Baumgartner House celebrates 140 years

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 29, 2015

 The windows of the Baumgartner House reflect the German architectural design that has been displayed for more than a century.

The windows of the Baumgartner House reflect the German architectural design that has been displayed for more than a century.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FRASER — The Baumgartner House is a historic staple in the city of Fraser, representing the age of yesteryear without all the technological advancements of today.


And 140 years later, the house still stands.


The Baumgartner House was built in 1875 by John and Samantha Baumgartner, who had moved to Macomb County in 1865. The house remains on the same parcel of land between Masonic and 14 Mile Road, to Kelly and Groesbeck.


Marilynn Wright, the chairman of the Fraser Historical Society, said a New York businessman actually bought the property in 1831 when it was all vacant land. He sold the 80-acre property to the Baumgartner family for $1,200.


The exact anniversary date is still unknown.


But the history of the house may surprise some. It wasn’t until Aug. 27, 1981, that Fraser paid $62,000 for a five-year land contract. The city put $15,000 down and paid $750 per month for five years, and the last payment was paid one year earlier as money was set aside in the bank and interest was accumulating.


Wright said that when the original Baumgartners died, the house went up for auction and two of their sons purchased the property. When they died, four different people lived there afterward.


Those other four owners include: Orville and Ida Shathuck, in 1909; Christian and Hilda Hoerling, in 1920; Gottfried and Melanie Lambrecht, in 1942; and John and Petronilla Huber, in 1945.


Also, the Hemme Team Barn that sits on the property was 125 years old when it was donated to the historical commission in 1990. However, the barn wasn’t always in the same spot. It was originally located on Mulvey Road before it was dismantled and brought to its current site.


Now, the Fraser Historical Commission operates it all with assistance from the Fraser Historical Society.


“The first group of people after the property was bought, they remodeled the property and brought it back to normal,” Wright said. “We upkeep it, and anything that goes wrong with it, we’re right there looking at it and taking care of it.”


The architectural style of the house is coined “Rundbogenstil,” which is a German term that means a round, arched style. The house’s symmetry is impeccable: for every window downstairs, there is a matching window upstairs. And the kitchen is back to its original wood flooring, whereas it was temporarily replaced by a more modern linoleum.


As far as building methods, the house is a blast from the past.


There are no footings, studs or insulation. The downstairs walls, along with the upstairs front and back walls, consist of three courses of bricks. The upstairs sidewalls are composed of two brick courses, though the mortar used is made of such an abundance of lime that the building should remain standing for hundreds of years.


A small city budget keeps the house intact. Through fundraising efforts and miscellaneous events, the historical commission raises money to make necessary improvements. Wright said she recently sold $141 worth of old jewelry to put money in the city’s trust fund.


Nancy Ehrke, the chairman of Fraser’s library board and a member of the Fraser Historical Society, moved to Fraser in the summer of 2001. She had family living in the city and later purchased a condo that belonged to her mother.


It didn’t take long for her to become interested in the city’s rich history.


“The Baumgartner House is an example of the early days of Fraser,” Ehrke said. “I enjoy participating in the many events and fundraisers conducted by the Fraser Historical Commission and the Fraser Historical Society. These fundraisers help to preserve the history of Fraser and help to maintain the buildings and grounds of the Baumgartner House Museum.


“This house is the keeper of the past and will serve to show the new residents and children of the city of Fraser how this city came into being.”


The Baumgartner House is listed in the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites, and a historical marker was erected on the site in a dedication ceremony in May 1997.


The goal is to make people believe that the house hasn’t really changed all that much, Wright said. From the architecture, to the windows, to furniture that resembles the look of the 1800s, it’s a place that residents visit from all over to get a glimpse of what used to be. Some even pose for wedding photos in the ground’s beautiful gardens.


“It’s the jewel of Fraser,” Wright said. “We are so grateful to have this because a lot of cities don’t have a historical place. Fraser is very fortunate.”


The house is located on the northwest corner of Masonic and Kelly, and the museum is open from 1-4 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month. Group tours are available.


A June 7 rummage and plant sale is planned, along with the official anniversary celebration on June 13. For more details on these and other events, call Wright at (586) 293-7477.

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