By Linda Lane
Aaron Burson Jr. might be a great-great-great-great- grandfather to some families in Schoolcraft. He’s the man who built the Virginia Corners home for his family in 1840, 178 years ago, moving west from Virginia to settle here with three other families. The stately Greek Revival home at the corner of Oakland Drive and U Avenue has nurtured over six generations of families.
Virginia Corners is currently owned by Don and Cheryl Ulsh. Very active within the community, Don currently serves as the Schoolcraft Township supervisor and is president of the Vicksburg Rotary Club.
“It’s an honor to own a home like this with so much history,” Ulsh said. “When we purchased the property, we were told, ‘You never own Virginia Corners, you are just stewards for a while.’ We’re very sensitive and careful about making any changes or modifications to this historic home.”
“This was a weird coincidence, but when staff members were cleaning out an old vault in the Township offices, they happened upon a photocopy of a land grant deed to a property. I looked at it and said, ‘That’s our home’s property!’ It’s a copy of a land grant registered in Washington D.C. and was signed by President Andrew Jackson on June 1, 1831.”
Somehow the deed had been registered in the Kalamazoo County Registrar’s office in 1991, the year the Ulshes purchased the home. But Ulsh has no idea who went to Washington D.C. to obtain a copy of the land deed. A thick abstract of the property chronicles each owner since 1831.
The home originally had two kitchens, one called and used as a “summer kitchen” with a tiny fireplace. Previous owners discovered the fireplace when they pulled off some newer wall covering on the room while renovating. The Ulshes currently use the space as a small bedroom.
“If I put a level on any window sill, I can tell you, it is perfectly level on every one of them. It’s the quietest home I’ve ever lived in. There are no creaks or squeaks in floors. It’s just incredibly well-built and has withstood the years,” Ulsh said. With five bedrooms, almost all of the 2,400 square-foot home is original, except for a 6-by-12-foot porch on the west side of the home.
Another unique aspect of the house: it’s on one of the highest spots in the township, another tidbit Ulsh learned from a topography map he found at the Township Hall. He doesn’t know if the original settler selected the site because of that. But the Ulshes have never had a problem with water in the basement.
There are also four original outbuildings on the property and a sign of another. “When it’s really dry for a period of time, we’ve found a defined circle, maybe 18 inches in diameter, that we’re not really sure what it might have been originally. Maybe a well? We’re not sure. We keep talking about digging up that area to see what it might have been,” Ulsh said.
“We removed five layers of linoleum from the kitchen floor when we renovated. The contractor couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘The oak flooring is in such good condition, it doesn’t look like it’s ever been walked on.’ There literally weren’t any scratches or damage to the original tongue and groove flooring,” Ulsh said. Previous owners passed on several original tools from the home and barns, including the original tool used to create that tongue and groove flooring in the kitchen.
The biggest downside to owning a historic home? Maintenance. “It’s expensive to maintain the roofs and to keep everything painted,” Ulsh said.