he says. “There’s a mythology around this house. To see the community response to the project, to see the way that people have reacted to and supported the project - it’s something the people of Saginaw wanted to see happen.”
After the demolition of the house was proposed, around 25 volunteers went to the Mansion on a Saturday to paint plywood, pull weeds, and cut the grass - doing anything to make the property more presentable to the city.
“Then we thought, ‘What if we let them inside?’” says Mixter.
From near-demolition to near-completion, Mixter’s goal with the Mansion to create a place to celebrate all things Saginaw.
“Growing up, there were two Saginaw t-shirts I remember,” Mixter says, “One of them was a soccer shirt that had the Saginaw logo on it, and the other was a shirt with a smoking gun and a couple of bullet holes that said, ‘Come back to Saginaw, we missed you the first time.’ We’re beyond that now and it’s time to have pride in Saginaw again.”