Earliest residences tell a bit of history about Greenville


By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 11:56 pm on Friday, September 07, 2012

GREENVILLE — The Greenville area has a long history of settlers dating back to 1844 when John Green settled in the area, seven years after Michigan became a state.
Greenville was incorporated into a village in 1867 and became a city in 1871.

Although some of first homes in Greenville have come and gone, some are still standing today, dating as far back as 167 years ago.

When Greenville was first developing, records were not kept like they are today, leaving some dates a little fuzzy as to when certain homes were established.

Elsie McNiel, a Greenville historian, said she started to research the oldest homes in the 1970s. She wrote an article about old homes in the March 13, 1974 issue of The Daily News.

“It was just something that interested me,” McNiel said.

Through her research, McNiel found it was very common for people to move their houses during the late 1800s.

“It was common in the past to move old buildings to another location when their site was needed for another purpose, rather than destroy them as is done today,” McNiel wrote in her article.

220 W. Orange St.

According to Montcalm County property tax records, the house at 220 W. Orange St. was built in 1845, making it one of the oldest standing residences in Greenville.
The tan two-story house sits with an overview of the area on the corner of Orange and Barry street.

The house that sits at 220 W. Orange St. could be the oldest, still standing home with records from the Montcalm County property tax information showing the house was built in 1845. There are no records of this home being relocated.

220 W. Orange St. residence (circa 1970s).

According to information McNiel obtained, a deed dating 1855 shows a Mr. Ellsworth and his wife purchased the property. Through the years, the house went through several owners until 1946 when it was purchased by Dr. Robert L. Rice. According to property tax records, Mrs. Robert Rice of Greenville owns the home, but according to Mark Petersen, a realtor from RE/MAX Brokers Plus in Greenville, new owners recently purchased the home.

Records could not be obtained showing that the house had been moved in the past.

215 S. Barry St.

The home standing at 215 S. Barry St. was once deemed the oldest home in Greenville by local historians with documentation dating back as early as 1846. This home appears to never have been relocated as it was common for homes to be moved in the late 1800s.

The house at 215 S. Barry St. has been named in the past as the oldest-standing house in Greenville, but its exact original build date is unclear.

The blue two-story house sits hidden behind a landscape on the corner of Barry and Cass streets.

Through paperwork obtained from current owner Greg Weitzel, documentation shows the property was established as early as 1846 and purchased by Ira Porter from the State of Michigan. A year later, the property was sold to Green (the founder of Greenville) and Nelson Robinson. Additional transactions for the property do not occur again until the mid-1850s, according to Weitzel’s records. It is unclear when the actual house was built.
Although Montcalm County property tax records indicate the house was built in 1860, McNiel has records of the house being purchased by John Lewis from his brother-in-law in 1856.

215 S. Barry St. residence (circa 1970s).

“The house does not have the same appearance as it originally looked,” McNiel said.
When comparing the current appearance of the house to a sketch from 1880, the house does appear to look very different.

McNiel’s records show Mrs. R.J. Tower bought the house in 1929, which she remodeled the home at that time.

At one point, the driveway used to come off Cass Street instead of Barry Street, resulting in a previous address of 308 W. Cass St. Although the address changed over time, the location of the house did not.

Weitzel, who purchased the house in 1980 as a home away from his main home in Florida, is selling the residence.

704 S. Clay St.

The house at 704 S. Clay St. was originally built on the southeast corner of Franklin and Grove streets and was later moved in 1904.

704 S. Clay St. residence (circa 1970s).

According to Montcalm County property tax records, the house at 704 S. Clay St. was built in 1900, however, McNiel has records of the house standing in 1850. Her records show the house was originally built on the southeast corner of Franklin and Grove streets and was later moved in 1904.

The white wide-style home has had a modern update over the years, but has retained some of its historical features some of the window.
The house had many owners. The current owners are Chris and Cindy Bracey of Stanton, who now have the house for sale.

306 W. Washington St.

The duplex that sits at 304 and 306 W. Washington St. was originally a house before it moved in the early 1850s. The west portion is believe to have been built around 1854 because of a newspaper found in a wall with that year date.

304 and 306 W. Washington St. residence (circa 1970s).

Not much information exists for the records of a house at 306 W. Washington St.
The white two-story duplex sits within a line of homes down M-57.

McNiel’s records show the house — currently a duplex — was moved to its current location in 1850 or 1851.

“The west part of the house is believed to have been built in 1854 because, during the time of renovation, a newspaper, dated 1854, was found inside the wall,” McNiel wrote in her article.

However, Montcalm County property tax information shows the home at 306 W. Washington St. was built in 1871. The other half of the duplex at 304 W. Washington St. was built in 1900.

The property at 304 W. Washington St. is owned by the Richard R. Jensen Trust of Greenville.

The property at 306 W. Washington St. is currently owned by Fannie Mae in Dallas, Texas.

219 W. Orange St.

Records for 219 W. Orange St. date back to 1851 when it was originally built at 206 S. Lafayette St. and then moved to its current location in 174.

219 W. Orange St. residence (circa 1970s).

Records from McNiel show the house at 219 W. Orange St. was originally built at 206 S. Lafayette St. in 1851 by J.J. Shearer. The house was moved to Orange Street in 1874 and used as a tenant house.

Montcalm County property tax records show the home was built in 1901.

The white two-story home has a wide wrap-around porch, tucking away the exterior of the home.

The home was last owned by Scott Holmes of Greenville, but new owners are now residing at the property.

534 W. Cass St.

The house at 534 W. Cass St. was originally built on the southwest corner of Lafayette and Cass streets and later moved to the corner of Cass and Barry streets. In 1873, the house was moved a second time to its current location on Cass Street.

534 W. Cass St. residence (circa 1970s).

Montcalm County property tax records shows the house at 534 W. Cass St. as being built in 1900. However, McNiel has records indicating the house was built as early as the 1850s.

McNiel said Dr. J.E. Chamberlin came to the city in 1850 and built the house sometime during that decade. He died in 1860, just 10 years later.

The cream-colored two-story house has gone through an update, including opening the front porch by removing a railing that once enclosed the home.

McNiel found information showing the house was originally built on the southwest corner of Lafayette and Cass streets and later moved to the corner of Cass and Barry streets. In 1873, the house was moved a second time to its current location on Cass Street.

Walter Leaf of Greenville currently owns the home, which is up for sale.

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