The Grosvenor House in Jonesville has Ital­ianate archi­tecture, a style popular in the late 19th Century.
Timmy Pearce/Collegian


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.