Austin-Sill House

Kalamazoo Valley Museum Photograph 72.331.1B, photographer unknown, 1955

  • Location: 225 [226] West Lovell, Kalamazoo
  • Survey ID: R-36
  • Designation: Austin-Sill House
  • Date: 1846? House moved to site
  • Style: Greek Revival

The following material is from the 1973 Initial Inventory of Historic Sites and Buildings in Kalamazoo and was made available for use here by the Historic Preservation Coordinator of the City of Kalamazoo. See Introduction to an Initial Inventory for details about how the survey was conducted.

Benjamin Austin was fourteen when he settled with his family in Portage in 1833. At sixteen he moved to Kalamazoo to learn tin smithing and watch making. As he grew older, he turned to the dry goods business and then to making spring wagons in 1852. By 1860, he was one of Kalamazoo's wealthiest residents (listed in the 1860 Census with $30,000 real and $30,000 personal property). In 1846, Austin owned a village lot on the corner of Rose and Lovell. Sometime that year or early the next, he built a home for himself which he occupied until he moved to a farm on West Michigan Avenue (then called the "Territorial Road") in the 1850's. During the Civil War, Dr. Joseph Sill bought the property. He is said to have moved the Austin House in order to put up the "Sill Terrace" luxury apartments on the corner lot [now the Prange Building]. There is some reason to believe that Sill had the Austin house moved to the present site, 226 Lovell, but this has not been adequately documented.

Joseph Sill

Joseph Sill was 24 when he opened Kalamazoo's first dental parlor in 1845-45. He soon saved enough to finish his medical training at the University of New York in 1847. He practiced elsewhere until 1851 when he began a 40-year practice as a "Homeopathist." He lived on in Kalamazoo until his death in 1907. Along the way, Sill speculated in Pennsylvania oil in the 1860's, and in real estate and mining stock. He also served as a temperance lecturer and as a trustee of what became Kalamazoo College.

While the exact date of this building is not established, the building stands as a fine example of the Greek Revival Style. The entryway, in particular, shows the decided influence of architectural plates in popular "builder's handbooks" of the period. The fluted Ionic columns and paneled entry are particularly well executed.

Maps:

1853 - B. Austin lot
1861 - House on corner, nothing on site
1873 - house shows on site

Kalamazoo County Tax Rolls:

1846

Benjamin Austin 

Vill. lot 6 rods by 6 on Rose St. 

100

1.55

1847

same

same

500

7.51

 

house said to have been moved during Civil War

 

 

1863

Joseph Sill

first listed on W1/2 of Austin lot

1000

26.05

1864

same

same

1400

22.96

1865

same

same

1400

48.21

Kalamazoo City Directory:

 

U. S. Population Census Rolls:

1860  Benjamin M. Austin, 41, Wagon Manuf., 30,000 real, 30,000 personal, b. Conn.; Angeline B. Austin, 48, b. NY; Amelia, 14; William, 12; Sarah, 74 

Portrait and Biographical Record, 1892 J. Sill (d. April 23, 1905, at 83)

Kalamazoo Gazette: September 3, 1944

This report was converted from a typewritten document to a digital text document in September 2004. Other than punctuation and spelling corrections, and the addition of BOLD type site address and names, no changes were made. Minor formatting changes were made for use on this website, but the text was not altered. Original survey dated 1973.

Additional Sources

"The Austin-Sill House: First Brick Home in City"

  • Kalamazoo Gazette, 3 September 1944, page 2, column 5

"Building Moved Around Corner"

  • Kalamazoo Gazette, 3 August 1974, page A12, column 1

Local History Room Subject File: Houses - Kalamazoo - Lovell, W., 226

Kalamazoo: Nineteenth-Century Homes in a Midwestern Village

  • Schmitt, Peter J.
  • Kalamazoo City Historical Commission, 1976, pages 48, 56-57
  • H 720.9774 S355