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McDuffee Home: 1012 West Main

Queen Anne-style home (c.1890-1958)


mcduffee-home-1600
The McDuffee home, 1012 West Main Street. Photo taken c.1895 by Wallace S. White. Kalamazoo Public Library photo P-291.

This stately home once stood at the northwest corner of West Main and Stuart streets in Kalamazoo. It was owned by Louis Phillippe McDuffee (1840-1912) and his wife, Harriet Elizabeth McDuffee (1847-1937), along with their two daughters, Alice Louise McDuffee (1874-1950) and Florence Maud (McDuffee) Nevin (1885-1963). Designed by Milwaukee architect E. Townsend Mix, the home was probably built about 1890 (it first appeared in the 1890 plat map and the 1891 city directory).

Born in Vermont in 1840, Louis P. McDuffee made his living as a wholesale distributor of earthenware and fine china as part of the Boston-based import firm of Jones, McDuffee and Stratton. Around Kalamazoo, the McDuffees were well-known in society circles and evidently enjoyed entertaining in their stately new West Main Street home. When daughter Alice graduated from Kalamazoo High School in 1892, the McDuffees held a reception for all of her fellow graduates. Her younger sister Florence entertained 25 of her own friends at the family home in August 1895 in celebration of her 10th birthday.

In 1907, Florence married John Nevin, a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. The couple settled in New York, although they traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Alice, a lifelong Kalamazoo resident, preferred education and activism over domestic life. She retained the family home with her mother after Louis’s death, while continuing to pursue her education. She earned a master of arts degree from Kalamazoo College, majoring in early English and Shakespearean Drama, and later became nationally known as a State Regent for the Daughters of the American Revolution.

“Her fascination with Shakespeare’s works and a deep interest in horticultural matters combined to produce perhaps the outstanding feature of the W. Main street home – a garden of 87 flowers and herbs and 37 trees and shrubs mentioned in Shakespeare’s dramas.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 31 August 1958

Deeply fascinated with the works of William Shakespeare, Alice visited Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1912 and brought back more than 100 trees, shrubs, and flowers, which she planted on her property. Alice meticulously cultivated her Shakespearean Garden, which ultimately featured more than 150 varieties of plants.

By the mid-1940s, the home was owned by William Slavin, who operated it as a rental property. Parsons Business College occupied the building from 1946 to 1954. By then the home had fallen into disrepair and was razed in 1958. The property has since become known as the McDuffee Gardens, part of the Stuart Avenue Inn bed & breakfast.

 

Written by Keith Howard, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, July 2023

Sources

Books

Kalamazoo: Lost & Found
Houghton, Lynn Smith, and Pamela Hall O’Connor
Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission, Kalamazoo, MI 2001
Call number: H 720.9774 H838, page 104


Articles

“In society’s realm”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 3 February 1905, page 3

“Society”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 17 April 1907, page 5

“A letter of tribute”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 19 March 1912, page 4

“Miss Alice McDuffee”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 2 March 1913, page 5

“Parsons school occupies large residence here”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 27 October 1946, page 3

“McDuffee home in last days”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 31 August 1958, page 2

“Searching for the McDuffees”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 27 March 1988, page A-13

“This garden is ode in blossoms to bard’s flowery genius”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 15 July 1996, page 121 (“City Life” edition, page 1)


Local History Room Files

History Room Photo File: P-291

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