Colleen and Jody Flinton have made life a great adventure in Schoolcraft, living in a house that is 149 years old. It’s the former Dr. Nathan Thomas home at the corner of Cass and Centre streets that fascinates passersby when they view the brick construction and the cupola on top that surveys the entire village.
“We meet all kinds of people who just want to see the house or even bring metal detectors to search for treasures in the yard,” said Colleen Flinton. They have owned the house for just a year and now will open their doors to the community with the Schoolcraft Library’s Historical Homes Tour for the Holidays on December 10 from 4 to 8 p.m. It is a self-guided tour, sponsored by the Friends of the Library. Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased at the library.
“This house felt like home the day we walked in,” Colleen said. They had just purchased a home on Z Avenue on Portage Creek. They fell in love with the Thomas home so made the purchase contingent upon selling that home which was closer to Jody’s job at IAC in Mendon. “We are working on projects all the time, not being able to sit still. We’ve moved 11 times during our marriage and owned six homes. This one is it at least until graduation.” Their children are Aidan, 12, and 10-year-old twins Connor and Ella.
“Schoolcraft is the most welcoming community we have lived in, so we are happy to have people see what a special home this is. We are right next to the library. That makes it special if we can help them raise some funds,” Colleen said. The kids frequent the library and are beloved by staff, according to Director Faye VanRavenswaay.
The house has 2,000 square feet on each of its three floors with the cupola sitting proudly on top of the unfinished third floor. The 13-foot high ceilings and ten-foot tall doors and windows let in lots of light, making it seem cozy even as it is spacious. It has allowed the Flintons to use lots of deep colors in the library, billiard room, sitting room and bedrooms. The main dining room, hallway and staircase are a beautiful off white which spreads the cheerfulness into the adjoining rooms.
The plank floors are finished in natural wood downstairs and painted upstairs in a bright white. The kitchen is rather small but Jody has remodeled it completely with new cupboards made to look as old as the house. It has a pantry where there is plenty of storage. The Flintons were told that having lots of closets meant that the owners were wealthy and could afford to have the extra space built in.
Jody and Colleen like to remodel the houses they have lived in, finding treasures wherever they move. This is reflected in the work they have done on this house in every room except their own bedroom. This one has a huge walk-in closet that would be the envy of anyone. Their daughter Ella has a huge bedroom that they found out was also where Ella Thomas slept as she grew up in the home.
Connor and Aidan room together and say they like it that way, even though they could have had separate bedrooms; the house features a guest room and an office on the second floor. The kids love to play in the home and have their friends over to show them the secret door from the front room to the butler’s pantry. While Jody and Colleen were moving in, the kids were found to be roller skating in the rooms because there was so much space to roll around in.
Dr. Nathan M. Thomas, the first doctor in Kalamazoo County, arrived in Schoolcraft in 1830. Since the county was sparsely settled, his calls were made on horseback, taking him many miles from home. In 1840 at the age of 37 he married Miss Pamela Brown, sister of E. Lakin Brown. They began housekeeping in the frame house he had constructed five years earlier. At the close of the Civil War he built for her on the same corner a spacious three story brick home topped with an observatory and a small balcony over the front door. The frame house that had been their home on this site for more than a quarter century, often referred to as the Underground Railway House, was retired to the end of Cass Street, according to the book, So We See: Historic Schoolcraft.