2015 Holiday Traditions Tour Article

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GRAND LEDGE HOLIDAY TRADITIONS TOUR CELEBRATES 41st SEASON

The 41st Holiday Traditions tour will be held on December 5 from 11am to 5pm and December 6 from 1pm to 5pm. This year’s tour will feature 4 historical homes and one contemporary home. Also included on the tour is the Grand Ledge Opera House, which will be filled with beautifully decorated trees, holiday tables and miniatures. Other stops on the tour include the Grand Ledge Museum, Immanuel Lutheran Church and Sanctuary Spirits.

If you were to describe the natural wonders or “gems” of Grand Ledge, what would you say? The Ledges? Or would it be the Grand River as it meanders its way through the center of the city? What about if asked for the man-made “gems” or iconic features of the city?   I would bet that most of you would name our beautiful Opera House, which is the first stop on this year’s Holiday Traditions Tour.


The Opera House has had several reincarnations since it was built in 1884. Its first purpose was as a roller skating rink. In 1886, owner Peter Blake, owner of Eaton County Cheese, decided to convert it to an Opera House. Later it was used to show silent films. In 1928 it became the Stephens Furniture Store and later home to Mapes Furniture. In 1976, dubbed Heritage Hall, it was home to the Bicentennial Headquarters. In 1984 the Mapes family donated the building to the Grand Ledge Area Historical Society (GLAHS) to house its growing historical collection. The GLAHS and the Chamber of Commerce spearheaded fund raising effort to return it to its former glory. Today, the Opera House is owned and operated by the Opera House Authority and used for performances, local programs and weddings.

Once a year, the Opera House is transformed into a magical place of Holiday trees, beautifully decorated tables and charming miniature exhibits. Also, this year there will be a gently used art auction in the second floor Blake Room.


The second stop on your itinerary is the home of Attorneys John and Sheila Deming. Sheila is also a former Grand Ledge Mayor. This house located at 306 Front Street, is classified as a Homestead and was built in 1909. This style of house, if it were built in the country, would have been known as a simple vernacular farmhouse. In the early 1900’s this type of house was increasingly built in the city and became known as a Homestead House. The house is a two-story structure with a wide front porch spanning the width of the house. There is also a rear deck looking over the Grand River.

The living room features a grand piano which was a gift to Sheila’s mother on her graduation from high school in 1945 and host and hostess chairs dating back to approximately 1850 that belonged to John’s great-great grandmother.   There are built-in cupboards with beveled glass in the dining room and the dining room chairs are from the Grand Ledge Chair Company.


Next on the tour is the Nancy Pennell House at 200 North Clinton Street. This house sits on what was once known as the Harrison Hulbert property. After Mr. Hulbert’s death in 1895, the property was subdivided for homes. One of these homes was a charming craftsman built in the 1920’s for Anthony and Matilda Newman. The Newman’s, who were later joined in the house by their daughter and son-in-law, Lina and Howard Trowbridge, occupied the house for over thirty years. In the early 1960’s the house was purchased by the Bradshaw’s who lived in the house until the mid 1990’s. Since that time, the house was purchased and sold several times before becoming the home of Nancy Pennell. Nancy purchased the house in August, 2014, and has since added a garage, a large back deck and rails to the front porch. Nancy, who also sells refurnished furniture in the Painted Teal, has refinished most of the furniture in her house and added many of her own quirky touches. This house is altogether a small gem not to be missed.


The next stop is the contemporary house of Larry and Cheryl Butkus located at 31 Ferguson. Larry and Cheryl live in the house with their sons Jeff, a senior at Grand Ledge High School, Ryan, a freshman at Lansing Catholic and their 3 dogs.

The house was built in the late 1980’s by Tom Dible for his own family to live in.   Tom and his family resided in the house until the early 2000’s when it was purchased by Jim Roberts, owner of True Value Hardware, before being purchased in 2011 by the Butkus family. The house situated on a curve of the Grand River has a sweeping back yard, with large windows to view the river from nearly every room. The showpiece in the entry foyer is a wall with a center octagonal mirror with wood radiating out like the spokes of the sun. The house includes many built in shelves that display the gorgeous glass pieces and art belonging to the family. Also don’t miss the Tiffany style MSU light situated over the pool table in the lower level family room.


The Kallen-Boice Home is located at 413 West Jefferson Street. This charming cottage, also known as the Dixon – Bunday – Bliss home, built in the 1890’s, was part of the “Riverside Addition” to the Village of Grand Ledge. This is a very eclectic house, decorated with pieces that Sandy Kallen has collected through the years and repurposed into other things. She also has many great family pictures and artifacts.   A feature not to be missed is the arbor by the back entrance. The dining table will be set for Christmas.



Our next stop is the Grand Ledge Museum, located at 118 West Lincoln Street. This house, also known as the Pratt – Shearer cottage, was built in 1880 by Byron S. Pratt, a local minister. It was purchased in the 1940’s by Mary Shearer who sold it to the United Methodist Church who granted a life lease to Ms. Shearer.   In 1984 it was donated by the Church for use as a museum. The house with its high pitched roof and tall gables is a classic example of Gothic architecture popular in Grand Ledge during the 1870’s. This year’s exhibit “From Farm to Table” will be on display until through December 13, when it will be replaced by “All Things Victorian”.


Next is the Scott and Faye Phillips House located at 418 Taylor Street. This house is a 1910 Modified Eastlake built by Hiram Cole. It was known as the Roy and Theresa Doty house for many years as they lived there from 1914 to 1959. GLAHS President Ann Lawrence purchased the home in 1970 and lived there until 2014, when it was purchased by Scott and Faye Phillips.

The Phillips’ have done some major renovation work to the house. They have doubled the size of the kitchen and enclosed the screened porch to make a cozy family room. The holiday tree is in the living room at the front of the house. Fay, who used to decorate the tree in the McKinley house in Canton, Ohio, likes to make changes to her tree every year. The former den is now a solarium with white wicker furniture. Faye has many plants in this room including a 100 year old Christmas cactus that hopefully will be in bloom for the tour. Her dining room features 6 Hitchcock chairs, all with different scenes. The handcrafted table in the kitchen is made of barnwood.


The Immanuel Lutheran Church, located at 517 South Clinton Street, is the next stop on the tour. The church was organized in 1871.   The first small white church was constructed on the site of Greenwood School in 1872.   The lot site for the present church was purchased in 1950 and the present modified gothic structure was dedicated in 1951. The Church will display sanctuary and historic memorabilia in the narthex.   The church is decorated for the Advent Season with the display progressing as Christmas nears.


The last stop on the tour is Sanctuary Spirits/the Red Salamander. This popular spot is located at 902 East Saginaw. This business was built in 1953 to house the Seventh Day Adventist Church. After the church outgrew the building and moved to the west side of Grand Ledge, the building was adapted for re-use. The building now sells equipment for making your own wine or beer as well as producing beer, wine and spirits. Stop by for a tour and tasting.


Tickets are $10.00 in advance and $12.00 on the day of the event, with children 12 and under $3.00 and preschoolers free. To tour only the Opera House, tickets are available for $3.00 each. Tickets are for sale in the following locations: The Grand Ledge Opera House, The Grand Ledge Area District Library, True Value Hardware, MacDowells, Ledge Craft Lane and Sanctuary Spirits, or by calling Marie Brown at 517-627-1352. Same day tickets will be sold only at the Opera House.

Other activities that will be taking place this same weekend include:

St. Michael Roman Catholic Church, 345 Edwards Street, has a craft bazaar on December 5.

Immanuel Lutheran Church will hold a bazaar to benefit Relay for Life on Saturday, December 6.

The Grand Ledge Area District Library will hold FROZEN SUNDAY on December 6 from 1pm to 5pm. This includes frozen friends, frozen treats and a used book sale. You will receive a free used book by showing your tour ticket.