By Sue Moore
The castle-like building in Schoolcraft at the corner of Eliza and Grand Streets is set to be demolished in the very near future according to Village Manager Cheri Lutz.
It is owned by the Lake Michigan Credit Union out of Grand Rapids which also has an office in the side part of the building. “The credit union officials have been very generous to the Schoolcraft Historical Society by letting us in to retrieve as many pieces of antiquity that we could carry out,” said Harriett, chairperson of the group.
“We have been able to remove the two fireplaces (very carefully), doors, wonderful woodwork, stained glass and etched glass windows in the last three and a half days that we have known about the up planned demolition,” Swartz related. “The crew that has been working at breakneck speed includes Kim Maxam and Bill Nichols. We’ve been able to store many pieces, give some to the library and we even want to salvage some of the brick because it is the same that was used to build the historic Ladies Library building. We have found some notes, letters, papers of the original owner that were stuffed in crevices and although a bit tattered, they are salvageable.”
The house was built in 1885 by Doctor John and Mary Chapin. They came to Schoolcraft from Pennsylvania in 1880 and lived in a small house not far from the corner. The doctor had volunteered to treat the wounded soldiers from both the union and confederate armies in Gettysburg. Why he moved to Michigan, is not known. The house cost $3,300 to build and served as his office with six rooms downstairs and five up. Later, a Herbert Smith lived in the home and drove an ambulance and was a mortician. Then Bob Robertson opened it as a funeral home for many years and he brought in John and Liz Avink in the 1970s when he wanted to retire. The Avinks moved across Grand St. in 1985 and a Vicksburg man purchased the home and made it into a retail store called Oak Creations. It’s last occupant refurbished it and had a sandwich shop and marketplace before going out of business.
“We can’t do anything about the fact that it will be torn down,” Swartz lamented. “It is really hard to lose a landmark building such as this but we just have to accept things the way they are,” she concluded.