Hubbell’s chimney was built by Stephen
Acker in 1880 during the construction of the Globe Metallic
Binding Company owned by Ray Hubbell and James A. Cole.
Stephen Acker was a prominent builder in the area and
was contracted to do many things. The stone bridge abutments
under the first steel bridge at Northville in 1882, and
painting area church spires to mention just a couple.
This landmark structure is also home to a yearly event.
The chimney is a summer residence to swifts that fly approximately
7000 miles from the Amazon jungle to get there on the same
date of May 6th every year. No one knows how this began.
But the date happens to be when Ray Hubbell's son Frank
was first observed by Walker LaRowe and Willard Weaver
in the late 1940’s. Next year the
chimney will be 130 years old and is showing signs of age,
and may be the only structure left built by Stephen Acker
in the Village of Northville.
In flight, this bird looks like
a flying cigar with long slender curved wings. The plumage
is a sooty grey-brown; the throat, breast, under wings
and rump are paler. They have short tails.
Before European settlement of North
America, the Chimney Swift probably nested in caves and
hollow trees. The swift benefited greatly by the construction
of chimneys and the increased availability of new nest
sites. Recent changes in chimney design, with covered,
narrow flues, have decreased the available nest sites
and may be a factor in declining population numbers.
Chimney Swifts do not sit on perches
like most birds, but instead use their long claws to
cling to the walls of chimneys and other vertical surfaces.
Swifts are among the most aerial
of birds, flying almost constantly except when at the
nest or roosting at night. The Chimney Swift bathes in
flight, gliding down to water, smacking the surface with
its breast, then bouncing up and shaking the water from
its plumage as it flies away.
The Chimney Swift is gregarious,
with large numbers of swifts roosting together in a single
chimney or air shaft during the non breeding season.
Non breeding swifts will roost together in the summer
too, and this
behavior has fooled people into thinking that the Chimney
Swift nests in colonies. In fact, only one pair nests
in a single chimney. The pair may tolerate other swifts
roosting in their chimney, though, further confusing
people watching the swifts from the ground.
The fast, erratic flight of the
Chimney Swift is characteristic of small swifts. It gives
the very distinct impression that the swift is beating
only one wing at a time, alternating wings. Careful investigation
has shown, though, that a swift beats both its wings
at the same time just like all other birds. The illusion
comes at least in part from the frequent banking and