HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Nestled in downtown Holland are two historic houses that showcase two very different ways of life.
Through the work of the Holland Museum and the Holland Historic Trust, guests are able to visit the home of the first mayor of Holland as well as a home that survived the 1871 Holland fire and went on to house more than 10 families.
Built in 1874 at the corner of 9th Street and Washington Boulevard, the historic Cappon House was home to Holland’s first mayor, Isaac Cappon, and his first and second wife and their 16 children.
“They built that house because their first house burned in the 1871 Holland fire,” Michelle Stempien, education and community programs manager, said.
The Italianate Revival-style home stayed in the Cappon family until 1978 when it became part of the Holland Historic Trust. Since then, the trust has restored the home to what it would have looked like around 1900.
“A lot of the materials, the furniture and many of the other items in the house are original to the family,” Stempien said.
When visitors enter the home’s original front door, they are greeted by very tall ceilings and a grand staircase.
“We usually talk a little bit about some of the aspects of the foyer, what it was like for people to come to call on the family, and then we show them into the parlor,” she said.
Stempien said that the parlor is the grandest room in the house. It was where the Cappon family members would greet guests and hold some family events like funerals or weddings.
“That was a room that was really for guests only. Children were not allowed in that space as it was the fanciest room of the house,” she explained.
In Isaac Cappon’s study, visitors can see his original desk and books and learn about the tannery that he owned.
“He would often meet with business associates at the house, so he would have them come to the study, which actually has its own separate outside entrance off of another porch, so they could come directly into the study without disturbing the household,” Stempien said.
Also on the main level are the master bedroom, dining room and kitchen. This is where museum visitors learn about what it was like for the kitchen staff to work there.
“We (also) talk a little bit about how the kids helped out around the house. Some of the chores that they had to do,” she said.
Upstairs, visitors can explore the other bedrooms, a nursery, a social space for the children and the maid’s bedroom.
“We still have two rooms in the house, the guest room and the maid’s room, on the second floor that are not completely restored. I mean, we have furniture in there but there’s still work that needs to be done… 2024 is the 150th anniversary of the house, so we’re hoping to encourage some fundraising to help us to finish or at least progress those rooms so they are a little bit further,” Stempien said.
On the grounds, there are a number of gardens that are maintained by the Holland Garden Club and a carriage house.
“The floor of the carriage house, the wood was taken from a wooden billboard, and the billboard had an advertisement for the circus on it. You can see the dark spots on the floor where the glue was to adhere the paper for the sign for the circus,” Stempien said. “You can (also) see where the horses would chew on the wood in the stairs and the windowsill.”
Just down the street from the Cappon House is the Settlers House, a small family home built in 1867. It’s one of the only homes that survived the 1871 Holland fire.
“It would have had a really nice view of the lake once upon a time,” Stempien said.
The simple hall and parlor-style house was built by shipbuilder Thomas Morrissey and his wife. The pair lived there with their five children. It was continually lived in until 1992.
“We actually have a list of the people who have lived in the house when you go in to visit,” Stempien said, adding that at least 10 families have lived in the home.
Since acquiring the home, the museum has restored it to what it would have looked like in 1867.
“There’s one big room, which would be the parlor. (This was) the main living space for the family. The bed for the parents was in that room. That’s where they would have eaten. That’s where they would have spent most of their time, especially in the evenings and winter,” she said.
A smaller room off of the parlor is a hall where the family did their cooking. Upstairs is a loft where the children would have slept.
“It’s not very big. So when we have school groups in there, we talk about the kids would have lived. Their room’s up there but they would have had a very small storage space (and) they all would have been together,” Stempien said.
A small addition was put on later. It is now used as an education room.
On display at the home is a collection of items, like a doll’s head, buttons and a child’s shoe that were excavated from the backyard.
“Of course, we don’t know what objects belonged to what families, but people really like seeing some of the things that have been found in the ground in the backyard,” Stempien said.
Another item on display is a flyer from shortly after the 1871 Holland fire advertising a town meeting to gather items for those displaced.
The homes are open Fridays and Saturdays in the summer from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We do guided tours so people do need to make reservations,” Stempien said.
Tours for groups of eight or more are available during the off-season by appointment. The museum requests that reservations are made at least two weeks in advance. To reserve your tour, please contact Loren Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for senior adults, $3 for students and kids 6 and older, and free for museum members and children under five. For more information, visit the Holland Museum’s website.