Senior Sarah Schutte serves as head RA of the Paul House, officially the Dow House, one of Hillsdale’s many historic homes. Built in the Italianate style, houses like the Paul House have a reputation for being eerie, and are the style for the popular depiction of haunted houses.
“The house is full of odd twists and turns, and I love surprising people by taking them to a room they had no idea was there,” she said in an email.
Throughout Hillsdale’s neighborhoods, several homes with deep architectural history tell a story of America’s past.
Down the road, on a quiet street in Jonesville sits a grand old house, also Italianate in style. Surrounded by smaller or plainer or less serious homes, the Grosvenor House is the grandfather of Maumee Street.
Built in 1874 for Ebenezer Grosvenor, a trustee of Hillsdale College, the 32-room Grosvenor House has old Victorian charm. The architecture, including the intricate woodworking, would be expensive to recreate — the architect, Elijah Myers, designed the state capitol buildings for Michigan, Texas, and Colorado.
Moving to Detroit after serving in the Civil War, Myers lived the rest of his life in Michigan and had a diverse career as an architecture, even designing insane asylums. His style varied from Jacobean, reminiscent of Renaissance architecture, to Greek revival. The Italianate, originally inspired by Italian farmhouses, exploded in America after the Civil War, taking on a whimsy of its own. Towers, intricate molding, and dramatically sloping roofs distinguish the homes in this style. The Grosvenor House is more solemn, built with red brick.
Kelly Scott Franklin, assistant professor of English, catching onto the haunted theme, held a dramatic reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-tale Heart” at the Grosvenor House for Halloween in 2015. The Halloween tradition of has continued since. Paul Hosmer, assistant professor of physics, helped coordinate the event and read a ghost story of his own. He said the house was perfect for a Halloween reading.
“Dr. Franklin’s rendition of the Tell-Tale Heart was both brilliant and disturbing,” he said.
The Hillsdale area did not escape the Italianate craze in the 1800s. Built just before the Civil War, the Paul House’s centered tower, delicate trim over the porch, and a royal blue door give Hillsdale’s formal campus a touch of fun. There’s a story that a secret tunnel connects the Sigma Chi house next door, and that the Paul House was part of the Underground Railroad.
Schutte said the steep spiral staircase in the foyer feels majestic. But the stairs creak, and the rooms at the top lead to a labyrinth of rooms: one step down, two steps up, through another room and then another, till you reach the narrow back stair or a tiny sitting area. Or the stair to the tower.
“The girls wanted the house to be haunted, so they made up a ghost named Paul,” Schutte said. “Then, I was reading old Collegian articles that talked about a female ghost people had seen years ago.”
It’s no surprise the house, over 150 years old, is spooky with lots of hidden corners, creaking floors, and the romantic— if ramshackle — tower room overlooking Hillsdale Street.
Down the street from The Grosvenor House sits the Munro House, now a bed and breakfast. Built by George Clinton Munro in 1834, the house is the oldest in Hillsdale County. Also possibly part of the underground railroad, Munro added a hidden room to shelter slaves. It fell into disrepair until the 1960s before it was bought for 1 dollar and refurbished.
An evening walk through Hillsdale shows its haunted history, with diverse architectural styles that hearken to the 19th century, where the conflict of war reached even quiet Hillsdale.