Thomas Norton House

Photo by Sara Keller, April 2010
  • Location: 424 W. Dutton, Kalamazoo
  • Survey ID: R-44
  • Designation: Thomas Norton House
  • Date: 1855-56
  • Style: Greek Revival

The following material is from the 1973 Initial Inventory of Historic Sites and Buildings in Kalamazoo and was made available for use here by the Historic Preservation Coordinator of the City of Kalamazoo. See Introduction to an Initial Inventory for details about how the survey was conducted.

The Gazette chose the "Norton House" for its series on "Interesting Homes In and Around Kalamazoo" in 1945. The reporter knew a little about the mysterious figure who built this home in 1855, but he was more interested in the log frame, the heavy planking and other details of construction. He also reported that this home had no basement, bathroom, or electricity as late as the mid 1930's. Since the 1930's, the house has been extensively remodeled and so just hints at its original appearance.

Thomas H. Norton, carpenter, came to Kalamazoo from Rochester, New York in 1855. He bought a vacant lot next to the home of Thomas Maxwell, a stonemason and one of the very earliest black residents in the village (Maxwell's home was destroyed early in the twentieth century). By the spring of 1856, Norton had finished his house. He sold it almost at once to Oliver Edwards, and dropped from the public records. Edwards held it briefly, and by 1860, it had passed to David Pierson. Pierson, a powerful figure in the nearby Methodist Church, had come to Kalamazoo as early as 1833 and taken up farming in the Township. Married twice, he fathered thirteen children and died at the age of eighty-three in 1887. About the mid-1870's, Franklin Rich and his family occupied the property. The 1878 City Directory identified Rich as a dentist. In 1880, the Census-taker called him a "Baggage master, R.R.". identified him as 38 and his wife, Sarah, as 32, and named one child, May, 8. The Rich family continued to occupy the house until the mid-nineteen twenties, when it passed to Orange C. Flanegan. William Koffel bought the house about 1935 and remodeled it into apartments.

Maps:

1853 - nothing

1861 - shows

Kalamazoo County Tax Rolls:

1852 Enoch Hopkins Lot 32 Baptist Institute 50  
1853 Undetermined ownership      
1854 Undetermined ownership (Kalamazoo Literary Institute and Baptist Institute are same plat)    
1855 Same      
1856 Thomas W. Norton Lot 32 Kal. Lit. Inst. 500 3.17 tax
    in 1855 shows empty lots at 150-200    
1857 Thomas W. Norton Lot 32 KLI 500 6.48 (O. Edwards pays 5.00)
1858 Oliver Edwards Lot 32 400 9.18
1859        
1860 David Pierson Lot 32 275 5.71
1863 David Pierson Lot 32 280  
1864 David Pierson Lot 32 280  

 

This report was converted from a typewritten document to a digital text document in September 2004. Other than punctuation and spelling corrections, and the addition of BOLD type site address and names, no changes were made. Minor formatting changes were made for use on this website, but the text was not altered. Original survey dated 1973.

Additional sources

"Hand-built 90 years ago, this remodelled home serves well today"

  • Kalamazoo Gazette, 28 January 1945, page 16, column 5

"House had many owners in 120 years"

  • Kalamazoo Gazette, 9 April 1975, page C2, column 1