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Alumni Jerry and Mar­garet Albert live in a 121-year-old his­toric house in Gaylord, Michigan. Gaylord His­torical Society | Courtesy

Only three houses designed by the famous 19th-century architect George Barber exist in Gaylord, Michigan. Two married Hillsdale alumni live in one of them.

Jerry and Mar­garet Albert now live in a 121-year-old his­toric house that is located less than 4 hours from Hillsdale. Their home became a Michigan State His­toric Site in 1993 and joined the National Reg­ister of His­toric Places in 2003.

Jerry ’67, from Pitts­burgh, Penn­syl­vania, and Mar­garet ’68, from John­stown, Ohio, met while they were stu­dents at Hillsdale. Jerry played football and baseball, and Mar­garet was a cheer­leader.

As an athlete, Jerry was required by Coach Frank “Muddy” Waters to take a dance class for agility, Mar­garet said. Mar­garet hap­pened to be in the same class — and that’s how they first met.

Jerry and Mar­garet were still stu­dents at Hillsdale, he a senior and she a junior, when they married.  

It was not Margaret’s father who walked her down the aisle, however: It was Hillsdale’s football coach, Frank “Muddy” Waters, who later was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. According to Mar­garet, her parents did not approve of her getting married while in college, so Waters stepped forward. Mar­garet and Jerry both knew Waters and his wife.

The Alberts moved to Gaylord from Brooklyn, Michigan in 1987, several years before Mar­garet retired from teaching in the Jackson County schools.

“I was a super­in­tendent in schools in Jackson County,” Mar­garet said. “We moved up here, and I fin­ished my teaching in Brooklyn, Michigan. I retired in ’93.”

While she was ini­tially hes­itant to move to Gaylord because there are fewer large cities that far north, Mar­garet said the his­toric home con­vinced her.

“The only reason I would come to Gaylord was to buy this house,” she said. “It’s a Queen Anne, a George Barber house. George Barber was a famous 1800s architect. The house was built in 1896. It was gor­geous. It has a lot of woodwork, a lot of stained glass. We ren­o­vated every­thing. I did the history on it to get a state and national marker.”

After buying their house in Gaylord, Mar­garet con­tinued teaching in Brooklyn and living there, driving up to Gaylord on the weekends until her retirement in 1993. For their house in Gaylord, they brought in a home ren­o­vation company to do most of the work.

“All I had to do was wall­paper,” she said. “I would come up each Friday, and on Sat­urday morning I would meet with the con­tractor. I gave them direc­tions and told them how to do it.”

But the wall­paper alone gave Mar­garet a fair amount of work to do.

“This house is a 6,000-square-foot house,” she said. “I was really booking. We had put all our fur­niture in storage, so I had to wall­paper it when I got out of school. I got out of school on June 3, and the fur­niture came on June 29, so I had to book it.”

After ren­o­va­tions, the home is now a three-story house. Mar­garet said they had the attic restored to be a living space, com­plete with their bil­liards table.

“There were only four George Barber houses in Gaylord, and one has been torn down,” Mar­garet said. “Gaylord was the only town in the U.S. of its size that had four George Barber homes.”

In order for her home to become a Michigan State His­toric Site and make the National Reg­ister of His­toric Places, Mar­garet had to prove her house’s his­toric sig­nif­i­cance. So she did some digging on on the original owners.

“I did the research on the people, and that’s what got us in,” she said. “I had to go show what we did: black and white pic­tures, color pic­tures. I had to prove it was built in 1896.”

The pre­vious owners were Frank and Rae Kramer, business people who owned a store in Otsego County, where the house is located, according to Mar­garet.

Kramer opened his store, Kramer’s Big Busy Store, in Gaylord in 1882 and moved it to another location in the town in 1887. The Otsego County Herald ran a story on Kramer’s store in Sep­tember 1905.

“Mr. Kramer is one of our rep­re­sen­tative cit­izens; takes a great interest in the town and country: owns a fine farm north and west of town and gets much solid enjoyment out of life,” the article said. “He believes Gaylord’s future promises far more than its past.”

Mar­garet said she has always had an interest in history. Her family has lived in John­stown, Ohio for many gen­er­a­tions and has a long history in the village.

“I have a lot of my great-great grandmother’s things,” she said. “I’m part of the Daughters of the American Rev­o­lution.”

Mar­garet has a unique claim of his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­icant ancestors.

“I’m from the Hat­fields and McCoys,” she said. “Jeremiah Hat­field was my ancestor.”

Mar­garet admires the beau­tiful history and archi­tecture of their house.

“It’s a lovely Queen Anne,” she said. “It’s the jewel of the north.”