The best way to see Marshall’s historic homes is on the annual home tour held the weekend after Labor Day. At other times, you can still enjoy the city’s architecture with the help of an excellent (and free) walking-tour brochure available at the chamber of commerce and a number of local shops and inns.
One of the first stops should be the lavishly quirky Honolulu House (107 N. Kalamazoo Ave., 269/781-8544, www.marshallhistoricalsociety.org, noon–5 p.m. daily May–Sept., noon–5 p.m. Thurs.–Sun. Oct., $5 adults, $4 children 12–18 and seniors, children under 12 free), home to the Marshall Historical Society and described by The New York Times as “the architectural equivalent of a four-rum cocktail served in a coconut.” Featuring a pagoda-shaped tower and decorative pineapple trim, the Polynesian-style home was built in 1860 by State Supreme Court Judge Abner Pratt, who served as U.S. consul to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) 1857–1859.
His wife’s poor health forced the couple to return to Marshall, where they brought back their love of the tropics. Pratt’s wife died shortly upon their return, and Pratt himself succumbed to pneumonia soon afterward—perhaps because of his stubborn habit of wearing tropical-weight clothing during the long and cold Midwestern winters.
Inside, the house features 1880s replicas of Pratt’s original tropical murals, a riot of purples, pinks, and dozens of other rich colors, and several exquisite fireplaces. Many of the other furnishings did not belong to the Pratts, but represent Marshall history, such as the Marshall Folding Bathtub in the basement. Disguised as a cabinet, it’s a rare reminder of the city’s patent medicine boom.
Other fine examples of early Marshall architecture can be found two blocks north of the Honolulu House on Kalamazoo Street. They include the home of Mayor Harold Brooks, who spurred the city’s revival; the 1857 Italianate Adams-Schuyler-Umphrey House, built on land once owned by James Fenimore Cooper; the 1907 Sears-Osborne House, ordered from the Sears catalog at the turn of the 20th century for just $1,995; the 1886 Queen Anne–style Cronin-Lapietra House, one of the city’s most ornate, designed by the Detroit firm best known for the city’s Michigan Central Railroad Terminal; and the 1843 Greek Revival Camp-Vernor-Riser House, once home to the founder of Vernor’s Ginger Ale.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel