Buckhout-Austin House

Left: Picturesque Kalamazoo , 1909
Right: Photo by Alex Forest, April 2006
  • Location: 617 West South Street, Kalamazoo
  • Survey ID: R-11
  • Designation: Buckhout-Austin House
  • Date: 1892
  • Style: Queen Anne

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.

Oscar Buckhout, pioneer produce merchant in Kalamazoo, shipped the first load of commercial celery from what would soon be known as the Celery Capital of the world. In 1892, he built this dignified Queen Anne home for himself and his wife, Mary. In his mid-forties at the time and childless, he settled into the new residence he and his wife would occupy for nearly forty years.

The building's hipped roof and projecting gables suggest its relationship to the popular Queen Anne revival of the 'nineties. It is far less flamboyant in its use of ornament than the contemporary homes built by such younger men as William S. Dewing (547 W. Michigan) or Frank Henderson, whose "castle" was then under construction on West Main Hill. Altogether it was a comfortable house which wears its age well even today.

Buckhout energetically looked to new opportunities at an age when other men might think of retiring. In 1899, he left the Empire Produce Company he had founded with his brother Romine and formed the O. K. Buckhout Chemical Company (specializing in embalming fluids), a company he would hold until his death. In 1902, the city directory credited him as Chairman of the Kalamazoo Tuberculosis Remedy Co. Ltd. (Inc. 1901; Cap. $40,000). In 1906, he was also President of the Kalamazoo Creamery Co. (Inc. 1904; Cap. $15,000). The next year he added the Michigan Butter Company, In 1908, he dropped these interests in favor of membership in the Buckhout-Henry insurance agency and a vice-presidency of the Witwer Baking Co. A year later he became President of the Witwer Baking Company (Inc. 1905; Cap. $100,000). In 1911, still in control of the chemical firm, he now listed himself only as Vice-President of the Model Baking Co. (Inc. 1905, Cap. $5,000). From 1913 to 1921 he held the chemical company and served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Piper Ice Cream Company. In 1922, he added the Buckhout and Johnson Real Estate firm to his interests. 

When Buckhout passed away in November of 1925, the house passed to other hands. Frederick Sackett, a city policeman occupied it in the 1930's. His wife, Marvel, ran, the "Singing Kettle Tea Room" there for one year. Theta Chi Delta Fraternity used it in the early 'forties. Finally, in 1950, the directory listed Miss Eleanor Austin, daughter of an early dentist in the city, Frank G. Austin. Miss Austin, formerly an interior decorator, continued to live in the home until 1971. 

Maps:

1890 map does not show

Kalamazoo County Tax Rolls:

1900 Oscar Buckhout rev. plat, sec. 16, E1/2 of N 9R of Lot A       $4800 55.92

1912 Oscar Buckhout  land 3350, building 6500, auto 800, personal 10000

Kalamazoo City Directory:

1891  Oscar Buckhout lives on Dutton St. grocery with Romine Buckhout

1893  Oscar Buckhout 623 W. South

1895  Oscar Buckhout Empire Produce (Romine is in Buckhout Bros.)

1897 same

1899 Oscar Buckhout O.K. Buckhout Chemical Co. (embalming fluids)

1904  Oscar Buckhout (Mary) 623 W. South propr. O.K. Buckhout Chemical Co.

1905-1907 same

1908  same but add Buckhout-Henry Insurance (O.K.; Romine; Frank Henry) and V-P of Witwer Baking Company

1909  same but only O.K. Buckhout Chemical Co.

1910-1912 same

1913  same but add Sec'y-Treas, of Piper Ice Cream Co.

1914-1921 same

1922  same but add Buckhout and Johnson Real Estate

1924  Mary Buckhout, widow of Oscar 623 W. South

1926  Vacant at 617 W. South, new address

1927  Stanley Sackett (Marvel) Sackett's Food Store, Grocers and Meats 214 E. Main

1929  Stanley Sackett, salesman, no store

1931  Frederick B. Sackett, policeman

1934  Frederick B. Sackett (Marvel) Policeman
          Mrs. Marvel B. Sackett, Singing Kettle Tea Room

1935  same, but no tea room

1937  same, but add Cornelia, stud.; and Stanley S. helper

1939 Frederick B. Sackett, city policeman, no one else

1942 Theta Chi Delta Fraternity

1943 same

1945 Ora Adams, teacher

1947 Wm. A. Smith (Adele) Constr. Superintendent, Miller-Davis co.

1948 vacant

1950-1971 Eleanor Austin (had been interior decorator, but no job listed at this address; mother was Ella Austin, widow of Frank G. Austin, a dentist as early as 1913 but no longer living in 1927) 

State Census Rolls:

1894  O. K. Buckhout, 47, produce merchant, b. Michigan; Mary Buckhout, 40, wife; childless; Maude Wilkinson, boarder, schoolteacher.

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.

Sources

Articles

"French silks highlight house"

  • Kalamazoo Gazette, 3 March 1974, page B1, column 1

"Kalamazoo historical home opens today as art gallery"

  • Kalamazoo Gazette, 18 October 1981, page C9, column 2