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.”