I really like Marshall, Michigan.
I’ve only been there once, and that one visit was only a few weeks ago. However, I am smitten. I had long been looking forward to visiting Marshall (well, “long” being since March 2009), when I bought an old copy of Mabel Cooper-Skjelver’s Nineteenth Century Homes of Marshall, Michigan (see left). Flipping through musty pages of old black and white photos — it was published in 1982 — I could still easily see that this small, midwestern town was unique because of the high density of architectural treasures there. So I decided I must go take a tour, and soon. But we know how that goes. Several seasons passed by, and still, I hadn’t seen Marshall, Michigan.
Finally, an October 2010 visit from an out-of-stater, Dave, my good friend & co-founder of Historic House Blog, was the perfect excuse for a road trip up to Michigan. And we were not disappointed.
That day, we landed in Marshall at lunch time, and so decided to seek out Pastrami Joe’s downtown — a world-famous (okay, Michigan-famous?) deli restaurant I had read about online. As we cruised the main street (Michigan Ave) to find the deli, I was impressed by the quaint yet active downtown business district (see right). There were lots of specialty shops, restaurants, and plenty of foot traffic. Marshall seems to have eluded the economic decay that has negatively impacted so many midwestern downtowns. Our lunch at Pastrami Joe’s was excellent, as anticipated (even if the counter girl seemed a little grumpy). We dumped our trays, jumped back in the car, and left the downtown, since we were there to see historic houses. And historic houses, we saw.
As Wikipedia points out, “Marshall is best known for its cross-section of 19th- and early 20th-Century architecture. It has been referred to by the keeper of the National Register of Historic Places as a ‘virtual textbook of 19th-Century American architecture.'” It is home to the one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States, boasting over 850 buildings that contribute to the Landmark status. And sure enough, we saw a bit of everything — Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne Victorians, Second Empire, Richardsonian Romanesque, American Foursquare, Craftsman (Arts & Crafts), Tudor Revival, and many more architectural styles.
We started our tour at what might be considered the epicenter of Marshall’s old houses — at the famous Honolulu House (more on this in a minute). Honolulu House is located beside a neat traffic rotary (or roundabout) with a small park in the middle, called “Fountain Circle,” at the west end of the downtown. The Circle features a beautiful Grecian-style fountain in the center (see left), and is surrounded by several historic houses, including the National House Inn. This historic inn (see below right) is a picture-perfect, Federal-style brick house (and B&B) with an interesting history, including tenures as a stagecoach hotel and a windmill factory. So we snapped some photographs, and then ducked into the Honolulu House for a tour.
The Honolulu House is like no other historic house I’ve ever seen. At first blush, you might think it is some kind of elaborate train depot, or a library building from Southeast Asia (see below). The house was built around 1860 by Abner Pratt, a former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court & U.S. Council to Hawaii. The architecture reflects a unique blend of Italianate, Polynesian, and even Gothic elements. It was nice to be able to tour the property,which cost us less than $5 a piece with Dave’s trusty AAA discount.
After the tour, we simply enjoyed the sunny, beautiful autumn day (the fall colors were incredible) by strolling around Marshall’s many historic side streets, admiring & photographing the architectural specimens we encountered at every turn. Much of the north side of Marshall is a massive collection of historic homes, one after the other after another. There are less historic homes — at least of the same caliber– on the south side of the downtown, although a couple of my favorites are over there, including a run-down Octogon-style house from the 1850s (in fact, we coincidentally once wrote about it here) and a small, brick Greek Revival house (1830s) from Marshall’s earliest days.
So before I get to the houses that are actually for sale, here are a few of my favorite houses from our sojourns around Marshall’s historic neighborhoods that day . . .
And then, of course, there is this one — another one of my favorites — which appears to be a 20th century American Foursquare trying to swallow a 19th century house (right).
All of the historic houses I’ve shown so far are unfortunately taken, but there are several interesting historic properties available, for sale, right now! So if you’d like to join the historic & vibrant community of Marshall (and I gotta say, I’m thinkin’ about it), check out some of these offerings:
407 North Madison – $499,000 (click here for Realtor.com listing)
332 North Eagle St. – $279,900 – (Click here for Realtor.com listing)
411 W Michigan Ave (ca. 1924 condo on Fountain Circle) – $223,000 – (Click here for listing)
502 W Mansion Street – $174,900 (Click here for Realtor.com listing)
619 East Michigan Ave – $79,000 (Click here for Realtor.com listing)
And this is really just the beginning. I would say there are 25-30 houses for sale in Marshall that I’d classify as historic or antique or vintage . . . LOTS of terrific options for joining the living architectural museum that is Marshall, Michigan.