Ken Wirtz had been driving by the unusual building for years. He knew its history. He wanted it. Now he has it. Visitors to the 55th Annual Marshall Historic Home Tour, on September 8th and 9th, can see it.
It is an octagon-shaped structure probably from the mid-1880s that for decades had stood next to Marshall’s main railroad depot and was used to store baggage. It’s now located just behind Ken and Lyne Wirtz’s 1838 Greek- Revival-style farmhouse that is the oldest of eight private residences on this year’s tour.
From 1970 to early this year, the octagon building was used as a shed or garage for a home on West Michigan Avenue. When that home went on the market last year, Ken tried to buy just the octagon building. His offer was refused, so he bought the whole property.
A foundation was laid last September near the Wirtz home located just north of Marshall. A crew of six Amish workers spent six days in January tearing down the octagon structure and rebuilding it in its current location. Ken has made a few modifications due to how the building was used at its former location. A friend provided a Railway Express sign that is believed to have been coming from the old depot.
Marshall’s history as a railroad center also is the focus of a special display at the Marshall Historical Museum at the GAR Hall, 402 E. Michigan Ave. The museum is one of seven on the home tour and also is open 12-4 p.m. weekends through October. Wayne Marshall, a retired railroad employee, supplied numerous items of railroad equipment and memorabilia that are supplemented by a variety of pictures.
Another point of interest for this year’s tour is the connection to a major motion picture being released Sept. 20. “The House with a Clock in its Walls,” starring Jack Black and Cate Blanchett, is based on the 1973 young adult novel of the same name by John Bellairs who grew up in Marshall. The North Madison Street home that inspired the novel is again on the tour this year.
The home tour is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 9. The Honolulu House Museum, 107 N. Kalamazoo Ave., will again be the center of activities. Along with the private homes and museums, the tour includes two downtown businesses, a church, and another church’s rectory.
There will be a Civil War encampment at the Capitol Hill School, 606 Washington St., both days and a Saturday evening Civil War Ball in front of the Honolulu House. An arts-and-crafts fair will be on the Honolulu House grounds.
Tickets are $20 through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3, and $25 afterward. Parking is free downtown and at Capitol Hill School near the county fairgrounds. Shuttle buses are also free. Tickets are good for both days. For tickets and more information, go to www.marshallhometour.org or call 269-781-8544.
The Marshall Historic Home Tour began in 1964 and has grown into the longest-running home tour in the Midwest. The Marshall Historical Society uses the home tour proceeds to maintain and enhance its three museums and to support community efforts to preserve, protect and promote Marshall’s historic heritage.