Long before the Food Network, HGTV and The History Channel (and even before the widespread availability of cable television) Marshall was establishing itself as one of the Midwest’s top historic and foodie destinations.
Established in 1830, seven years before Michigan’s statehood, Marshall was the front runner for the state capitol. Town leaders were so confident of their lead, that a Governor’s Mansion was built. Yet, the city lost by just one vote to Lansing, due north.
Built by railroad money and centrally located between Detroit and Chicago, Marshall is best known for its cross-section of 19th- and early 20th-century architecture and is home to one of the nation’s largest National Historic Landmark Districts with more than 850 buildings including the world-famous Honolulu House. Marshall has been referred to by the keeper of the National Register of Historic Places as a “virtual textbook of 19th-Century American architecture.”
Among the town’s most noted events is the Historic Home Tour, held the second weekend of September each year. It is considered the longest, continually-operating home tour in the Great Lakes region.
The event actually started in 1957 as a kitchen tour, an idea of Jean Schuler—wife of the second-generation Schuler’s Restaurant owner Win Schuler, Vice President of the Marshall Historical Society and a member of the Trinity Episcopal Church Guild Council. It was organized to raise funds for various programs at the church.
“That first year, just four kitchens were featured, including our house,” says third generation owner Hans Schuler, who was a teenager when the tour started.
Originally held on a weekday afternoon in May (and often with a fashion show), the Trinity Kitchen Tour eventually moved to the fall and in 1963 began to feature full homes. Continuing to grow in popularity, the tour soon became more than the church could handle and by 1968, the Marshall Historical Society was asked to take over management.
“It then became a community event,” Hans says. “The tour encompasses everything Marshall stands for—hospitality, history and community pride. Today, it’s the one collective thing our town is known for and we wear that badge with honor.”
For 52 years, Marshall has not only maintained but grown its signature event. It remains one of the most noted home tours in the Midwest.
“Organizing a tour of this magnitude takes a great deal of year-round time, dedication and commitment from residents, businesses, volunteers and organizations,” Hans says. “While Marshall Historical Society is the official host, events of this caliber are only successful when everyone in town supports the cause.”
Marshall home and business owners now open their doors to an estimated 3,000 people each fall, giving a glimpse inside the various architectural styles that the town has become known for. The Marshall Historic Society uses proceeds from the home tour to operate and maintain its three museums, we well as to support efforts to preserve, protect and promote the historic integrity of the community—thus preserving it for future generations.
Although it isn’t an official stop on this year’s tour, Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub is recognized as one of Marshall’s historic treasures not to be missed. Founded in 1909, the iconic Schuler’s epitomizes hospitality excellence as one of the longest continually-operating family-owned and -operated restaurants in the state. Located in downtown Marshall, Schuler’s is recognized as world-class Michigan destination focused on offering guests quality food and excellent service, in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Visitors to Schuler’s during the Historic Home Tour weekend will find menu items—appetizers, salads, sandwiches, entrees and desserts—proudly named after the featured properties including the Colonial Revival (1931) Grilled Breast of Chicken Salad, Grannies Attic (1861) So Much More Than a Veggie Burger, Eastend Gallery & Studio (1870) Bistro Fried Chicken and St. Mary Rectory (1852) Devil’s Delight house-made fudge brownie topped with vanilla bean ice cream and covered with hot fudge.
In addition, traditional Schuler items such as barbecue meatballs, Heritage Cheese Spread, Swiss onion soup will be served, along with a series of signature cocktails. The complete tour weekend menu can be viewed on Schuler’s website.
The Schuler’s Dining Room Hours during the home tour weekend are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday; Winston’s Pub Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
The 2015 Historic Home Tour runs Saturday, September 12 from 9am to 5pm and Sunday, September 13 from 10am to 5pm. Tickets are $17 through Labor Day and $20 after September 8. Tickets are good for both days and can be purchased online here. Free shuttle service will be offered for those who park at the fairgrounds.
This year’s tour includes seven private homes—including the octagon house (built in 1856, it will be shown as a house under restoration), Oakhill and here other first-time tour homes; three commercial buildings—including the National House Inn, EastEnd Gallery & Studio and The Harvester Flower Shop; eight museums—including the Honolulu House, Marshall Historical Museum at the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hall, Capitol Hill School, Governor’s Mansion, two sites for the American Museum of Magic, Marshall U.S. Post Office Museum and the Walters Gasoline Museum; the First Presbyterian Church; and five buildings at the Calhoun County Fairgrounds (one of the oldest county fairs in the state)—including Floral Hall, Houston School, Old Maple Grove Church, Fair Museum and Belcher Building.
The tour weekend also includes musical entertainment at select homes, magicians at Oakhill and a community picnic across from the library on Sunday afternoon at 5pm. The Honolulu House offers the juried Art at the Museum during the day and a Civil War Ball on Saturday evening.
For those looking for even MORE historical designations and recognitions in Marshall, these tidbits may be of interest: Marshall is the medicine patent capital; it was a stop on the Underground Railroad; the Michigan school system was established as part of the state constitution by two Marshall citizens; the country’s first railroad labor union, The Brotherhood of the Footboard (later renamed the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers), was formed here; and at one time Marshall was known as the “Chicken Pie City” because the one thing people could get to eat in the time it took to cool and switch the train engines was a chicken pie.
For information on Marshall area lodging properties, consult the Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance.