Tour the Buckley House and other historic buildings during Old Christmas Weekend

The Buckley House, located at 450 Cedar Street, will be open for tours during Old Christmas Weekend.

The Buckley House, located at 450 Cedar Street, will be open for tours during Old Christmas Weekend.

It is interesting that one of the first of the lumbermen’s mansions in Manistee is one of the few to survive. This is the home known today as the Buckley House at 450 Cedar Street.

This home was not built by Edward Buckley, but was originally constructed by James H. Shrigley, one of Manistee’s earliest self-made men.

Shrigley came to Manistee in 1856 as a clerk in a company store. Following extended service in the Civil War, he built a small sawmill on the east side of Manistee Lake in partnership with John Canfield. After a decade of success, Shrigley built a two­-story Victorian Gothic home at 450 Cedar Street in 1874.

Two years later, he hired a professional landscaper to lay out and plant the extensive grounds around his home. An 1879 newspaper article spoke of the home as “a comfortable and elegant residence with all the modern conveniences”.

Following the beautiful summer wedding of Shrigley’s daughter in 1892, the home was sold to Edward Buckley, another Manistee lumberman who was enjoying recent prosperity. Buckley was married in March of 1894 to Joanie Sloan of Thomasville, Georgia, and the home was remodeled extensively before they occupied it. It was then virtually unrecognizable as the former Shrigley residence.

The extensive work on the home, in 1894, involved adding a third story (a ballroom) and a wing with the new construction accomplished by local craftsman at a cost of between $50,000 and $60,000. It has been suggested that Buckley was trying to create a home reminiscent of the gracious homes of Georgia to make his beautiful southern bride feel more at home in the alien northern climate.

Sculptured plaster ceilings, frescoed and scenic­papered walls, marble and handsomely carved wood mantels, Venetian and Tiffany glass chandeliers, parquet floors, fine wood paneling, marble and tile baths and sumptuous furnishings, all combined to make the Buckley Home one of Manistee’s most well-appointed and elegant homes at the turn of the century.

Unfortunately, the Buckley marriage did not last, nor did another marriage which followed and he spent many years living alone in the beautiful mansion. On occasion, Virginia Buckley, born in 1895 and an only child, lived with her father and for a brief time in the twenties she brought gaiety and excitement to the

home once again. Following Edward Buckley’s death in 1927, his daughter maintained the residence but as time passed, it became more of a summer home than anything else. By the time Virginia Buckley Cooke died in 1958, the elegant home had fallen into disrepair.

A short time later, the home was purchased by the John H. Sweetnams, who commenced restoration work. This work was continued by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Sorenson who completed the restoration and raised a family of six children in the home. This was probably the first time the large home was fully occupied by a happy, busy family.

In 2013, John and Sara Helge purchased the Buckley Home. On Saturday, Dec. 6 and Sunday, Dec. 7 the Helges will open their home, located at 450 Cedar Street, for tours during Old Christmas Weekend. Admission for adults is $10 while admission for children under 12 is $5. As a part of the tour,there will be cookies, candy, and punch served in the ballroom. Partial proceeds will benefit the Manistee County Historical Museum.

For those interested in touring another one of Manistee’s grand homes during Old Christmas Weekend, there will be guided tours of the Babcock House Museum, located at 420 Third Street, on Saturday, Dec. 6. The tour includes a showing of Lumberman Simeon A. Babcock’s 1882 mansion with period furnishings, working gaslights, and the owner’s collections of phonographs and coin­operated pianos. The house is also listed in the State Register of Historic Sites and National Register of Historic Places. Admission is $5 for the afternoon showings at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. and $10 for the tours conducted by gaslight at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

In addition there will be guided tours of the Ramsdell Theatre from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6 as well as an historic tour of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, located 313 Fourth Street from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Admission for both of these tours is free.

Leave a Reply