Architecture & Design, Nonprofits, and Real Estate

Heritage Hill tour opens door to history

May 15, 2014
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Heritage Hill tour opens doors to history
A 1920 Tudor cottage in the historic Heritage Hill neighborhood in Grand Rapids, at 550 College SE. Courtesy Heritage Hill Association

Grand Rapids’ historic Heritage Hill neighborhood is opening its doors to thousands of guests this weekend.

About 3,000 people are expected to attend the 45th annual Heritage Hill Weekend Tour this Saturday, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, from noon-6 p.m.

The tour features seven private homes and two public buildings in the Heritage Hill neighborhood, which dates back to 1843.

“Certainly, people do it to admire the architecture. They like the history of the neighborhood,” said Jan Earl, executive director, Heritage Hill Association. “It’s a great promotion of the neighborhood. You see so much more when you’re walking around, and you get a bigger appreciation for what we have.”

Tickets

Advance tickets to the event are $15 and can be purchased online or at the association’s office, at 126 College Ave. SE.

Tickets purchased during the tour will be $20.

2014 Heritage Hill Weekend Tour

The Heritage Hill Association has described each of the nine properties on the tour:

151 Lafayette NE

Hidden in the history of this Greek Revival beauty, with its impressive size and grand columns, are its humble beginnings as a simple four-room cottage. Built in 1852, some years before the Civil War, this home has literally grown and changed with the city it overlooks. A lovely garden path leads you first to an impressive fountain and then to a home where large rooms and sunny porches reflect the past and whose recent additions and creative changes fit the lives of the new young owners. You will have a fun cruise in the entertainment room in the basement. Along with a big screen for movies, there is a bar and wine cellar created from the parts of a deconstructed wooden boat.

60 Lafayette NE

Within the walls of this stately, 1920 Georgian Revival, visual delights are easy to find. Spacious, airy rooms with ornate African mahogany woodwork and large windows — for sleuths who want to sneak a peek at the backyard garden and pool — create a feeling of classic elegance in this home. The second-floor rooms have been updated, but still reflect the style of the house, and the multi-purpose basement is an adventure in itself. The kitchen is a masterpiece. The hammered copper sinks, custom-milled woodwork, rare granite countertops and mahogany floor are all new, yet blend perfectly with the character of the rest of the home.

231 Paris SE

A perfect place for a who done it, the amazing two-story library, patterned after the one in Sir Walter Scott's castle, is the showpiece of this 1875 Stick Style home. From the beautiful staircase as you enter, to the mahogany-lined dining room (now office) as you leave, this home is actually one showpiece after another. Grand fireplaces, rich-toned woodwork and ornate plaster moldings serve as backdrops for the owner's art, antiques and pottery collection. The house is surrounded by an enchanting, mirrored garden.

238 Morris SE

The Juliet balcony above the entry adds a touch of romance and mystery to this 1898 Shingle Style home. Inside, the extensive use of beaded oak woodwork throughout the main floor continues up to an open, curved landing, with welcoming built-in benches and lovely windows. Back-to-back soapstone fireplaces in the living and dining rooms have unique etched floral designs. An unusually large, rounded, bay window in the living room floods the whole corner with light. Mid-century furnishings, a pinball machine collection and the owner's modern artwork make for a fun mix of old home and new ideas.

427 Prospect SE

Built around 1890, this Craftsman Style home, with its large turret, graceful porch and bay windows had a rough-and-tumble life. Unfortunately, Sherlock was not around to catch the scoundrels who, not so long ago, took almost anything saleable out of the house. A brave soul rescued this damsel in distress, and after years of reconstruction, her intrinsic beauty again shines through. A dark oak stairway greets you as you enter, a cozy fireplace graces the living room and the 44-foot hallway on the second floor is waiting to be explored. Family heirlooms throughout the home have stories to tell and the artistic touches that can be found in owners' prints and collages and in the creative décor.

550 College SE

This charming 1920 Tudor Cottage is a bit of a mystery. Appearing deceptively small on the outside, the open layout inside creates the feeling of a much larger home. After extensive restoration and sensitive modernization in the last year, this home is a complete delight, perfectly planned for the young family who lives here. Art-Deco influences are evident in the curved ceilings, rounded hallways and nooks and the eye-catching wrought iron railings. In addition to the bedrooms on the second floor, you will find a great playroom, plenty of storage space and, just a few steps up, tucked in the attic, a cozy guest room with a fantastic bath and a bird's-eye view of the backyard.

505 College SE

The distinctive details that you look for in a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie-style structure — the emphasis on horizontal lines, the interplay of small and open spaces, the glowing stained-glass windows, the unique and creative use of natural materials — can be found throughout this home. Known as the Amberg House, this jewel of Heritage Hill has new stewards who have made it their own with beautiful furnishings and artwork. They have taken on some renovation projects as well, including an added first-floor bath. They have reclaimed one of the two apartments, creating a bath, an entertainment area and an exercise room for their family.

Cornerstone Church, 48 Lafayette SE

This light brick and limestone Greek Revival building was originally built for the First Church of Christ Scientist in 1905. Many of the original features of the church are still in evidence, including two fireplaces in the gathering room, one of the gaslight fixtures and many stained-glass windows, including a sunburst dome, one of four such domes in Michigan. Cornerstone Church, a United Methodist congregation, purchased the building in 2013 and has made some changes to the building, while trying to be respectful of the original architecture. The neighborhood welcomes our newest church and appreciates their generous offer to open their doors for tour this year.

Fountain School, GRPS Montessori, 159 College NE

This 1917 symmetrical red-brick school was Grand Rapids second-largest elementary school of its time. The ornate exterior trim includes sculptured children's faces that grace the north and south entrances. Betty Ford was one of the more notable students of this school. This building, along with the adjacent Central High, house Grand Rapids Public School's Montessori program. Montessori students attend schools on this campus from pre-school through high school. Grand Rapids offers one of the few programs in the country that includes a Montessori high school.

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