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County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

For the Love of an Old House

Farwell’s Largest Home Gets TLC

Posted

Gracing the landscape of a small town as long as it has, the “Hitchcock House” has intrigued a little part of everyone who ever grew up in Farwell. Next door to the school many generations of school children play by one of only two buildings in Clare County listed on the National Historic Register.

I was lucky enough to be on a tour of the home several weeks ago with several other Clare County Historical Society members.

Also referred to as the Fuller-McGuire House, it was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1996. It was built in the 1880s by George and Martha (Hall) Hitchcock, early pioneers and prominent citizens of Farwell. It has been family home, bed and breakfast, and the largest home in Farwell for more than a century.

The prestigious Detroit architects Mason and Rice designed the home and built on the former courthouse square lots after the county courthouse burned in 1876 and was moved to Harrison. The Hitchcocks’ daughter, Alice Fuller, later inherited the house and it was her family’s home.

The home suffered a fire and was slated for demolition until 13 years ago when Dave and Kay Williams bought the house and began their labor of love restoring the home.

When asked why they bought the house, Dave said, “So it wouldn’t be torn down. It was for sale, but no buyers were coming forward and the owners talked about tearing it down.”

They’ve collected old photos, art and anything to do with the house as they have gone through the restoration process. A few things have been found in the walls of the home, such as a letters and old newspapers.

Dave Williams is the fire chief of Surrey Township Fire Department and, ironically, he was on the crew that was called to the fire that destroyed the Farwell Mills. The mill was built by the original owner of the home he lovingly cares for now, George Hitchcock. While the Williamses are owners of the home, they consider themselves caretakers of the house so future generations can appreciate its history. Of course, the house is now wired with a good fire protection system and its location across the street from the fire department likely saved it during the first fire.

The first-floor restoration is complete except for custom building pocket doors. The second floor is mostly complete, and the third floor is where the fire damage is still evident with a lot of work ahead. Details that make restoration more difficult are curved walls, large detailed woodwork, and Dave’s biggest project, custom building replacement doors for many of the rooms. Dave’s large list of things to be done seems daunting but considering the work that has already been done, there is no doubt they will keep working on the house.

Kay and her granddaughter are constantly in the market for items to fill in missing pieces. When light fixtures or hardware are missing, they look for historically correct suitable replacements.

 Looking out the window of the third floor is the best bird’s-eye view of Farwell. If you can fall in love with a house, and I believe you can, this house gets in your heart quickly. It’s easy to see why the Williamses have painstakingly scraped paint, cleaned, restored and sometimes spent their last dollar on the house at 205 E. Michigan St.

The common question of “Is it haunted?” is answered without hesitation: “Yes.” Footsteps, door opening and closing, and unexplained noises don’t bother the Williamses. It’s all part of owning a special piece of Farwell history.

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