Vine, W., 447: Justus Burdick House

The City's Oldest House

The story of Kalamazoo’s oldest house is also one about the mobility of 19th century properties. Built in 1837-1838 for General Justus Burdick, a formative pioneer who came to the brand new Village of Bronson from Vermont in 1835, the Greek Revival-style home was originally built on the 100 block of W. Main Street (aka Michigan Avenue), near where today stands the Exchange Building. Burdick, one of the village’s most influential investors and proprietors during the village’s first decade, planned to build his home from the leftover lumber purchased for the construction of the first court house. The wood was purchased from a mill in Otsego. Despite living only a decade more, the businessman’s stamp on the community was a significant one. In addition to his real estate activities (The Kalamazoo House e.g.), Burdick donated liberally to various commercial and civic projects, including the construction of the first Episcopal Church. Burdick’s death on July 6th of 1849 led to an immediate selling off of his properties so that commercial development could continue along Main Street. In 1855, the home was moved around the corner to face westward along Rose Street. The home was then converted into the St. Nicholas Boarding House.

This is a photograph of an article that appeared in the Kalamazoo Gazette 18 June 1922. From left to right: St. Nicholas boarding house, Frederick Curtenius home, Luther Trask home, and the second First Presbyterian Church. P-1252

On the Move Again

In the early 1880’s, it was time once more to relocate Burdick’s mansion in order to make space available for the soon-to-be-built Academy of Music building, but with this, the third and final move, Kalamazoo’s oldest home made news once again.

“Several people operated the former Burdick home over the years. Pelick Stevens finally sold it to village president Petyon Ranney for $450 on condition that he get it off the lot. Ranney hired a local mover to put the once-sumptuous mansion on rollers and pull it to his lot on the corner of Vine and West (aka Westnedge) Streets.”–Kalamazoo: Nineteenth-Century Homes in a Midwestern Village, p.152

Beginning on July 8th, Burdick’s home began it’s journey southward along Rose Street, but as it neared the home of Dr. Foster Pratt, it’s forward motion was halted, when Pratt objected to the cutting down of a tree on his property that would have made it easier for the rolling home to proceed. The dispute thwarted the home’s progression, leading the workmen to abandon the house in the middle of Rose Street, near Cedar. Nearby residents and those attempting to travel down Rose Street were not pleased. Crowds angrily milled around the house with threats of violence tossed around.

“On July 19th, someone climbed the side of the building and scrawled “For Rent,” while President Ranney hurried back from Charlevoix. He soon put his carpenters to work, and by July 23rd, they had finished sawing the big building down the middle.”–Kalamazoo: Nineteenth-Century Homes in a Midwestern Village, p.152

With the dispute between Pratt and Ranney settled, the halved mansion continued on its way toward its final destination on Vine Street, where it survives today.

Justus Burdick House c.1982. History Room Photograph File P-1322

Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, February 2022


“These Houses Give a New Meaning to the Term Mobile Home”, Sharon Ferraro, Your Home Southwest Michigan, Nov. 2007, p.17


Kalamazoo: Lost & Found, Lynn Smith Houghton, Pamela Hall O’Connor (H 720.9774 H838)

Kalamazoo: Nineteenth-Century Homes in a Midwestern Village, Peter Schmitt, Balthazar Korab (H 720.9774 S355)

Local History Room Files

Name File: Burdick, Justus, (Gen.)

Subject File: Houses – Kalamazoo – Vine, W., 447

Subject File: Historic Sites Scrapbook 1:1, 8; 3:14


History of the Vine Neighborhood presentation

Vine Neighborhood Architecture presentation

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