Eastern Michigan's Historic Preservation Program awarded $30k to help preserve 130-year-old Michigan home

Historic Mann house, built by EMU alumna and family, becomes learning lab for graduate students

by Pamela Young, Published November 13, 2013

YPSILANTI – A 130-year-old Michigan home will continue to provide insights into the state’s past, thanks to Eastern Michigan University’s historic preservation program and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The DNR has awarded a $30,000 grant to Eastern Michigan’s Historic Preservation Program that will help efforts to preserve the historic Mann House in Concord, Mich., twelve miles west of Jackson.

The award will be used to maintain the historic home for two years as the residence serves as a hands-on laboratory for graduate students, called fellows, under the direction of Nancy Bryk, assistant professor in historic preservation at EMU, and Ted Ligibel, professor and program director.

The Mann House is a state historic site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has operated as a museum since 1970.

“The Mann House serves as a fine learning lab for our students,” said Bryk, an expert in late 19th and early 20th century material culture and interpretation of historic houses. “The program benefits the community at the same time as we prepare students to service the public in similar activities after they graduate.”

The Daniel Mann family built the 130-year-old house. All the Mann women were graduates of Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University) going back to the mid-1800s. (photo courtesy of Mann House website)

The grant will support six graduate students – three students per year - from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The students will keep the house open to the public, ensure security for the house and its artifacts, and complete a community relations project or activity, under the direction of Bryk.

Daniel Mann and his wife, Ellen, built the late Victorian home in 1883, so that their daughters, Jessie Ellen and Mary Ida, could attend school in Concord. Jessie Ellen lived in the house until she died in 1969, when it was deeded to the people of Michigan.

What makes the house even more significant is that all the Mann women were graduates of Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University) going back to the mid-1800s.  Eastern Michigan was established in 1849, and is the second oldest public university in Michigan.

The Department of Natural Resources is the project’s benefactor, but the money was made available through the vision and foresight of Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center in Lansing, who oversees the Mann House.

Clark worked with Eastern and the site’s curator, Maria Quinlan Leiby, to craft a fellowship that includes research, interpretation and community outreach. The Michigan Historical Center chooses its Mann House fellows solely from EMU’s historic preservation graduate students.

The two-story Mann House is representative of 1880s middle-class household architecture. The walls are covered in clapboard siding and a pyramid-like tower stands at one corner. The interior contains most of the original furnishings and household implements, with some pieces dating back to the 1840s. The ceilings are plaster, and a marbleized slate fireplace provides heat. A carriage house, with carriages and sleighs, stands behind the dwelling. The property also features restored flower and herb gardens.

This isn’t the first time the house has been used as a hands-on laboratory for Eastern students.

Historic preservation students participated in a Documenting Collections course held at the Mann House last summer. The students helped the Michigan Historical Museum staff check inventories and improve storage conditions for the archives, researched numerous objects in the house, and produced information for the Mann House webpage. The webpage provides insights into the past and helps visitors understand life in Michigan during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Founded in 1979, EMU’s historic preservation program is the largest graduate program in the country.  A hallmark of the program has been its continued commitment to providing preservation services to local communities.


Pamela Young

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