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A hand-carved, hand-painted owl looks down up on the street from the gable of the his­toric home at 69 South Howell Street.

“It was always an easy house to explain where you live. All you have to say is, ‘It’s the house with the owl on it,’” said former Hillsdale res­ident and current Jackson res­ident Jim Heinowski.

The owl on the gable of the mint green house, though, orig­i­nally served as more than just a landmark.  Legend has it that car­penters added the owl to ward off evil spirits when it was built in the late 1800s.

“Indians believed that owls were the guardians of the grave,” said longtime Hillsdale res­ident Sir Martin “Shmeed” Reed.

When digging the foun­dation of the house, builders unearthed a lone Indian grave. Reed explained that the grave likely belonged to a Pot­tawatomie Indian.

“Evi­dently, one of the car­penters must have had knowledge of Indian tra­di­tions or was part Indian,” Reed said.

Heinowski said, though, that he had never heard a spe­cific reason addition of the owl.

Cur­rently, chem­istry pro­fessor at Hillsdale College Mark Nussbaum and his wife Sandi reside in the Howell Street home. When the Nussbaum family moved into the house in 2005, they repainted the intricate owl detailing.

“It was painted over for a while,” Mark Nussbaum said.

Decades before, Jim Heinowski’s family moved into the Howell Street house in June of 1964. From his infancy until he grad­uated from high school, Heinowski lived there with his parents and five sib­lings. During his college years, he wrote a research paper on his res­i­dence and spent several weekends in the Hillsdale His­torical Society’s research room.

“I learned that the house is approx­i­mately 140 years old. The house was built by brother archi­tects,” Heinowski said, “On the wall of the room hung a map from 1880 and it had the house on it.”

The trimming and design of the house­places it in the American Queen Anne style, which stemmed from English late-19th century Vic­torian archi­tecture. Specif­i­cally, the dom­inant gable, the pic­turesque windows with small-paned upper sashes and the porch give it the Vic­torian feel.

“There was more ornate trim in the past than there is now,” said Nussbaum, “and the porch used to wrap around the front all the way.”

Both Nussbaum and Heinowski tell of the detailed archi­tecture of the house and of the random details that give the home its char­acter.

Mark Nussbaum explained that former owners found an old shoe in one of the walls of the house when they were doing ren­no­va­tions.

“Appar­ently, it was put in the wall when they were building the house for good luck,” he said.

Hienowski spent his childhood in the house with his family and tells of a fire that occurred before they moved in, a back stairway that ren­o­vators removed, and the fact that – for many years – the house had no indoor plumbing.

“When I was a kid, there was stuff pre­vious owners had left in the attic. One, I found rolls of player piano music and the actual guts of a player piano just buried in the floor­boards,” Heinowski said. “On the floor in the dining room, there used to be a button to call the maid. It was where the table would be,” Heinowski said.