Antique cupola restored, shines down on Hinckley Town Center

by Chris Studor

The new cupola atop of Binky Commons has become the talk of the town. If you’re driving east on state Route 303, it’s sure to catch your eye, especially if you’re travelling at night and see the cupola lit up. Maybe you were among the crowd, which gathered at Binky Commons on the morning of Oct. 7 to watch as a 50-ton crane gradually lifted the cupola to the top of the building.

Once mounted, the crowd broke out into applause as owner of Binky Commons, Karl Kastl III, stood proudly by seeing his project come to fruition after months of sandblasting, grinding, welding and painting the antique cupola.

The entire project had an omen of good luck as the antique cupola nearly ended up in the hands of someone else. It just so happened that Kastl heard there were some antique cars located at a 110 year-old barn on State Road, which was set to be demolished. Kastl said he went in search of cars but upon turning the corner of the barn, he spotted the rusty 110-year-old cupola sitting in the grass.

Motorists traveling east on Route 303 can’t miss the illuminated antique cupola mounted on top of Binky Commons. The cupola was officially lit on Oct. 22 during the Township’s annual Trick-or-Treat event.

“I thought “wow” that would look great sitting on top of Binky Commons but someone had already claimed it,” said Kastl. “Owner of the barn, Greg Bury, said it would be nice if the cupola remained in Hinckley and we worked it out. “It was really in bad shape but I thought wouldn’t it be nice to have a 110 year-old cupola sitting on the nearly a 200 year-old Binky Commons building.”

Kastl is the owner of Binky Commons, along with business partner Tom Vanover. The two refurbished the building, located on the corner of Center and Ridge roads, in 2019. In the process of renovating the post-and-beam structure, they found old clothing, tools, signs and other items dating back to the early 1800’s. While the building was being refurbished, the two set up a temporary museum in front of the building so people could view the found items. The building now houses Stefanec’s barbershop on the first floor and several apartments and offices on the second floor, with Hinckley Donut store extending to the north.

Kastl explained that once the restoration of the building was complete, he decided to rename the structure Binky Commons. The name Binky originates with Kastl’s father who created the buzzard character Binky the Buzzard – the caricature mascot of Hinckley Township’s annual Buzzard Day celebration. Each year, the township awaits the March issue of The Hinckley Record to see what new version of Binky will appear on the cover to usher in Buzzard Day.

While Kastl is hardly new to taking old, rusty, falling apart items and restoring them, he said the idea of refurbishing the cupola “was a bit overwhelming at first.”

He sought out the help of his good friend, and township trustee chairperson, Melissa Augustine for help and credits her “with an eye for detail and color, making the restored cupola look as if it was made for the building.”

“Melissa was with me every step of the way,” said Kastl. “She encouraged me to keep going when things got challenging and gave me her expertise on what colors would complement the building itself. I could not have completed this project without out her and I thank her from the bottom of my heart.”

Among the ideas Augustine contributed was how to decorate the outside rim of the cupola which has a border of rosettes. Kastl said he thought it would be fitting to have Augustine and a handful of his female friends each sign a rosette and add decorative touches. The names of those who helped Kastl restore and place the cupola are written on its inside rim.

Along with many months of encouragement and advice from Augustine, Kastl gives credit to a number of people who made the project come together. Gerry Dabernig of Earthshakes Excavating took the cupola and barn down. With the cupola weighing approximately 1,000 pounds and needing to be lifted two stories to the top of the building, Brian Thomas of Atlas Crane and Rigging came to the rescue. Attaching the cupola to the top of the building was Kastl’s son, Jacob, along with Liam Placko.

Once the cupola was secured, it was time for a little refreshment at Hinckley Donut. Owner Ashley Bator said she thinks it looks just terrific and that customers remarked that it gives the whole Binky Commons “a special feel of history.”

Kastl said since the cupola was erected, the community has been generous with compliments which have helped make a monumental task seem worthwhile.

“Now that the project is complete, it looks like the cupola was always meant to be there,” Kastl said. “I’ve always been proud of the restoration of Binky Commons in the center of Hinckley Township. Adding the antique cupola is like the cherry on top.” ∞

Featured Photo: The cupola, found rusted and laying in the grass near a Hinckley barn, was rescued and restored by Karl Kastl III. After months of work, it was lifted onto the roof of the Binky Commons. Photos by C. Studor.