IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK
By: Dave McDonald, BCHS – President
This time we will do the genealogy of a house. Yes a house, and one with a very interesting service history in our community. Do you recognize it from the 1923 artist drawing shown here? The building at 165 W. Chicago Street, Coldwater, recently having served as a training site for young dancers, but what an interesting pedigree its holds.
If we look at the 1856 village map for Coldwater, the core section of the building had already been built and serving as a home to Audrain Abbott’s family. Audrain’s father, Robert Abbott, came from Montreal and worked as a fur trader in this county and northern Indiana area. Later he was named as the first Auditor General for the new of Michigan.
The land that the home was built on was purchased by Audrain from the US Government in 1833 and the contract was signed by President Andrew Jackson. Several West Chicago and Pearl Street properties were created from his purchase. This particular property was then sold to local, Stephen Rose, who sold to A. R. Hamilton in 1863. Four years later it was sold to Daniel Boody who would then sell to Dr. James M. Long in 1868. That would take the house off the market for many years to come. In May, 1876 the doctor purchased the lot immediately south of the home on Walnut Street where he would build an additional home.
Dr. Long was a well-known and respected physician in Coldwater. He did add training from the University of Michigan in Homoeopathy to his skill set, though one would doubt its particular contribution to patients’ confidence in the good doctor. The doctor added a large one story south wing to the home and then converted the enlarged house to a clinic for his medical practice.
After the home passed from daughter to grand-daughter, Gladys Bollman, it set empty until the young lady came of age and married Frank Herlan. In 1923 Frank and Gladys decided to open the house as the “Old Ladies Home” as shown in the picture. It was operated as a ladies home until 1936 under the direction of Burton D. French. The home was shut down for an unknown reason between 1936 and 1937 with Mr. French departing town. The building then remained empty until 1941.
In July 1940, Robert McKinley purchased the building from the Herlans, remodeled and open “Mac’s Furniture Home”. The McKinley’s continued with improvements which led to the 1950 addition of the 80’ showroom that still fronts to W. Chicago Street. The locally known furniture store then changed its name to “McKinley’s 1876 House”. In 1968 McKinley’s sold the building and business to the Norman Stanton family who continued to operate the site as a furniture store. By the early 1990s the building became an appliance store under the ownership of Bill Skutt. Bill later sold it to the current owner, Robert Granger.
The front section facing Chicago Street has been the home to several businesses, including a dance studio and an appliance store. The clinic that once existed in the back became retired ladies rooms, and now, are converted into apartments.
So, from its beginning it has been: an original founder’s home; a medical clinic; a retired ladies home; a furniture store; an appliance store; a dance studio and more. It’s quite a diverse genealogy/history for this very early Coldwater home.