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John Spanos Fellows, “Historic Preservation: Selected Sites of Downtown Albion”, 1991

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Historic Preservation:
Selected Sites of Downtown Albion

John Spanos Fellows
Albion College
Spring, 1991

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Abstract

This study documents five buildings from Albion, Michigan, with each serving as an example of a building type common to the business district of a nineteenth century Midwestern town. Focus is given to the analyzing of each building’s background according to history and function, its original appearance and plan, and to recording its current condition. Additional emphasis is then given to the issues of restoration and/or reuse as they apply to each structure. The examples selected are representative of buildings during a prosperous fifteen year period of Albion’s history and include the following: Crowell Block (1857), Albion Fire Station (1865),Eslow Building (1867), Opera House (1868-69), and the Sheldon Block (1872).

Field work and archival research were the basis of the information for this study, as well as for the seven elevation drawings documenting the buildings’ original facades which accompany the text. Research in the field was conducted by examination of the buildings and the documentation of them in photographs. Archival research presented information on the buildings’ original facades, the buildings’ owners, and relevant events in the town’s history.

Preservation can be summed up in three words: restoration, renovation, and re-use. Preservation can take the form of restoration as in a museum. Renovation can keep the historical character and quality, but allowing twentieth century activities to continue. If a building needs to be destroyed for some unsolvable reason then parts of the building can be re-used.

Since many of the town’s buildings have been considerably altered and few are well-documented, this study provides significant material for future preservation projects. Interiors are almost completely intact and contain large amounts of wallpaper samples, including many original papers. Of the few buildings which are fairly well-documented, such as the Sheldon Block (now Park Drug store), this work provides suggestions for restoration.

The importance of this project is that it preserves, at least on paper, some of the significant architectural history of the town of Albion. History plays an important part in our society. Just as history influenced the Romans or the citizens of the Renaissance, we too are influenced by our past. To preserve something is to keep in touch with history, and, thus, to learn from the past.

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(Measured drawing of Crowell Block.)

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305-307-309 South Superior Street, Crowell Block, c.1857

This building was built in 1857 to replace the previous building which crashed to the ground. It was the first brick building that was built on the east side of Superior Street. The builder was Henry McGee who also built the octagonal house on E. Erie Street. Appearance was very important when the building was built, today the building looks almost as it did in 1885. Gale Hardware, R.G. Hall, S. Tuttle and Son were the shops that were in the building. The building is a classic three story commercial building.

There were Corinthian columns on either side of the shop doors, as well as pilasters, also with Corinthian capitals, that separated the shops. The building had four large paned windows. Each shop had tall double doors.

The windows have decorative hoods that are in a pedimental style. Each window has twelve panes. The cornice of the building has some resemblance of an entablature, with dentil pattern brick work. There is a definite symmetrical pattern to the building with all opening being placed in vertical rows.

The historical significance of this building is that it was the first brick building on the east side of the street. The building, architecturally speaking, is somewhat rare for the locale. Most Midwestern towns are predominantly Italianate, Victorian, and/or High Victorian where this building is largely Neo-Classical. This building should be carefully maintained. There are some minor changes that [ Page 5 ] might be made to return the building to its original design. These changes would involve re-opening the windows on the south section of the building, cleaning the brick work with pressurized water, and realigning the street level shop openings to the original vertical rows.

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(Measured drawing of Albion Fire House.)

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115 S. Superior Street, Albion Fire House, c. 1865

The Albion Fire House was built in 1865, although it still stands, it no longer serves as a fire station. Many modifications have been made to the building’s façade over time. These modifications do not have a particular style but have elements from various periods. The building originally had fire equipment storage on the street level. On the second floor, were meeting rooms and sleeping quarters.

The exterior was a magnificent combination of classical elements. The individual elements resemble those found in styles of Adam, Early Classical Revival, and Classical Revival. The Palladian window frames are similar to those typical of the Adam period. The windows, as well as, the first floor doors have full arch crowns. The original brick pilasters direct your eye up to the classical pediment which has an Italianate entablature with brackets instead of the expected dentils. The building had a belt-course that ran across the entire building, dividing the first and second floors. This belt-course visually connects the lines of this building with the awnings of the adjacent buildings. The fire house had a cupola that dominated the skyline. The cupola is influenced by the exotic revival period and has an oriental motif with ogee arches. A flag pole topped the cupola. The fire house gave the main street of Albion a solid governmental feeling.

It was a wonderfully, eye-pleasing building and deserves a [ Page 8 ] continued place in Albion history. The best portion of the building is the second floor with original woodwork and fixtures still in place. The Palladian window openings can still be seen. The present windows are much shorter than the original and lack ornamentation.

The future of this building is unclear. If restored or remodeled again, losing, all of the history and the architectural significance. It took many materials and a great deal of time to remodel the building to its present condition, and will take even more to restore it to its original appearance. The store front could be restored first, with the fire engine doors acting as a large display window. Cleaning the brick or repainting the now gray building to red would be in keeping with a fire house. Replacing the present windows with those of the original style and size would help return the building to its original appearance. The final restoration action would be the reconstruction of the cupola and of a new wooden pediment.

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(Eslow Hall measured drawing.)

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214-216 South Superior Street, Eslow Building, 1869.

This building was Albion’s only four story building. It was a sky scraper because by definition at the time anything over three stories was a sky scraper. The building lost the top floor in a 1919 fire. The first story contained two shops. The building that is similar to the Eslow Building directly behind was built as a hotel. There was a movie theater on the first floor.

Because of the fire, the building has lost much of its character, however, it is still sufficient to study its architecture. The building was built in the Italianate style. The first floor above the large store front windows was a large overhanging cornice this was supported by metal columns. The windows of the above floors had four pane sashes with a full arch. The windows were crowned with an ornate header. The headers had molded flower shapes on the tops as well as the bottoms. The windows on the southern side of the building have brick hoods. This variation is due to two factors. First the main street façade is the most important. Second because of the number of windows it would have been much more expensive.

The cornice of the building was almost a complete story by itself. Therefore, building was almost five stories in height. The cornice had large brackets that were section, which were defined by the windows. The brackets supported the large projecting upper are a of the cornice. The cornice had a deep band of trim that was elaborated with panels and [ Page 11 ] moldings.

The building should be restored in some form. The window hoods should be repaired and the shop front should be restored. The cornice above the shop windows will provide a place for signs. It would be wonderful if the fourth floor could be replaced, however, the building would have to be reinforced. The cornice could be replicated and installed above the third floor. The cornice was a very important architectural element and without it the building loses most of its eye pleasing effect.

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(Opera House measured drawing.)

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223-225 South Superior Street, Opera House, 1868-69

This building is designed in the Italianate style which was popular from the 1840s to 1880s. This style appears on more than one commercial building in downtown Albion as well as on downtown buildings across America. This former entertainment center for Albion, the opera house, remains in near original condition. This building, which was built by Theron Soule and George N. Davis, was extremely elaborate for the time.

This three-storied building appears to by symmetrical, however, contrary to popular practice, the opera house entrance is on the end of the building rather than in the middle. The first floor has two other stores and the opera house entrance. The windows are segmented with the popular inverted U-shaped crown as a simple hood. The entire façade had story high pilasters between each window. The space where the second and third floors connect is covered by wooden panels which provide a vertical visual line to the building. The cornice of the opera house was very complex, there were panels between the brackets, each bracket had a complex spindle. The building would not have been painted and the brickwork would glisten in the sun, however, the trim colors would provide a dark contrast with the abundant building details. Such colors as deep yellow, sandstone, yellow gold, jade, and complementary tans would have been appropriate. Architectural details of this building should be brought out by the color selection on this Italianate [ Page 14 ] style.

The opera house has a third floor balcony. The blue and gold dome was the visual back ground to the solid brass chandelier (10 feet tall and 15 feet in diameter). Five hundred people could be accommodated in the house to view performance on the 30’ by 40’ stage. The original stenciling remains on the walls and ceilings, as well as the orchestra pit. The main floor steps up gradually so everyone can have a full view of the stage. The main chandelier was dismantled in the 1960s and portions of this original were made into five separate lights now at the museum.

The building was declared a fire hazard in 1918. This important structure’s future is not clear. It appears structurally sound with the proper maintenance and restoration to bring it up to code, it could be useful as a civic hall, theater for the college, place for local theatrical presentations, or as facilities for high school drama classes.

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(Sheldon Block measured drawing).

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318 S. Superior Street, Sheldon Block, 1872

This structure is designed in the Second Empire style. The style has its roots in the designs that Napoleon III commissioned. The style spread to this continent in the form of commercial buildings that demanded a cosmopolitan sophistication.

The building is a three story symmetrical block with an visual illusion of a projecting central pavilion. The first floor of the building was used as three separate stores. The building has a mansard roof, and two styles of roof cresting. The roof cresting was duplicated and is now on the Gardner house, the Albion College Jackson street annex, and the depot. The roof consists of multi-colored slate tiles arranged in a pattern with metal curbs. The second floor has paired windows, with connecting headers. The building originally had a nonfunctional veranda that was under the second story windows of Superior Street. The windows closest to the corner facing Erie Street boasted a wooden window bay, which would have been in Mr. And Mrs. Sheldon’s Red Parlor. From a distance, the tall chimneys with decorative caps can be seen. The first and second floors have extremely high windows. The frieze of the building has a dentil motif instead of the more traditional paired brackets or single bracket cornice. The store fronts boasted symmetrical plans and all had retractable canvas awnings which would provide protection for customers and add color to the main street.

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The ground floor of the building originally was business space and a hotel lobby. The Sheldon’s had an opulent apartment on the second floor. The hotel was on the remaining area of the second floor as well as the third floor. The apartment featured many ornate, as well as unusual architectural features. One visual feature is the apartment entrance, which is an oval staircase. The apartment has parquet flooring which is laid in a herringbone pattern with a wall border. Ornate double doors with frosted etched glass panels are at the top of the oval stairs. Two marble fireplaces were in the home, one of gray marble and the other of Georgian pure white marble. A fireplace was also in the dining room, the material of which is unknown.

At the present there are no plans for using the second and third floors. Two possible alternatives are to restore the apartment to use as a private residence or to restore it for use as a bed and breakfast.

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( No page 18 in paper.)

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The Sheldon Apartment

John S. FellowsAlbion College

 

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The Sheldon Apartment

 

Introduction

 

The Site

The site on the corner of Erie Street and Superior Street had its first building built in 1836. The building housed the first hotel in the small community. In 1872 the building was demolished and the prominent banker James Sheldon started building the existing Second Empire structure.

 

The Builders

Mr. Sheldon was a prosperous banker, and he held governmental positions in the small village. The Sheldon’s liked the hotel style of life; this could have meant that they liked having a small staff that did not live in the residence. Mrs. Sheldon was a Peabody, one of Albion’s founding families. She grew up in the humble surroundings and did not acquire her exotic taste until her marriage. She was Albion’s version of rags to riches. The Sheldons, at the time of Mr. Sheldon’s death in 1894, were the wealthiest family in the county. Shortly after his death, Mrs. Sheldon remarried and built the Mary Sheldon Ismon Club House on Clinton street for the use of her and her husband’s clubs.

The Structure, is built in the Second Empire style. Its characteristics include the mansard roof, dormers, decorative detailing and raking. This is not the only Albion building that is in this style since the Gardner House, and a building on Erie Street serve as examples.

The building contained rooms for many different functions. It contained the Sheldon’s apartment. The Hotel Allen, and three shops on Superior Street. The entrance to the hotel was originally between the two northern stores.

 

The Hotel Allen

The Hotel Allen retains much of its 19th century appearance, since it is complete with the original wallpapers. Water damage however, has made it start to peel in places. The hotel has wallpapers of Oriental influence such as peonies and irises, which were typical of the décor in the 1870’s and ‘80’s. For its guests, on the second floor, the hotel had a large parlor that faced Superior Street. Staff rooms and the ball room/dining room was in the rear of this second floor section. On the third floor the hotel had both private and shared baths. A variety of room sizes, which ranged from singles to suites, were available for overnight guests.

 

The Apartment

 

The Rooms

There are many rooms in the house. These rooms had different functions that the rooms in our houses today. They had some rooms which were public and some which were private. Those that were private only the Sheldon’s would have seen. The Vestibule on the first floor would be encountered first upon entering, followed by the Receiving Hall, Drawing Room, Hall, Red Parlor, Back Parlor or Library, Dining Room, Morning Room, Kitchen, and Bedroom. However, to make things simple, the rooms will be discussed in a [ Page 22 ] counterclockwise order starting at the Vestibule.

 

The Approach

The Sheldon Apartment was reached by the grand entrance on Erie Street. Empire style decoration adorns the balcony above the door. The original door most likely would have been glass paneled rather than the present solid door. The doorway, with it elaborate detailing gives a suggestion of wat will be encountered inside the building. The apartment was probably the most up to date or stylish residence in Albion at that time. When the door was opened by the servant the visitors would be escorted up the oval staircase.

 

The Oval Staircase

This staircase is located in the first floor vestibule. The room is 9’5″ X 7’9″. The stairs start about six feet from the threshold. The newel post has an octagonal shape; the spindles of the stairs repeat the style. (The original spindles are only intact at the top of the staircase.) The entry would have been the first sight that the visitor would encounter with the staircase being the center of attention. The wood, which is currently painted and is probably walnut, would have been varnished and polished to a high luster.

The walls of the stairs have two niches which are large enough for Oriental vases, or classical figurines. The walls would have been decorated either the same as the Receiving Hall or in a complementary style. The stairs may have had Walton wallpaper since it was admired for its durability.

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The floor of this Vestibule would have been of tile or marble. The staircase is unobstructed to the top of the ceiling on the second floor Receiving Hall. The distance from the vestibule floor to the top of the Receiving Hall ceiling is 25’3″.

Lighting of this area may have been accomplished by a small gas table lamp since there is no evidence of a ceiling fixture. It is also possible that gas wall sconces were used. Undoubtedly, however, light from the Receiving Hall’s windows and a large gas chandelier would have reached the Vestibule and provided some additional light.

 

The Receiving Hall

At the top of the stairs would have been the most important part of the house for the visitor. This would have been the area where the calling card was put on a silver tray and taken to Mrs. Sheldon. This room is the Receiving Hall.

Directly in front of the stairs are large walnut and butternut paned double doors. Directly opposite the doors are a set of windows. To the right is a small door leading to a room connecting the library and a long hall. To the left is the Dining Room.

The floor is of hardwood, and would have been covered with two or three oriental rugs. The present flooring covering is linoleum yet in one corner, by the windows, the wood floor is still visible.

Because this is the first public area a person would [ Page 24 ] encounter, the wealth of the family would be very apparent by the most fashionable furnishings and bric-a-brac. A standard feature of Victorian homes was soaring ceilings and these are no different being a full twelve feet. The colors in this room would have complimented those of the Drawing Room. The reason for this is that when the double doors are fully opened the two rooms almost become one. There are no wallpaper samples readily apparent, but most definitely there was wallpaper on the walls.

The draperies on the windows would have had the standard four layers of curtains, probably in velvet or satin. The windows would have had roll blinds to keep the harsh southern sun out of the house at midday.

The lighting in the room is from one hanging gas light with probably six arms. The plaster medallion in this room is a very intricate diamond shape. It looks very fluid with large ornamental and French shapes. It is important to remember that the light from a gas light is less intense than our modern taste is used to; however, it was the brightest type of historical lighting available.

 

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room is rectangular in shape, 12’ 6″ by 8’. The room has no windows or doors to other rooms. The room does contain a closet which is in the far right corner from the double doors. The closet, interestingly, has original wallpaper.

In this room there are wood floors with a custom designed pattern using one and a half inch boards. The floor is divided into four section. It most likely would have been partially covered by a very intricate deep red or burgundy Oriental rug.

This room is wallpapered, but the original shops through, with a large repeating pattern which was the fashion. It should be noted that all walls in the house had some form of texture application such as wallpaper, wood, or frescos. Original wallpaper can be seen under other layers. The Drawing Room pattern consisted of very large swirls. The color was probably deep red, however, it has faded over time.

The room has no windows and therefore no draperies; however, textiles present in the room would be upholstery and table linens. Tables were usually draped in layers of textiles in many different colors and patterns.

It is hard to determine the exact furnishings of this room, however, they were most likely the very best and most up to date furnishings in the apartment. The reason is because a Victorian person’s social class was determined by the quantity and the quality of the objects in the home. The room would have looked very “busy and over decorated to modern taste. This was the standard fashion of the day. The most important thing was to overwhelm one’s visitor.

The ceiling has a large cornice molding which is still painted in the proper fashion of the day, although the colors may have been different. The ceiling, wallpapered at a later date, matches the top layer that is on the walls. Evidence suggests that the ceiling was wallpapered originally [ Page 26 ] with a marble pattern or something resembling water spots. It would not have been unusually to have a frescoed or other wise ornately painted ceilings.

The plaster medallion is a long oval shape 4,3″ with simple detail. The lighting would have also been gas. The light may have been more ornate than that of the Receiving Hall. Light shines through the frosted glass and etched panels in the doors giving natural light to this otherwise dark interior room.

 

The Hall

The Hall connected the Receiving Hall to the Red Parlor which was also a public space. The hall has many doors that open to various rooms, closets, and bathrooms. On the left is a large door which goes to a large Trunk Room, to the right is a door leading to the Library.

The floor would have continued the same wood floor as the Reception Hall. A long oriental carpet runner would have emphasized the width of the room. The wood floors would have been kept in a highly polished state.

In this Victorian home the Hall would have been decorated lavishly, complete with various small stands for plants or Greek or Roman figures. Side chairs would have also been abundant.

The walls would not have necessarily been the same as the Reception Hall but would have had to have been of complimentary colors. The woodwork in the Hall was also butternut. The Hall is in fairly poor condition, due to [ Page 27 ] heating vents having been installed. There are electrical boxes, loose wires, and openings to other rooms that are also not original. When the building was redone, apparently the Hall was gutted of important historical material.

The Hall would have been very dimly lit. It may not have had a ceiling light but only table lamps. The ceiling above the visitor is the standard 12’; therefore, the walls could have been used for a gallery.

 

The Back Parlor or Library

The Back Parlor is reached through the only door on the right side of the Hall. This room has two single windows. There is a six foot door on the south wall and two doors on the north wall. The doors lead to the same small room the purpose of which is not readily apparent.

How the Sheldon’s used the Library or Back Parlor is unclear. The positioning of this room, as well as the original fixture, suggest its being used as a Back Parlor. The purpose of this room, therefore, would have been to have another room for living. However, on special occasions the doors would be fully opened and a large parlor would then be created, enabling them to entertain lavishly. This room could have also been Mr. Sheldon’s Library from which he conducted business when not at his office down the street.

The room has the same flooring as the Red Parlor. The border is identical and continues around the room without any interruptions. An Oriental rug would have been on the floor in this room.

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The color of the décor is indecipherable, without a color analysis being taken. There are at least seven layers of wallpaper in this room with the top layer having been painted.

The furnishings would have been Eastlake, Louis XIV, or exotic. There may have been a piano or some other instrument in this room. There are no permanent shelves to suggest a library, but for a man of Mr. Sheldon’s standing a large Renaissance bookcase would have been important. Books were very valuable in the Victorian age and were a symbol of one’s social status. Mr. Sheldon, undoubtedly would have had many.

The windows would have had window blinds and the standard heavy draperies. The windows would have had window blinds and the standard heavy draperies. The windows face the south and a great deal of light would have shone through them.

Lighting in the room was again gas. The ceiling medallion has a vine motif. It is about three feet in diameter. The light fixture probably only had four arms.

The room would have most likely function as a Victorian multi-purpose room in which the functions of music room, library and parlor could have been combined.

 

The Red Parlor

The Red Parlor function as the Front Parlor when the Sheldon’s were living in the apartment. This room has the most physically intact pieces of historical information. The specialness of this room makes it easily restored to perfection.

The only surviving pictorial representation of the [ Page 29 ] interior is a 9’ X 5’ portrait by Perry Averill, a Jackson painter. The painting was done of this room. The focal point is the Sheldons, the background of the painting is the bay window which extended over Erie Street.

There are, from the outside on Superior Street, three windows; however, there are only two on the interior. The middle window is false. Its purpose is to keep the symmetry of the second Empire style apparent on the exterior of the building. On the Erie side of the room is where the bay window used to be. The bay window has two pillars, each 10’6″, with a Corinthian capital on either side of the 12’8″ opening. To the right of the entrance door is a double door which goes to the Back Parlor or Library. The fireplace is directly opposite the bay window. The fireplace is made of gray marble. It is ornate compared with others that survive from the same period. It is 5’6″ long and 5’ tall. On either side of the fireplace are doors which lead to the Morning Room.

This room has a parquet floor with a wall border which extends out 2’10″. The main section of the floor has a tweed pattern. The room would have had a deep red Oriental rug, which would have covered the wood floor but still allowed for the border to show. The hearth of the fireplace has gray tiles with a deep red Pompeian border, tiles with yellow flowers, and solid green tiles accent the other colors.

The period furniture which was in the Red Parlor can be fairly well documented: “Mrs. Sheldon is seated in a chair [ Page 30 ] that the arms and back of which are of ram’s horns,” reported the Albion Evening Recorder about the story of the painting. The room would have had an Eastlake style sofa, and a Renaissance table as well as the very rare above mentioned chair owned by Mrs. Sheldon. The chair was a sign of extreme wealth; not everyone had one. Mrs. Sheldon spent her time making Crazy Quilts and one of them was probably displayed in this room as the painting suggests. In the Stockwell collection at Albion College is a Crazy Quilt Door Hanging, which was made by Mary Sheldon for her sister Madeline Stockwell. There was also the standard potted palm in the alcove of the bay window in a Japanese vase.

In the painting there is a mirror and this probably was just put in the painting rather than actually being there. They would not have hung something on a column back the just as we would not hang something on a column today. The mirror therefore reflects the opposite wall which would have had a large mirror above the fireplace. The mirror would have matched the style of the fireplace and would have been a complementary wood for the room.

The other furnishings would have consisted of table lamps and bric-a-brac. The tables would have been covered in various cloths and covers, although more than one pattern per table was not uncommon. There would have been one or more couches as well as a central table in the gathering place for the home. The sitting arrangements would have been in small groups.

The walls of this room appear to be of a red wallpaper. [ Page 31 ] The design can be seen in the painting. The design consist of double vertical stripes with flowers between them. Documentation for the color, fabrics, and textures in this room can be documented from the oil painting.

All the windows would have had wooden shutters. This fact is known because of the shutters that are still in the fake window. The window dressings in the room, according to the picture, were shutters as well as roller blinds (from an 1890’s picture of the exterior) even the bay window would have had shutters. The hangings would have again consisted of the standard four layers typical of that time period. The reason for so many layers was to show wealth, as well as to conserve heat in the winter. The painting depicts winder curtains which appear to be of a solid color and made of wool or velvet. (Close examination of the painting would suggest the material to be velvet). There are many contrasting color trims that enhanced the luxurious effect. There were woven embroidered bands and tapes that had flower patterns. In the summer all the curtains would be taken down and replaced by lighter curtains. They would have been of highly polished chintz. The bay window had shutters too.

Light in the room would have been from a gas lamp. The plaster medallion in this room is intact and appears to be very “feminine.” The Morning Room and the bedroom have the same plaster medallions. On the wall a gas valve exists on either side of the fireplace just above the mantel. Since there are two, it is possible that one would have supplied [ Page 32 ] other sconces somewhere on the wall. There is also evidence of some additional fixture having been on the wall high above the fireplace. This could have been a single sconce. There is still some gold leaf showing through the medallion which signifies that this room may have also had frescoes or stenciling on the ceiling.

It would be marvelous if this room could be saved because it is so well documented by the existing oil painting.

 

The Morning Room

The room that is directly behind the fireplace in the Red Parlor was the Morning Room. This room faces Superior Street. The two sets of double windows are in this room. Since this room has four windows which let the glorious sun come through in the morning, it would have been the Morning Room.

On the Superior Street side of the room are two sets of windows. On the south side, which adjoins the Red Parlor, and the white fireplace are two doors that go to the Parlor. Opposite the windows is a larger double door which opens into the Sheldon’s bedroom. In the northwest corner the hotel stairway makes a small protrusion into the room. A few feet to the right of the double doors is a door leading to the hotel lobby. The room is 18’4″ X 20’4″.

The floors in this room were similar to the Red parlor. However, because it was a less public room it is possible that the floor was plain hardwood rather than parquet. The [ Page 33 ] tile for the hearth of the fireplace was removed when the fireplace was removed and no longer exists.

The room probably would have been decorated in light greens. There would have been nothing pure white in a Victorian home with the exception of marble. Yellow and Yellow creams would have been more standard. This room still would have been very “busy” looking and abundant in texture. The colors, in any case, would have been much lighter than the dark Pompeian red that would have been found in other rooms.

The room had a beautiful marble fireplace, which is now at the home of Mr. And Mrs. Bernstein of Albion. The fireplace had a circular hearth opening different from the square openings in the Red Parlor.

Furnishings in the room would have been less ornate and trendy than in the public rooms. There would have been a day bed as well as a sofa and lounging chairs. There were probably many different types of plants as they would have been especially suitable for this sunny room.

The windows would have been treated in a similar fashion to the others. The actual designs of the curtains were probably similar to those that are still surviving in historical collections. The window design would have compiled all four windows, rather than having a break between each window.

The plaster medallion, as mentioned before, is the same as the one in the Red Parlor. The lighting would have been less because the room probably would not have been used in [ Page 34 ] the evening, only in the morning when the sun was rising.

 

The Sheldon’s Bedroom

There is only one bedroom in the apartment. The reason for this is that they had no children living with them and because they had no true use for extra rooms. The Sheldon’s were much more practical in this aspect than most wealthy Victorians. They also had a hotel adjoining where they could keep guests. The room is similar to the Drawing Room in the fact that it has no windows. On the wall opposite the sliding doors is a small room. It is locked and therefore usage must be guessed; it is probably the bathroom.

The floor was probably the same kind of hardwood that is in the Morning Room. They would have had a rug in this room also. It could have been a type or style from an Oriental to a rag rug both of which were common.

The bedroom would have a large bed, most likely Renaissance in style and complete with a high headboard. It is also possible that they had a canopy bed. There would have been a dressing table and an armour for storing clothing. A trunk or cedar chest may have also been found in this room. Typically the oldest furnishings in a house are in the bedroom. Family furniture, or useful-but-not-necessarily-up-to-date furnishings that the Sheldon’s cherished, would have been found in the Bedroom.

The Bedroom would have been decorated with wallpaper and the color scheme would have been very light, somewhat similar to the Morning Room. The wall treatment would have been less [ Page 35 ] expensive, less formal, and less exotic.

This room also has a plaster medallion and would have had a three or four arm light. The plaster medallion in this room is the same as the Red Parlor’s.

This room has been divided by a new staircase to the store front as well as doors that open into the hotel lobby. This room, to really be accurate, will have to have some analysis of the walls to determine the true colors that were there and what kind of wallpaper and paint existed.

 

The Bathrooms

The Bathrooms in the apartment have been modernized, however, it was done so long ago that these fixtures are important historically. The Bathrooms would have had claw foot tubs.

There would have been extensive tile on the bathroom floors and walls. Wallpaper was also used in the bathrooms. The wallpaper would have had lily pads or other natural water motif. These rooms and the kitchen would have had white tile contrary to the rule that you should never use pure white. The tiel may have had black trim, which was not uncommon.

 

The Dining Room

If one were to return to the Receiving Hall by going down the Hall, you would find the dining room to the left of the stairs directly opposite the Red Parlor door. This was the family gathering place, as it had been in previous generations.

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The Dining Room is located in the rear corner of the building. It has two windows which over look Erie Street and two doors which would have opened up to cast iron balconies and a fire escape on the alley side of the building. This building is especially, significant in that the building’s architectural design has been included in the back of the building and, therefore, is pleasant to observe from more directions then just street sides.

The dining room wall to the right of the doorway has a door next to the exterior wall which leads to the kitchen. There is also a door leading to a service hall which leads to the large Ballroom on the hotel side of the second floor. The floor in this room appears to have the same wood floors as the Red Parlor and the Library, however, green vinyl tile has been laid over the wood. There was a fireplace and its hearth would have had tile to complement the décor.

The fireplace could have been of marble or wood. It is unclear that it was like since there is no one who recalls where it went or what it looked like.

The dining room table would have been positioned in the north-south direction. Between the two service doors would have been a magnificent China hutch. This would have been the focal point of the room. Social position would have dictated a person have silver, china and stemware filling the entire hutch. These things were probably only used only occasionally but they would have been important symbols of their wealth and social status. There would have been a buffet and possibly a tea cart. It was not uncommon to have a couch or chairs in [ Page 37 ] the dining room. With the table moved out of the way, this room could have been used as a sitting room.

Wallpaper would have been rich in texture and color in this room. It would have also have needed to have been very cleanable.

There were most likely no draperies in this room, because the Victorians felt that the smells of food would linger in the fabric. Instead, there would have been shutters, wooden Venetian blinds, or lighter-weight curtains that were easily washable.

The ceiling would have been more likely painted than papered because of the Victorians’ obsessive desire for cleanliness. The plaster medallion has paint which shows a dark green.

 

The Kitchen

The kitchen has the most activity of all of the rooms. It was connected to the hotel and the servants may have cared for the Sheldon’s as well as the hotel. This relationship is not clear. The room has one window and one door that open up to the fire escape. Directly opposite them is a door, which leads to the minor hall, and china cabinet.

The wall against the hotel has a door that goes to another hall which divides the kitchen and ballroom and acts as a servant’s entrance. On this same wall a pantry and storage cabinet with drawers project into the room. On the south wall the stove would have sat, it would have connect up to the same chimney as the Dining Room fireplace.

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The Kitchen was the latest in technology and was the most sanitary part of the house. Victorian people were very concerned with hygiene and germs.

The floor would have been tile or a vinyl mat. Work area materials would have been made of marble and tile.

The walls would not have had wallpaper but would have been painted for a clean appearance. The window treatments would have been a light layer of material, shutters, or blinds.

Lighting in the room has been altered and the original style is of fixtures hard to determine, but would have been comparable to other kitchens of the time period.

The Kitchen may have been either stark or very homey, depending on Mrs. Sheldon’s treatment of servants. The kitchen may have had pictures or even a comfortable chair, this being a suggestion of popular house keeping articles and magazines of the time period. There is some evidence of pressed wood molding suggesting a happy and comfortable atmosphere.

Many of the food staples would have been readily assessable for frequent use and not “hidden” in cupboards. However, the kitchen would have been neat.

 

Minor Hall

The Minor Hall connects the dining room and the main passage of the Hotel. The Kitchen has a door which enters into this Hall. The floor is hardwood and the walls would have been papered. Lighting would most likely have been from [ Page 39 ] a gas light, however, the hall ceiling has been lowered from the original 12 feet to about seven feet. The Hall opens into a small Service Hall. From there a door leads into the Kitchen and another door to the Ballroom of the hotel.

 

The Ballroom

The Ballroom would have been used by the hotel and the Sheldon’s. The Sheldon’s may have used it for the public functions which they would have held. They would have had a place to which to escape by going back to the apartment. The staff would have used the apartment Kitchen and brought the food into the apartment by the service hall. This was a hidden feature of the building because it is so removed from the public rooms.

 

Conclusion

The Sheldon apartment may be the only building of this type in the world that still exists. The building is unique because it has a private residence and a public hotel connected. The appearance that the Ballroom was jointly used makes it especially important. The history of Albion is in this building. Recalling the fact that its neighboring city of Marshall wanted to be the state capital, which would have made Albion a wealthy suburb in the future, is important. The town itself became important and was one of the largest Midwestern towns in the area at that point.

The buildings could be put to many uses today. Most importantly it could be restored as a mass community project. [ Page 40 ] It could, after restoration, function as a museum or a Bed and Breakfast which could bring to the city extra revenue for downtown rehabilitation. There are a great deal of possibilities and many ways that they could be financed to make them happen. The college could restore it and use student labor in return for credit and the students could learn about the history, art, society of the Victorian era, as well as economic opportunities in Historic Preservation projects.

The building is worth saving and protecting. It needs to be maintained and to be put on the state or national register to get the help and protection it deserves.

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Limitations and Objectives

There were many barriers that I encountered along the way. I tried to fit what could have taken a year or more into three months and, therefore, had to rely on surface evidence. The information is as factual as can be for the time restrictions. There has been extensive field research, only those things which are superficial or can be attained by written documentation has been explored. There may be layers of paint, wallpaper etc. under the surface. Further research should be done if the building is going to be worked on in any way. Everything that is present is important and could be the key to restoration and should be documented to an even greater extent than has been able to be provided here. Samples of everything should be saved and analyzed for later restoration in the building and other buildings in Albion, the state or country.

I set out to learn about 19th century buildings and have come away with knowledge which I have never encountered in any other class. I am going away from this building with a deep attachment. It is very close to me I have received a great deal of satisfaction from studying it. As I am preparing to study to become an architect, I know it will be one of the most influential buildings I will experience.

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Works Consulted

Albion Archives. Archival materials on Sheldon’s. January 1991.

Albion College Dining Service, Personal viewing of painting of The Sheldon’s. January 1991.

Albion College Visual Arts Department. Painting #1967.86 Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon, 1884. Personal Interview with Belmont Manor Staff. January 1991.

Albion’ Historic Walk. Pamphlet. The Albion Bicentennial Commission, 1976.

Burstein, Victor and Margey. Personal Interview – Tour of objects from building.

Cram, Ralph and Mary. Telephone interview. February 1991.

Grotz, George. Grotz’s Antique Furniture Styles. New York: Doubleday, 1987.

Hoernschemeyer, Craig. Telephone Interview. February 1991.

Leopold, Allusion Kyle. Victorian Splendor: Re-creating America’s 19th century interiors. New York: Stwart, Tabori, and Chang, 1986.

Longsteth, Richard. The buildings of Main Street: guide to American Commercial Architecture. Washington D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1987.

McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Moss, Roger W. Century of Color: Exterior Decoration for American Buildings – 1820/1920. New York: American Life Foundation, 1981.

Moss, Roger W. Lighting for Historic Buildings. Washington D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1988.

Norkus, Brian C. Assistant Planner for City of Albion. Personal Interview. January-February 1991.

Nylander, Jane C. Fabrics for Historic Buildings. Washington D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1990.

Nylander, Richard C. Wall Paper for Historic Buildings, Washington D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1983.

Passic, Frank. Albion Archives Curator. Personal Interviews. January-February 1991.

Poteet, Nancy. Albion Concerned Citizen. Telephone interview, February 1991.

Rieske, William C. Director of City Planning. Personal interview. January-February 1991

Rosenstiel, Helene Von and Winkler, Gail Caskey, For Historic Buildings. Washington D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1988.

Sharp, Mrs. Albion Historical Room. Personal Interview. January-February 1991.

Shedd, John. Owner of Parks Drug Store and The Sheldon Block. Personal Interview. January-February 1991.

“Sheldon Block – Second Empire.” The Albion Recorder. Thursday, 23 May 1985, p.4.

Winkler, Gail Caskey and Moss, Roger W. Victorian Interior Decoration: American Interiors 1830-1900. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1986.