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James Clapham House

Left: Photo by Sara Keller, April 2010
Right: Picturesque Kalamazoo (1909) p.68 Folz House
  • Location: 628 S. Rose, Kalamazoo
  • Survey ID: R-42
  • Designation: James Clapham House
  • Date: 1856
  • Style: Octagon

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 1848, Orson Fowler, one of America's leading phrenologists, departed from his analysis of the human personality to publish a carefully reasoned treatise on "modern" architecture. A Home for All: the Octagon Mode of Building passed through several editions. Fowler intended that his theories be applied by everyone, but the strange eight-sided houses that appeared around the country in the next few years seemed to appeal more to people who wanted to set themselves apart from their communities. Thus James Clapham, Esquire, the English-born pioneer druggist in Kalamazoo, followed Fowler's recommendations in 1856, building for himself the modest frame Octagon at Rose and Dutton. Clapham had come to Kalamazoo in 1846. In the next fifteen years, he built a competent estate which the 1860 Census-taker valued at $26,000. After the Civil War, the house passed to a young insurance agent, Charles H. Booth (born in Virginia). Booth and his family occupied it through the 1870's and 1880's. In 1881, the Kalamazoo City Directory gave Booth's business as "established 1857, general fire, life and accident, real estate, loan and collecting agency". The 1893 City Directory listed Samuel Folz at 628 South Rose. Folz operated a successful clothing store in the "Folz" building at the corner of Portage and East Michigan. He and his family continued to live in the home until the mid-nineteen-twenties.

The house itself is a representative example of the "Octagon Style". Orson Fowler believed that people benefited more from maximum living space than from the dignified exterior ornament of then fashionable styles. He speculated that an eight-sided building would provide 20% more interior space than a rectangle, yet be economical to build. James Clapham carried out Fowler's ideas, adding brackets to the eaves in the "Italianate" mode. He also added a small wing to the rear to give additional space. The present "Queen Anne" veranda is a somewhat later addition, as are the sash windows.


1853 vacant lot

1860 margin picture of hse

1861 house stands

Kalamazoo County Tax Rolls:

1855 Lots 186-189, Homestead 1400
1856 Lot 20 & part (1 rod) of 21 of Blykers add. 1800
  Lot 186, homestead 1400
1857 Lot 20 & part (1 rod) of 21 of Blykers add. 1700
1858 same, homestead 1700
1859 same 1100
1860 same 1000

Kalamazoo County Deeds Office: (Liber 12, p.27)

July, 1861, James Clapham from Den Blyker, lot 20 and one rod of 21 for 280.

1866 Charles H. Booth from J. Clapham lot# 20 for $6,000.

Kalamazoo City Directory:

1860 J. P. Clapham, retail druggist, res. corner Rose & Dutton

U. S. Population Census Rolls:

1860 James P. Clapham, 52 years, druggist, 14,000 real, 12,000 pers. b. Eng,

Michigan pioneer collection: druggist in 1846, died Mar. 25, 1887, age 76

1870 James Clapham, 63, retail druggist, 19000, 8000, b. Engl.; Anna, 67, Keeping house, b. Eng.; James G., 239 at home, b. Mich; Edward, 30, physician, b. Eng.; Kate, 22, keeping hse., b. NY

1870 Charles H. Booth, 40, fire insurance agent, 8000, 14000, b. Va. Caroline, 34, keeping hse., b. NY; Susan, 14, b. Mich; Catherine, 12; Mary, 7; Charlotte, 5, Abigail Booth, 67.

1880--62 Rose--Charles H. Booth, 52, real estate & insurance, b. VA. Caroline, 45, wife, b. NY; Susan, 24, daughter, at school; Catherine, 21, daughter, away from home; Mary, 17, daughter, at school, Charlotte, 14, daughter, at school; Abigail Booth., 78, mother, widow, invalid with rheumatism b. Conn. 1 servant

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


Kalamazoo: Nineteenth-Century Homes in a Midwestern Village

  • Schmitt, Peter J.
  • Kalamazoo Historical Commission, 1976
  • H 720.9774 S355, pp.86, 87.

Samuel Folz: Compendium of History and Biography of Kalamazoo County...

  • Fisher, David
  • Chicago, IL : A.W. Bowen & Co., [1906]
  • H 977.417 F53, p.231-32


"Kalamazoo's other octagon house"

  • Kalamazoo Gazette, 11 December 1974, page C2


History Room Subject File: Houses - Kalamazoo - Rose, S., 628