- Associated Press - Sunday, March 20, 2016

GRAND LEDGE, Mich. (AP) - It’s loomed above West Jefferson Street from its spot atop a hill for 143 years.

Paint on the huge home’s vast, two-story white-column front porch is chipped and cracking and the brick exterior has darkened with age. The two-story carriage house at the back of the property is empty, but a century ago it was home to several horses and a groundskeeper, who lived on its second floor.

In the late 1800s, the house was the largest residence in Grand Ledge, with over 6,000-square-feet of living space, including a third-floor ballroom. By all accounts no home has surpassed its size since.

But Dave and Brittany Rademacher weren’t hunting for a historical treasure to save when they first laid eyes on it, the Lansing State Journal (https://on.lsj.com/1U4WSAA ) reported.

In fact, the couple wouldn’t be married for another five months. They were simply driving through town one day when a homemade “For Sale” sign on the side of the street caught their eye.

They weren’t looking to buy, they said.

But they’d stumbled upon their dream home. What other choice was there but to make it theirs?


Dave, 33, calls the house on West Jefferson Street the couple’s “one-time move.”

The sales manager for a building material company spent more than a decade as a carpenter and says it’s the last house they’ll ever own. Brittany, 29, is a Grand Ledge High School graduate and works at an IT company.

Both confess they’re “old souls.” They fell in love with the house before taking a tour of the inside.

“This is it,” Dave said, of the century-old home. “We wanted a home to raise a family in. We’re planning on making this our home and doing that here.”

From the kitchen table of what is, for now, the first-floor apartment the Rademachers are sharing there, they talked about buying the Colonial Revival-style house for $189,900.

The wall behind where they’re sitting is among several in the house that will eventually be knocked down to open up the space. Several were erected in the 1950s when the home’s interior was divided into five large apartments.

“The end goal is a single-family home again,” Dave said.

But first thing’s first.

They’ve spent the last year cleaning up half-acre grounds, hauling junk out of the 1,500-square-foot carriage house and basement of the home. And this summer they’ll install 350 feet of antique iron fencing around the property.

The home’s complete renovation will take years.

They’re calling the project the “Rademacher Revival” and they’re chronicling their work on Instagram, posting pictures along the way and inviting the community to follow along with them.

“We kind of have an open-door policy here to stop by and see what you want to see,” Brittany said. “Check out all the work we’re doing. I really think if we’re able to bring this house back to what it originally was, we can give something back to the community too.”


The Rademachers’ new labor of love has a rich history.

It was built in 1873 by Caleb Hutton, who moved from New York to Grand Ledge after retiring.

But it was Edward A. Turnbull who made the house into the imposing, grand building that it is. The prominent businessman and owner of the Grand Ledge Chair Company, added to the structure after he bought it in 1899. His renovation tripled the size of the house.

Today it’s still believed to be the largest residence inside the city limits.

“On the outside of the suburbs there might be something bigger but it’s always been considered the largest house in Grand Ledge,” said Marilyn Smith, who serves on the board of directors for the Grand Ledge Area Historical Society. “It’s a significant residence.”

She said the Rademachers’ plans to revive it are exciting.

“As people drive into Grand Ledge that’s one of the things I hear,” Smith said. “That it’s such a treat to turn the corner by Quality Dairy and see all those wonderful homes. It’s beautiful to drive down Jefferson Street and to see them. People remember that when they come into town. The main thing is, they’re going to be restoring it.”

Attention to detail will be the key to doing it right, Dave said. That’s why taking stock of what’s original to the house is important. Interior doors, hinges and hardware that have been inside the house for a century or more will stay put. High ceilings and crown molding will be exposed and highlighted throughout the house.

Dave said they’ll recreate period-accurate details where they need to. The couple are avid antique collectors and they’ve already begun acquiring pieces, like a 10-foot-long walnut table for the dining room that came from an old library.

“We’ll just pick up parts and pieces here and there,” Dave said. “And start putting them back.”


Brittany said the couple didn’t know the house was divided into apartments until they got a look inside.

“From the outside it just looks like a giant home,” she said. “I think that was a little shocking to find out that it was an apartment building. It was five separate people living in their own space. It was like, ‘Can we really make this look like one big house?”

Dave has little doubt that they can.

The house was in good shape, he said.

“For the house being over 140 years old, there’s some foundation work to be done but everything is very sound,” Dave said.

On the first walk through he envisioned exactly what the home could become. He made plans then to build new cabinets for the couple’s kitchen and anything else the house needed from a workshop he’ll create in the carriage house.

“I don’t get overwhelmed by anything,” he said. “For us it’s a 20-to-30-year project. It’s what I love doing so it doesn’t seem like a chore. I can do everything.”

There are currently two tenants in the Rademacher home and Brittany said the income from their rent has helped the couple afford materials for the renovation.

And while the couple resides on the first floor of the home now, they plan to move to the third-floor apartment this fall while they gut and restore the ground floor.

Brittany said the apartments will allow them to stay in the home while they work on various projects.

“There’s always somewhere for us to be while we’re doing all of this,” she said.

They say the renovation and their move to Grand Ledge are an investment in their future - and the home’s.

“It’s a different feeling being part of something bigger,” Dave said, of the house. “The history is really cool to me.”

“And we’ll be part of that history,” Brittany said.


Information from: Lansing State Journal, https://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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