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The Story of 229 Stuart

charles-stuart

The story of 229 Stuart Avenue is one of prosperity, failure, conflict, mistrust, urban decline and renewal, reinvention, neglect and rebirth. The story includes names familiar to Kalamazoo and beyond. While there is still much to learn, some highlights are included here. If you know a piece of the story, please share it with us.

Stuart Avenue Neighborhood

stuart-neighborhood

The property on which the Stuart Avenue Inn stands was once part of a larger parcel owned by United States Senator Charles Stuart. Charles bought the land in 1854 and his Italianate Villa still stands at 427 Stuart Avenue. He encouraged his friends to build on the "far western" edge of the "city," subdividing his lot for parcels, but by 1864, only three homes had been built as the "suburb" was too far away from downtown for all but wealthy merchants who could afford to drive or ride to work in their own buggies. In the 1880's the first horse-drawn trolley cars began their rounds, making the area more accessible to middle-class families and in 1886, Edgar Bartlett built the property now known as 229 Stuart Avenue.

Edgar Bartlett and Kalamazoo's First Newspapers

first-newspaperSome hold that Edgar Bartlett's father operated a bookstore where Edgar would have likely spent time as a young man.

True or not, Edgar did become the first managing editor of the Kalamazoo Standard, one of several newspapers published in Kalamazoo in the 1800s. Early newspapers were often published as sidelines by printing houses. News, when it existed at all, could be found buried inside the paper between pages of advertising. The papers were highly partisan, printing statements that would today be prohibited by libel and slander laws.

Competition included anonymously published fliers, and short-lived publications focusing on popular or unpopular movements and events of the day. Early Kalamazoo newspapers included The Farmer, The Michigan Christian Herald, Daily Times and Daily Herald, The Kalamazoo Mail (an organ of the Greenback Party) and The Progressive Age (a Spiritualist publication).

In 1886, Edgar Bartlett became editor of the Kalamazoo Gazette, and built the house at 229 Stuart in the Queen Anne Eastlake style popular at the time. A year later, he and his partner sold the Gazette to F. Ford Rowe.

In 1891, he took a job as editor of the consolidated Daily Register and Daily Gazette in Rockford County, Illinois, and sold his house on Stuart to James Henry for $7,100.

James Henry, Advances in Agriculture and Antitrust Law

harrowIn 1830 it required 250 to 300 labor hours to produce 100 bushels of wheat (5 acres) and nearly 90% of the US population farmed the fields to provide bread for themselves and the nation.

By 1890, it required only 40-50 labor hours, and by 1930, less than half of the population farmed. Key to this agricultural revolution was the simultaneous revolution in the invention, manufacture, introduction, and use of improved agricultural machinery. One machine was known as the "spring toothed harrow " designed to be pulled over plowed soil to break up clods, level the surface and destroy weeds. The tooth would "spring" back when encountering a large obstacle. The tools worked better in dry soil than wet and became popular in the west and Midwest.

Local businessman James Henry and his partner Frederick Taylor capitalized on the success of the harrow by forming the National Harrow Company, a union of six companies holding various patents on a particular harrow.

After years of patent infringement litigation, manufacturers of the "float spring tooth harrow" settled their lawsuits and assigned all of their patents to the National Harrow Company, in exchange for shares of the company and various licenses to make, use and sell harrows. The pool of manufacturers quickly grew to 22 firms accounting for over 90% of all manufacturing and sales of float spring tooth harrows in the United States.

The restrictions placed on the manufacturers included price fixing, and when one of the pool members (Bemont) sold a harrow below the scheduled price in violation of the license, National Harrow sued and Bemont, argued the pooling agreement violated the recently enacted Sherman Antitrust Act.

In 1902, the Supreme Court held for National Harrow noting that patent laws were an absolute trump against the antitrust case because the very purpose of the patent law was to create monopolies.

Henry and his partner walked away from the decision very wealthy men, but neither the precedent, nor their financial success lasted long.

By 1912, the Supreme Court rejected any notion that patent licenses were immune from the Sherman Act and two decades later, decided Standard Oil Co. v. United States, introducing the contours of the economic analysis still applied today in antitrust cases involving patent pools.

Henry and Taylor sold their profitable business, started new ventures only to fail miserably - twice. In 1907, James Henry sold the house to Dr. James T. Upjohn.

James T. Upjohn and Sibling Conflict

James-UptonJames T. Upjohn was born in 1858, the youngest of the four brothers who founded the Upjohn Pill and Granule Company to develop a more effective drug delivery device - a friable pill that dissolved to speed release of medication.

willian-upjohnThrough a series of mergers, much of the original company is currently owned by Pfizer Corporation, the world's largest pharmaceutical company.

In 1911, James had a falling out with his oldest brother William E. Upjohn, over the latter's use of company funds for personal expenses.

William bought out his brothers' shares of the company stock, took sole possession of the company, permanently severing his relationship with his brothers.

James took advantage of his time and wealth to practice family medicine, often seeing patients in his house. He also entered politics representing Kalamazoo in the state house and senate for nearly 20 years.

Urban Development and Repurposing

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In the 1960s, the House was subdivided into studio apartments and used primarily as residences for staff and faculty of Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College.

The second floor was closed off, the wood work on the first floor painted, and bathrooms and kitchenettes were added.

fallgazeeboDuring the early 80s the Stuart Area benefitted from renewed interest in older homes, and the house was purchased by Andrea and Bill Casteel in 1985, a few years after they opened the first B&B in Kalamazoo a block north on Stuart.

The Casteels restored and redecorated the first and second floors returning them to a plan closely resembling the original.

They transformed the modest interior and white exterior into the multicolored Painted Lady it is today, and opened the building as a bed and breakfast featuring Belgian lace curtains and silk-screened wallpaper based on William Morris designs of the 1870s and 1880s, and produced by the company of Bradbury and Bradbury.

wintergazeeboWhile Andrea Casteel charmed visitors with gracious hospitality, Bill Casteel set his sights on the adjacent lot fronting on 1012 West Main which included the remnants of a Shakespearean Garden designed by Miss Alice McDuffee after a visit to Shakespeare's birthplace.

A master gardener himself, Bill Casteel proceeded to clear the lot and lay the foundation of the Garden guests see today, including meandering paths, flower beds, a gazebo, pergola and fountain.

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

A succession of owners and innkeepers followed the Casteels as the economy, the city, and the Inn took a downturn. Neglect and deferred maintenance left the Painted Lady looking bedraggled, worn out, and in need of structural repair.

In the Garden, trees intended to be pruned had grown gangly and misshapen. Overgrown hedges had long since outgrown their trim and shapely silhouettes.

But the story of 229 Stuart is much like the story of Kalamazoo - a city that has revived and redefined itself a number of times over the years from "paper city" to "celery city" to "Mall city" to "bedding plant capital of the world" to today's "city of promise."

biz-cardAnd so, the current Innkeepers purchased the property in 2009 and have been working steadily to revive the Inn and Gardens, preserving the past while at the same time adding their own chapter to the story of 229 Stuart - starting with the completion of a new roof.

Visitors can check out their progress on the News & Updates Blog.

 
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