Wood-Upjohn House

  • Location: 530 West South Street, Kalamazoo
  • Survey ID: R-5
  • Designation: Wood-Upjohn House
  • Date: 1877-78
  • Style: Irregular Italian Villa

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.

In the period during and after the Civil War, no architectural style caught the attention of the American people more than did that called the "Italian Revival". Coming to us originally in the Italian landscapes shipped back by traveling American artists, this style came to be associated with suburban elegance and Renaissance good taste. Often severely plain, the style could shift into what was called the "irregular villa". Andrew Jackson Downing, nationally-known critic wrote at mid-century: 

... there are the men of imagination--men whose aspirations never leave them at rest-men whose ambition and energy will give them no peace within the mere bounds of rationality. These are the men for picturesque villas--country houses with high roofs, steep gables, unsymmetrical and capricious forms. It is for such that the architect may safely introduce the tower and the campanile--any and every feature that indicates originality, boldness, energy, and variety of character. 

William A. Wood handled his financial affairs imaginatively. In the 1850's, he joined with Jeremiah Woodbury and Allen Potter in a successful private banking operation, then in the 1860's, became active in the Michigan National Bank. The Census-taker listed him as thirty-two in 1860 and credited him with an estate of $15,000. Ten years later, he had increased that estate to $75.000. He lived now on West South Street, on a spacious lot next east of the DeYoe house (his wife, Sarah, then in her forties, had been a DeYoe). 

In 1877, Wood began to build a new home for himself between his house and the DeYoes. He chose to build in the rambling fashion which had come to be called the "irregular villa". The tower with its rounded windows, the bracketed eaves, the hooded windows on the lower floors and the veranda across the front all closely resembled a plate in Samuel Sloan's, Homestead Architecture, published in 1860. Sloan had written then: 

"This design is intended for the country-seat of a man of ample fortune, and to occupy a site in the midst of highly cultivated and beautiful scenery. Though not remarkably ostentatious, its appearance at once bespeaks it; the abode of the wealthy and refined, and demands all the accessories necessary to the highly embellished landscape, such as parks, lawns, and artificial lakes; the possession of these would entitle it to a rank inferior to few country residences within our knowledge."  

Wood lacked the space to provide that "highly embellished landscape", but in 1878, he completed the building and settled his family into it. He died not long afterward; and his widow, Sarah Wood, liven on in the house for the rest of the century. In 1905, the city directory recorded a new occupant, William E. Upjohn, President of the Upjohn Company. Upjohn would be involved in a variety of other business activities in the next years. He was in 1911, also Treasurer of the Michigan Automobile Company Ltd. This would become Fuller & Sons in a few more years and Upjohn would continue to be treasurer as late as 1919. In that year, the directory would also list him as President of the Kalamazoo Corset Company. In 1913, Upjohn married his next-door neighbor, Carrie Gilmore, President of the Gilmore Company. She would continue to occupy the house after his death as late as the 1950's.

Maps:

1861 no hse, lot M
1873 no hse, lot M, but W. Wood
1883 hse, lot M

Kalamazoo County Tax Rolls:

1876 

Wm. A. Wood S1/2  lot N & 51/2  x 8 rods, SE M 1800 47.30
1877  Wm. A. Wood same (note: 5x8 rods out of SE N to E. J. Phelps)  1600 43.20
9000 pers.
1878  Wm. A. Wood E 51/2 rods M & W 3/8, S1/2  N  4000 86.20
(1878      E 51/2 rods, S1/2  of N at 1000 21.55)
1879  Wm. A. Wood E 51/2  rods M & W 3/8, S1/2  N  14000 141.58
23000 pers.
1880  estate of Wood same 16000 145.28

Kalamazoo City Directory:

1869 -- 1878, William A. Wood, res. 56 South (lot N) -- Pres. Mich. Nat'l. Bank, Treas. Kalamazoo Paper Co.

1881 Mrs. William A. Wood (widow) res. 60 South

1883 Mrs. William A. Wood (widow) res 530 South (same hse, New address)

U.S. Population Census Rolls:

1860  William A. Wood, 32, Banker, $7000 real, $8000 personal, b. New York; Sarah Wood, 28, b. New York; Charles, 1; Ira Wood, 66, 800 pers., New York; Delecta Wood, 60, New York

1870  William A. Wood, 42, Banker, 15000 real, 60000 pers., b. NY;  Sarah, 40; Anna, 9; Ira Wood, 76; Delecta Wood, 70.

1880  Sarah Wood, 51, widow, b. NY; Anna M., 19, daughter, at  college; Harriet DeYoe, 36, sister, housekeeper.

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.

Sources

History Room Subject File

Houses - Kalamazoo - South, W., 530.

Books

Kalamazoo Lost and Found

  • Houghton, Lynn Smith and Pamela Hall O'Connor
  • Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission, 2001, page 219
  • H 720.9774 H838 

 
Kalamazoo: Nineteenth-Century Homes in a Midwestern Village

  • Schmitt, Peter J. 
  • Kalamazoo City Historical Commission, 1976, pages 96, 105, 124-127
  • H 720.9774 S35