54th Annual Marshall Historic Home Tour Explores Cronin Family

The Cronin family of merchants is gone from the Marshall scene.  But visitors to the 54th Annual Marshall Historic Home Tour September 9th & 10th will get some insights into the family and its legacy.

First, the tour features the Italianate-style home built in 1873 for Jeremiah Cronin.  He started a downtown department and grocery store in 1850 that stayed in family ownership into the 1970s.  His home also was the inspiration for the 1973 novel “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” that may be made into a movie.

Second, the tour also includes the home of Jeremiah’s younger brother Thomas.  This house was built in 1886 in the Queen Anne style and is a short distance from Jeremiah’s house.  

A third tour highlight is the J. H. Cronin store that Jeremiah built in 1869.  This structure now is being converted into apartments and a restaurant.  Ray Lessnau, home tour co-chair, recently visited the site and said, “The second and third floors will feature modern apartments with a nod to their historic roots.  One can feel the history of the building walking through the apartments which feature exposed brick walls, reclaimed woodwork and stunning views of downtown Marshall.”  

Tour hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10.   The Honolulu House Museum, 107 N. Kalamazoo Ave., is the center of tour activities.  There is free parking downtown and at the Calhoun County Fairgrounds.  There are free shuttle buses that run to the more than 20 tour sites.   For tickets and more tour information, go to or call 269-781-8544.  Tickets are good for both days.

The tour sites include six private homes each representing a different architectural style.  In addition to the Cronin home styles, the others are Gothic Revival, Cottage, Second Empire and Craftsman.  These were built between the 1850s and early 1900s.

A second downtown tour feature is the Great Escape Stage Co. that recently moved to a 1905 building that originally was the Knights of Pythias Hall.  The new entryway and theater lobby will be open for tour visitors.  The recent changes have preserved the historic structure’s integrity including the tin ceiling.

Eight museums are part of the tour.  The Honolulu House was built for a former U.S. consul to the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands.  The Marshall Historical Museum at the GAR Hall tells Marshall’s stories.  The Capitol Hill School has a preserved old-time school room.  The Governor’s Mansion was built in 1839 with the expectation of Marshall becoming the new state capital.  

The American Museum of Magic has the largest collection of magic artifacts on public display in the country.  The Marshall United States Postal Museum houses the largest collection of postal memorabilia outside of the Smithsonian Institution.  The Walters Gasoline Museum features automobile nostalgia in the former interurban train depot.  The Calhoun County Fair Museum celebrates Michigan’s oldest continuously running fair.

The current Zion Lutheran Church building was constructed in 1901 and is on tour this year.  Local Lutheran churches are presenting an Oktoberfest event there from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Four historic building at the fairgrounds are included in the tour.  They are Floral Hall built in 1860, the 1836 Houston School that was moved to the fairgrounds from Fredonia Township, the 1900 Old Maple Grove Church that was moved from Eckford Township, and the 1923 Boys & Girls Annex funded in part by Hollywood celebrities.

Other tour-related events include Art at the Museum, an arts-and-crafts show on the Honolulu House grounds during tour hours; the Marshall Civil War Ball 7-10 p.m. Saturday in front of the Honolulu House, and a concert by ragtime pianist Bob Milne at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Franke Center for the Arts.

The Brooks Field Aviation Association is sponsoring its annual fly-in and drive-in event from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at the airport.  Activities include a free pancake breakfast, display of military vehicles and aircraft, and plane and glider riders.  Pilots will be shuttled to the home tour at noon.

Jeremiah Cronin died in 1899, and his wife Susan then took over running the store.  She was succeeded by her son Jay.  After his death, his daughters Elizabeth and Virginia operated it until 1974 and lived in the family home.  Thomas and another Cronin brother Henry operated a grocery store directly across the street from the J. H. Cronin Store beginning in 1876.

Former Marshall resident John Bellairs was the author of 15 gothic mystery novels intended for young adults.  Marshall locations are used in several books.  A movie production company recently announced the signings of actor Jack Black and director Eli Roth for a movie version of “The House with a Clock in its Walls.”  Finals plans for the movie are not yet set.

The Marshall Historic Home Tour had its start with a kitchen tour organized by a local church women’s organization.  It has grown into the Midwest’s longest running home tour.  Proceeds from the home tour are used to support the Marshall Historical Society’s three museums and its efforts to preserve, protect and promote Marshall’s historic heritage.