Published in November 1910 in the Grand Rapids Press out of Grand Rapids, MI
OLD TIME RELICS
Are Stone Houses on Front Street.
WERE BUILT LONG AGO
When River Front Was Choice Residence Section.
Two of Them Still Occupied by Members of Original Families – They Contain Quaint Furniture
Seven of the old stone houses on Front street, each one a structure of soft gray, seem to administer in gentle rebuke to the noisy young factories surrounding them.
The youngest of the houses is over sixty years old, but they were not built for the use of only one generation. Their firm foundations and solid walls have stood the test of time and they have watched more than a few structures built in a more recent and less substantial day fall into shabby disrepute.
The first of the old stone house is at the corner of West Leonard and Front streets. This is the old Chubb place, but its original owners have long since passed into the unknown. The once handsome mansion is the least well preserved of any of the stone houses. It has changed hands many times and is now rented tenement fashion to a number of different families.
The second on of the houses is the Holcomb house at the corner of Tenth and Front streets. This is the best preserved of any of them. Next it the Quine home, built by Boardman Nobles in 1849 at the corner of Fifth and Front streets. The Patton home at the corner of Sixth and Front streets was the home of the old Turner family. Next is the Courtright home. This house, though well preserved, has been much changed and is now being used for a boarding house.
Near Third street on Front is the smallest and what is said to be the oldest of the stone houses, and on the corner of Second and Front streets is the home of Miss Elizabeth Anderson, one of the few houses in which descendants of the early owner live.
All Have Colonial Features.
All of the houses have some architectural similarity. Every one is built with white columned colonial doorways, this style being brought form the New England states whence most of the early Grand Rapids settlers came. The old Turner home is almost a pure colonial structure.
The Holcomb and Quine houses are the most interesting of any of the houses because in these two houses live women who came to Grand Rapids in pioneer days and saw the building of these beautiful old homes along the banks of the Grand river. At that time it was thought that the natural scenic advantages of the location would be taken advantage of and that a park would be built along the banks of the rapids, making Front street one of the most desirable residence districts in the city. How these plans happened to be abandoned and the location turned over the factories is history.
Now where the early settlers once looked out from the windows of their homes onto the graceful sweep of the Grand river, its green banks lined on either side with magnificent elms and maples, nothing can be seen but rows of factories, with here and there it glimpse of the waters of the canal.
Still Live in Old Homes.
Mrs. Henrietta A. Quine has lived in her home at Fifth and Front streets for the last forty-five years, but for some time she has not occupied the entire house. She has retired to the upper floor, taking with her beautiful old pieces of furniture which have been in the house for over half a century. This house in common with most of the stone houses has a big entrance hall of colonial design and a winding stairway.
In the old Holcomb home, where the Holcomb family has lived for the last forty-eight years, lives Mrs. Mary Holcomb. This house differs somewhat form the others, being Gothic in architecture. The doorway, however, is colonial like the rest and so is the interior. This is the best preserved of any of the houses. In its wide entrance hall is an old-time hatrack seventy-five years old. Opening form the hall is the living room with the enormous fireplace surmounted by a wide mantel with cupboards set in the walls above it. The walls of these old stone houses are thirteen inches thick and the windows are set in with wide window seats. The interior finishing of the Holcomb house is of hard pine and the beautiful graining done more than fifty years ago by Mr. Van Houten is as good as when it was first completed. In the big parlor is a large old table make entirely by hand and seventy-five years old. Another cherished piece of furniture is a full length, gilt framed mirror brought form New York seventy years ago by Mrs. Holcomb’s father. In the corner of the room is an old fashioned “what-not” filled with china, a thing no longer manufactured and long since passed out of general use. Here also are two leather covered ottomans, things which have not been heard of in modern homes for more than twenty-five years. Then there is the enormous square piano made to order for the Holcomb family.
Furniture 100 Years Old.
“There is scarcely a piece of furniture in my house that is less than fifty years old,” said Mrs. Holcomb, “and some of the chairs and old bureaus are nearly one hundred years old.” In the parlor is another big fireplace, built in the days when wood was burned with generous carelessness. “In the old days we used to have our wood shipped by the car load from the north,” said Mrs. Holcomb.
The upper floor is as interesting as the lower. Here are big chambers with low ceilings and inclined windows sloping back with the roof and forming deep alcoves where in the old days children played at housekeeping.
With the coming of the factories the original families living in the old houses were driven to more congenial residence districts, but these two women alone, Mrs. Holcomb and Mrs. Quine, loved the old homes and the old associations and have stayed in spite of the factories that press them in. They have shut themselves in with their beautiful old furniture and have shut out the noise and the smoke. It is easy, standing in their old colonial doorways or in the shade of the magnificent cottonwood trees in the Holcomb lawn, to forget the factory buildings and to see instead the winding beauty of the Grand river and the soft green banks and beautiful shade trees of the park which they once thought would grace its banks.