Jonathan Parsons House

Left: Picturesque Kalamazoo, 1890
Right: Photo by Alex Forist April 2006
  • Location: 630 West South Street, Kalamazoo
  • Survey ID: R-14
  • Designation: Jonathan Parsons House
  • Date: 1859
  • 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.

The Reverend Ova Hoyt, active in developing Congregationalist and Presbyterian churches here in town, came to Kalamazoo with his family in 1840. Almost at once he bought a double lot on South Street from the State of Michigan and set about building the rambling home with its attached barn that people called "the Parsonage." There he and his wife conducted school and social activities for the young people of the village. Hoyt began to sell parts of his two lots in the 1850's, and, in the summer of 1860, the family moved to Elkhart County in Indiana. 

One of those who bought a portion of the Hoyt land was a fellow clergyman, a pioneer missioner from Lenawee County, William Wolcott. Wolcott had come with his family from Massachusetts to Adrian in 1835; he helped to found churches there, in Hudsonville, and elsewhere in the county. In 1857, he left Hudsonville for Kalamazoo and built the dignified square frame home at 630 W. South two years later. A side-lighted "Greek Revival" doorway betrays its pre-Civil War origins, and ornamental brackets under the eaves suggest the newly-popular "Italian Revival". The windows have been modernized, but their narrow moldings were designed by the local planing mill to suggest the round arch of the Renaissance. 

The Federal Census-taker found Wolcott, sixty, his wife, Mary Ann, ten years younger, and three daughters living at home in 1860. He listed Wolcott as a Congregational clergyman and credited him with $3,000 in real and $1,000 in personal property. His daughter, Lotta, then seventeen, married James Kent, a successful young builder, the next year. In October of 1864, Wolcott's oldest daughter, Mary Jane, who held title to the property, sold it to John M. Gregory for $4,000. Little is known of the Wolcotts in the next years. Charlotte died in 1871; William Wolcott died at the home of James Kent in June of 1877, and Mary Jane married Kent at that time. The family continued to live on Douglas Avenue for the rest of the century. 

Kalamazoo College had fallen on hard times during the Civil War. Only one hundred twelve students enrolled and a crisis in finance and leadership developed around the resignation of Mrs. Lucinda Hinsdale Stone and her husband. The Trustees decided to bring in John Gregory, forty-two, former head of the Michigan State Teachers' Association and editor of the Michigan Journal of Education. Gregory was installed as President of the College in September 1864, and moved into the South Street home at once. He ran the College for the next three years. He had served as Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State from 1859 to 1864; his public reports show him devoted to popular education, to public school libraries and to an integrated system of education from the elementary years through college.

Under his leadership enrollment rose at once, and his resignation in 1867 came as a shock. He left to take the presidency of the newly-organized land grant school at Urbana, Illinois. He would soon transform it into the University of Illinois. 

The Gregorys were able to sell the South Street house to a long-time city resident, Jonathan Parsons. Parsons had come to Kalamazoo in 1840 and entered into the dry-goods business with William A. Wood, now his neighbor a few doors up the street. Later he associated himself with Allen Potter in the hardware business, and in 1860, formed a partnership with Henry Wood in a hardware venture that would last until he retired in 1888. Shortly after moving into the South Street house he opened a subdivision and speculated in real estate for some time afterward. In addition, he served as a director of the Michigan National Bank and as a major stockholder in Kalamazoo's first paper company, organized the same year the Parsons moved. He served three terms as Republican State Legislator and served on the Committee responsible for the building of the present State Capitol. Parsons maintained close ties with the family home in Massachusetts as well. He held title to the family farm which had been settled in the 1690's, and he kept a major interest in the Parsons Paper Company of Holyoke. 

After Parsons died in 1892, his wife, Mary, lived on in the home until her death in 1904 at the age of 76. It then passed to a daughter, Mary A. Parsons, who remained there until 1920. The 1921 directory gave Arthur Patterson of Beecher, Kymer & Patterson, office supplies, at the address; and in 1926, the directory showed a local lawyer, John M Alexander and his wife, Mary. The Alexanders lived there from 1926 until sometime during World War II. During the next years the house passed through a number of hands until the 1953 directory recorded George and Rex Steinman and their families, who continued to occupy the home in 1971. 

Maps:      

1853 no house 
1861 house 
1873 house 
1883 shown as is

Deeds Office:

Oct. 19, 1854  (liber W. 632) Ova P. Hoyt to W. B. Clark, 6R W lot  for $775

April 20, 1859 (liber 11, 254) Hoyt to Clarke, 2k R contiguous to   E. 1. $200 recorded May 31, 1860, Hoyt still lives in Kalamazoo

Nov. 26, 1869  (liber 11,401) Ova P. and Rebecca Hoyt of Elkhart  County, Indiana, convey lot J (or I?) bounded on East by Wolcott land, on West by Clark and barn on Clark's land

May 19, 1861 Ova P. Hoyt to Mary Jane Wolcott, (liber 11, 220) 4R SE J for $900 (apparently contract for deed)

Oct. 14, 1864  (liber 19, 230) Mary Jane Wolcott to John M. Gregory $4000, 4 R SE J

April 16, 1868  John M. and Julia Gregory to Jonathan Parsons,     4 R SE J for $5500

Kalamazoo County Tax Rolls:  

1858 Ova P. Hoyt (Rev)  Lot J and 2R of I

1300
(hse on WJ

29.62
1859 Wm. Wolcott E1/2  of Lot J, sec. 16 325 5.84
1860 same same  900 18.70
1861 same same 900
500 pers
17.44
1862 same  same 900
1863 same same 900
1864 same same 1000 33.84
1865 Rev. J. M. Gregory same, homestead 1000 34.44
1866 same same 1100 43.95
1867 same same 1100
1868 Jonathan Parsons same 1200 50.49
1869 same same (3 other prop) 1200
1500 bank stk
56.70
1870 same same (Parsons' Add) 1800
same
35.41
1871 same same Plus Parson's Add 2000
1200 pers.
36.80
1872 same E 3/4 of J 2500 39.00
1873 same E 1/2 J plus 26 1/2' K 2600 + 600 38.61
1874 same E 5/8 J + 26' K 2400 + 600 42.90 +10.65

Kalamazoo City Directory:

1860-61  Rev. William Wolcott (sic) Congregationalist, res. N.       side South W. of Col.

1867-68  John M. Gregory, Pres., Kalamazoo College, h. 70 South

1878 Jonathan Parsons, 70 South, Sec. Kalamazoo Paper Co.;    Parsons, Wood & Phelps (Parsons, H. Wood, & Chas. Phelps,       est. 1845, Wholes, ret. hardware, iron, stoves, tinware, 125 Main)

1881 Jonathan Parsons, 70 South, Parsons and Wood (Wm. 72 S. Park) general hardware; Member, Michigan H. of Rep.

1891 Jonathan Parsons 704 W. South, no occup,

1893  Mrs. Jonathan Parsons (wid) 704 W. South (Mary A.)

1895  Mrs. Jonathan Parsons (wid) 704 W. South (Mary A. & Allen W.)

1896-97 same plus Della Parsons (wid)

1899 Mrs. Mary C. (wid. Jonathan) 704 W. South (Mary A.) same to 1904

1905 Mary C. (wid. Jonathan) died April 6, 1904, age 76

1906--1920 Mary A. Parsons, res. 704 W. South

1921 Arthur J. Patterson (Effie) 704 W. South (Beecher, Kymer &  Patterson, Wholesale Retail Book sellers, stationery & office       supplies)

1922--1924 same

1926--1934 John M. Alexander (Mary E.) 630 W. South (new address) lawyer

1935--43 same, but no occupation listed

1945-47 Mrs. Lee Beatty and "The Smart Shop"

1948 Mrs. Anna Bradshaw

1950-52 Robert A. Bradshaw

1953--1971 George Steinmen; Rex Steinman, Multi-family 1964 directory shows George (Jean) assembler, N.Y. Air Brake; Mrs. Helen Steinman, Clk, R.M. Ralston Co. Rex E (Helen) salesman, Lockshore Farms

U. S. Population Census Rolls:  

1860 William Wolcott, 60, Con. clergyman, $3000 real, 1000 pers., b. Mass; Mary Ann, 50, b. Mass; Mary J., 24, b. Mich; Charlotte G., 17, b. Mich; at school; Emily, 14, b. Mich, at home

1870  Jonathan Parsons, 46, Hardware Merchant, $17,500 real; $8500  pers.; b. Mass.; Mary C., 38, keeping house, b. Mass; Jennie 19, at home, b. Mich.; Eddie, 21, clerk at store, b. Mich.;     Belle, 17, at school, b. Mich; George, 14, at school, b. Mich.;       Dozzie., 12, at school (girl) b. Mich; Allice (Alla) (Male) 6, b. Mich.; Mary Elliott, 19, servant

1880  Jonathan Parsons, 58, hardware merchant, b. Mass.; Mary C., 52, wife, keeping house, b. Mass.; Mary A., 27, daughter,       at home, b. Mich.; George, 25, son, clerk in hardware store,       b. Mich.; Eliza, 23, daughter, at home, b. Mich.; Allen W. 15, son, at school; b. Mich.; -- Tillitson, 28, servant

1894 State Census

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 St., West, 630