Historic Structures

Frederick Hall House (Hall-Fowler Library), Ionia Michigan

Date added: March 9, 2011 Categories: Michigan House Italianate

Frederick Hall was a local banker and important public official. For more than forty years he was a leading figure in Ionia. He was born in Vermont in 1816 and first came to Michigan in 1836, and settled in Ionia in 1841. The buying and selling of pine lands was his main business but the public positions he held were numerous. He was elected to the State legislature in 1849, a Democratic candidate for Congress, a Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor and became the first mayor of Ionia in 1873. Hall was a director of the Ionia and Lansing Railroad and President of the First National Bank of Ionia from its organization. He had earlier served as receiver of public money for the land office at Ionia in 1845.

Since 1903, the mansion has housed the Hall-Fowler Memorial Library. On October 9, 1903 it was opened to the public as a gift to the city from Mrs. Marion Hall-Fowler.

The structure is two stories with cupola, L shaped with rear wing, 42' frontage by 37' in depth. There is a 7' by 21' side wing and a 21' by 30' rear wing, not including small porches. The front faces south.

There is a central porch on the south front, one bay, one story. It is placed against a slightly projecting central pavilion and shelters the main entrance. Wood columns are square; they occur in pairs at the corners but the responding wall columns are single. The outermost capitals (of the pairs) are of modified Doric type, the inner ones Corinthianesque. The architrave (or lintel) on front is shaped in complex curves along the lower edge; on the sides it is straight except for quadrant curves near the capitals. There is a bracketed wood cornice with pendant ornaments at the corners. The railing, with its plain rectangular slats, is probably a replacement. The floor is sandstone, reached by six sandstone steps with moulded nosing, bounded by curved ramping cheek blocks.

In the southwest angle is a one-story porch, one bay wide and two bays deep. It has square wood columns with chamfered corners, on moulded bases. In the upper part of the openings is fanciful wood tracery. The railing has ornamental work in vertical openings between slats. The cornice is bracketed. The concrete floor and steps are replacements.

Interior First Floor: There is a central hall with two major rooms on each side. On the west side these have been opened to the hall and to each other, with lintels well below the cornices, to form an open book shelf room. There is a small vestibule inside the entrance; the stair is at the rear of the hall. In the rear wing are two rooms, one behind the door, and minor spaces.

Interior Second Floor: There is a central hall with two rooms at each side; over the entrance vestibule is a small chamber. In the rear wing are three servants bedrooms connected by a side hall, and a stair at each end descending to the first floor.

The main stair, at the north end of the central hall, ascends toward the rear and curves in a semicircle, leaving an open well; there are 21 risers. The walnut newel is quite heavy; it has an octagonal base or plinth, each face containing a panel with a carved floral spray. Above the plinth is a turned pair of scotia mouldings. The shaft is octagonal, tapered, containing a panel on each face with a carved relief floral motif. Above this are two turned torus mouldings with a scotia between; the upper torus is covered with radiating leaves on the upper surface, in low relief. Next are another scotia and an ovolo, and the top, which is formed by a round continuation of the moulded handrail.

There is an open string with scrolled brackets. There are two balusters per tread; they have turned bases and capitals, and tapered octagonal shafts. The railing continues around the well at the second floor. There is an enclosed service stair at each end of the rear wing.

This building occupies a large lot extending from Main Street on the south to Washington Street on the north; on the west a street separates it from the Court house and public offices. Along the east line is an ornamental cast iron fence, all that remains of a fence which once enclosed the lot. Landscaping is now informal, consisting chiefly of open lawn with several trees. Southeast of the house is a cast-iron ornamental fountain of uncertain date. The ground is level.