John M. Edwards House

Left: Kalamazoo Valley Museum 59.135, 1885
Right: Photo by Alex Forist April 2006
  • Location: 610 W. South Street, Kalamazoo
  • Survey ID: R-9
  • Designation: John M. Edwards House
  • Date: 1861
  • Style: Italian 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.

A noisy mob marched down South Street in the middle of one January night in 1861. Stopping abruptly in John Edwards' front yard, spokesmen for the group demanded "in the name of the Continental Congress" that Edwards, then Justice of the Peace, release one William Clark from custody. Edwards refused. Here was another sign of the "intense excitement" the Gazette had reported a week earlier as Edwards set about enforcing liquor laws in the village. Now the Gazette included this incident among "the many irregularities now disturbing the peace and dignity of our otherwise quiet Village." One night two months later, Edwards' house caught fire. A local historian writing six years after the event was sure that the whiskey disturbance had something to do with the fire. 

John Edwards came to Kalamazoo in 1848 at the suggestion of his cousin, Charles Stuart. Still in his twenties and a practicing attorney, he settled down as one of several village lawyers. In 1851, however, President Millard Fillmore appointed him Receiver of the local land office. Edwards then set about building a home for himself and his bride, Emma, on fashionable South Street. There he moved in 1852. Now, after the fire, the Gazette announced in April of 1861, that Edwards was "preparing to rebuild his house which was recently burned" and added that he intended "to erect a very fine residence." 

Edwards chose to construct his new home in the fashionable Italian Villa style. The regular features of this style were intended, said architect Andrew Jackson Downing, for a man of commonsense who did nothing without plan. The solid, square mass of the house was lightened somewhat by ornamental brackets at the eaves and by carved "hoods" over the windows. The tall windows and fashionable double-door gave a feeling of opulence to the structure that was appropriate to Edward's new position as partner in the law firm of Stuart and Edwards. As the Census-taker had recently recorded, Edwards ranked among the wealthy men of the village with an estate of $18,000. Edwards' two sons, William and Albert would grow up in this house. Edwards would die there in 1897. His wife continued to live there for some years, as did Albert and other members of the Edwards family. The house has remained in the family since it was built, it being the home for-many years of Caroline Edwards, granddaughter of the old Justice of the Peace and for years a teacher at Central High School. 

Maps:

1853--J. Edwards
1861--         
1873--shows new hse

Kalamazoo County Tax Rolls:  

1850

No Edwards
1851 J. Edwards Lot L, sec. 16 50
1852 J. Edwards Lot L, sec. 16 400 $ 7.88
1853 same 5x6 rods W1/2 L & house 1500 6.20
1854 same same 2000 9.04
1855 same same 1700 10.76
1856 same same 1700 11.40
1857 same same 1700 22.02
1858 same same 1300 29.82
1859 same same 1300 23.88
1860 same same 1050 21.83
1861 same same 500 9.70
 (drop due to fire)
1862 same same 1400 35.34
1863 same same 1400 36.47
1864 same same 1200 19.68
1865 same same 1400 17.74

Kalamazoo City Directory:

1899 gives John M. Edwards death as June 24, 1897

U. S. Population Census Rolls:

1860--John M. Edwards, 40 attorney, 17,000 real, $1,000 pers., b. Mass., Emma Edwards, 29, b. NY.; William Edwards 9; Albert, 6.

Kalamazoo Gazette: April 12, 1861: "J. M. Edwards, Esq., is preparing to rebuild his house which was recently burned. We understand he designs to erect a very fine residence."

U. S. Population Census Rolls:

1870--John M. Edwards, 49, lawyer, 14000 real, 2500 pers., b. Mass; Edwina, 38, b. NY; William 19, tinsmith; Albert, 16.

1880--John M. Edwards, 59, lawyer, b. Mass.; Emma, wife, 48, b. NY.

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

Articles

"Old Judge Edwards House Has Graced South Street Since 1861"

  • Kalamazoo Gazette, 8 July 1973, page F3, column 1

Books

Kalamazoo: Nineteenth-Century Homes in a Midwestern Village

  • Schmitt, Peter J.
  • Kalamazoo City Historical Commission, 1976, pages 42, 45, 114-115
  • H 720.9774 S355