Marshall: C’mon In…

6 Jan

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After a wonderful lunch at Schuler’s we are refreshed and ready to get back on the tourist trail, the Honolulu House Museum is next. Built for Judge Abner Pratt in 1860, it is said to resemble the executive mansion he lived in while serving as US Consul in Honolulu from 1857-59. They say after he came back, he missed the islands so much, he built this house as a reminder. The intriguing structure stands beside a small park near the intersection of highways US 12 and US 27, it is a most unusual design and has a place on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic American Buildings Survey. The home was occupied by several residents through the decades, in 1951 Mr Harold C Brooks acquired the property when it was threatened to be replaced by a gas station—Thank You Mr Brooks! These days it serves as the headquarters for the Marshall Historical Society and is open for tours.

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Entering the home from the back door, we step inside and are stopped in our tracks, elaborate designs cover the walls and ceiling, a massive curving stairway bisects the space between front and back, we follow the sound of voices; we have arrived just in time for a guided tour. You absolutely won’t believe your eyes, this is NOT wallpaper, each wall, ceiling, border, trim, pattern and scene is painted by hand! Plaster ceiling medallions are chunky and rich with detail, exquisite chandeliers are designed to run on gas and electricity, windows are rectangular and tall bringing sunlight into the home. They call the design of the building Italianate Gothic Revival with Polynesian influence, I call it spectacular! Originally the interior of the home had a much more tropical look, decorating styles changed, white fireplaces were replaced with black, dark colors became en vogue; from the period furnishings and authentic replicas of the carpet to the stunning hand painted finishes, this is Honolulu House in its 1880’s splendor.

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From room to room I am awed by the beauty, the ceiling in the dining room is a series of squares, each a different design and color pallet, gold leaf glimmers, border after border travels down the wall. A gorgeous rectangular piano graces the music room, wall sconces are ornate, portraits are placed throughout the home. Back in the foyer we all stop to admire the incredible sweeping staircase; made of ebony, teak, mahogany and maple, it leads to……nowhere….there is no second floor. What it does lead to is an observation platform on the roof, I’ll bet Judge Pratt had quite a view back in the day. The den has a more masculine feel, gold leaf is prevalent, the chandelier is simple, less frilly. Throughout, painted designs appear 3-dimensional, each room a work of art, door frames are fancy, all but one stained glass window surrounding the front door are original.

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Another set of stairs lead us to the basement, this is where the kitchen is located. Cast iron pots rest on a huge antique stove, the space is plain, made for cooking and eating, not entertaining. A butter churn, wood rolling-pin and grinder are at rest. Built in cabinets display china and crystal from a previous occupant. The floors are wide planks, an original white fireplace remains, there was no need for it to be replaced since guests would never see it. A wall of photographs shows the labor-intensive restoration, amazing! We ascend the stairs and are again mesmerized by the beauty of the home, I pause at every second or third step to admire the view. Kris snaps photo after photo in effort to capture the pure elegance of the home, it’s a place you really have to see for yourself.

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It’s time for us to meet our tour group at Trinity Episcopal Church for Marshall’s 35th Annual Candlelight Walk. The walk is a guided tour of five historic homes decorated for the holiday season, led by residents of the neighborhood, I’m so excited! We check in at Trinity and are treated to a buffet of homemade cookies, brownies, candy, coffee and hot chocolate. Once finished, we take the opportunity to check out the church. Completed in 1864, Gordon Lloyd of Detroit was the architect, he made a name for himself with the success of the building and went on to design numerous subsequent buildings: Christ Church and Central United Methodist, the Wright Kay Building and David Whitney house, all in Detroit. If you’ve ever been to The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, (formerly the Northern Michigan Asylum) he designed the castle-like Building #50, just to name a few.

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The church is in the Gothic Revival style, the dark wood of the ceiling, trusses and pews are Michigan Black Walnut, so luxurious and grand. The late afternoon sun lights up the dazzling stained glass windows, they are a variety of styles installed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Each is lovely and unique featuring Christian symbols, flowers, images from nature, Jesus and Mary; colors range from pastel to bold. Chandeliers are opulent, square in shape they dangle from delicate chains, the interior is simple and resplendent at the same time, fine details accentuate railings and trim. The pipe organ was custom-made by the MP Moller Company of Hagerstown MD and features 37 ranks of pipes installed in 3 chambers which flank the chancel.

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Helium-filled, colored balloons are tied to pews, we are in the “gold” group, we take a seat in the appropriate section waiting for everyone to arrive. The tour begins right on schedule, 5 groups of 30 people each stream onto neighborhood streets, every group starts at a different home creating an easy flow of traffic in and out of houses. The neighborhood exudes charm; each home is unique, many were built in the late 1800’s, styles include Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, Italianate, Greek Revival, Farmhouse and Federal, creating an old-fashioned, quaint, ambience. The weather is perfect, mild for December and not a hint of a breeze, the sun is low in the sky. We approach a lovely Princess Ann home with a large wrap-around porch, it’s just lovely; inside a Christmas tree is positioned near the fireplace, candles glow in place of logs, the hardwood floor gleams, decorations reflect the home’s period, miniature lights here and there add sparkle. Back outside dark is falling, Christmas comes to life; lights are strung across gutters, draped on fences and wrapped around trees. Kris and I pause here and there looking at different houses, there’s a darling yellow one with black shutters and fancy white trim that really catches our eye.

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In the next home flames roar in the fireplace, white lights, popcorn and cranberries hug the Christmas tree; rooms are simple, uncluttered and cozy, love the built-in china cabinets in the dining room. It’s wonderful to see the owners’ personality reflected in their furnishings and decor. The next stop is downtown on W Michigan Ave, it’s quite a distance, the scenery is picturesque so nobody seems to mind. We stop in front of the Mole Hole, we are seeing the apartment above, Kris and I really like these kinds of spaces. Inside, the place looks like a designer showroom for comfort, coziness and cute. This is the family’s first Christmas here so they pulled out all the stops, it’s gorgeous! An outdoor deck glitters with lanterns and lights, candles flicker in bedrooms, ornaments fill glass vases, ribbon and tulle drape walls, dressers and floral arrangements. The Christmas tree lights up the main living space, there’s a cool pool table in the room, looks like a fun place to hang out!

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Outdoors Michigan Ave is glowing, it’s like a scene from a postcard or storybook; the antique holiday lights are lit, they sparkle above the street and storefronts, we casually make our way back to the neighborhood. The last two homes are beautiful as well, each has its own distinct style, decorations make the rooms festive, they all look ready for a party. The Colonial Revival on Mansion Street has a great front porch, many of us take a seat, chit-chat and look out over the area; it has been a real treat to take part in the Candlelight Walk of 2014. Before we leave town, we stop at the Brooks Memorial Fountain, festooned in blue LED lights, a life-size manger scene takes center stage. After taking one last look we point the Jeep East.

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Nothing puts me to sleep faster than a drive in the car, it seemed we had just left Marshall when Kris nudged me awake in Jackson to grab some dinner. He has been telling me about the burrito bar he ate at during the summer called Chilango’s on Michigan Ave, I’m excited to give it a try! As my eyes adjust to the light I follow Kris to the back of the restaurant, it smells delicious. I watch as a man behind the counter takes a ball of dough places it in a press of some sort, and removes a fresh, warm, huge flour tortilla. Both of us are starving, everything sounds appealing, Kris points to one of the burrito combinations on the menu, I nod in agreement. We watch as meat, beans, veggies, cilantro and sauce are layered into the tortilla, which is then neatly folded, my mouth is watering  just thinking about it…..Taking a seat in the front window we revel in our tasty burrito, folks pass by on their way to and from Saturday night festivities, this our last stop for the night, what a night (and day) it has been!

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