Monday, September 13, 2010

A Little Bit of 922 Ira Ave. History

I had an afternoon this past weekend where I finally got over to the Kalamazoo Public Library to try and find out anything I could on the history of our home. Turns out, that unless you live in a historic neighborhood, it's a lot harder to find information and documents. But, thankfully they have city directories going back into the 1920s. We didn't have any idea how old our house really was, and the library doesn't keep any documents like deeds, so I had to just pick a year and start my search. I started at 1950 and found our house documents back until 1931.

So first you have to look up your address. Then you can find the people listed under that address. Then, you can look up the people in that same book, and it will list their family members, along with everyone's occupations. So I had to look in each book for each year, and this is the story I can come up with......

Arthur and Nina Blanke bought this home in 1931. He was a machinist for the Sutherland Paper Company. Kalamazoo arguably could have been nicknamed "The Paper City" since there were many paper mills that thrived for the first half of the twentieth century here.

Arthur's wife Nina was a stenographer (today they are usually called court reporters) for Allen Electric and Equipmant Company. They lived in the house until 1942 but I continue to follow them in my journey and you will find out why. In 1942, an industrial engineer named Jack Blanchette moved in and the Blanke's moved to Vicksburg. In 1947, the Blankes moved back in!! This is when Arthur was listed then as a stoneman, still working at the Sutherland Paper Company. Nina's job also changed to an office secretary at the same electric company. This time they had listed a son Jack as "student". Things changed in 1953, as Nina was listed alone. Turns out that Jack became a teacher and lived with his wife just one street over. However, I had to search to find Arthur.

In 1950, Arthur was listed under the Kalamazoo Gazette. So I had to go back to old records on Microform, where you have to put the reel of film on the machine and spin it to find the right page. Arthur had an obituary that stated he died suddenly at the age of 51. Nina was listed as the owner until 1957 when the house was listed under Carlton Sweetland. When I looked him up, turns out that Nina remarried to this Carlton character!! Carlton was listed as a commercial artist. Just one year later in 1958, he also owned Carlton Sweetland Studios, although I couldn't find any documents of this place of business. Once again, Nina moved out of the home with her new husband in 1960. The house then was listed under James McDonald who was a machinist at Brundage Co. This detail is important because in 1964, sure enough the house was listed back under Carlton and Nina! Nina was listed as an office secretary at Brundage Co. so you wonder if James and Nina had known each other and discussed the home. How is it that Nina managed to move back into this house for the 3rd time?

It wasn't until 1967 that I found the house listed under a William Tokarchick. When I found Nina, she was listed seperate from Carlton. Turns out Nina and Carlton got a divorce! I can't imagine what that was like back then since it wasn't as common, and sure enough it was listed in the paper. The house ended up being two apartments in 1970 which explains why when we moved in, there was a kitchen upstairs and downstairs. Nina's obituary wasn't listed until 1989, when they said she had MS and donated her body to U of M medical school. Way to go Nina, helping the medical students learn!

The afternoon I spent at the library was incredibly interesting and exciting. I wish I had more pictures or documents to share, but this story is enough for me. If only Nina would see this house today and how much we have changed it. I am sure if she was alive, she'd try to move back in for a 4th time.  Whomever moves into this house next, will certainly have bought what I consider, a diamond in the rough.


  1. holy smokes Abby! What an awesome history! Our house is about 16 years old and all I know is that parts of the house were painted some SUPER extreme streaky red, and that the couple that lived here before us lost the house after one of them was cheating on the other. That tidbit came from the neighbors.

  2. whoops, that was Megan S who was cyber stalking! :)

  3. Same here! Our house is about 16 years old and they had to get rid of it after a bitter divorce. The neighbors said the woman lived down the street with her first husband, moved into our house with her second husband, divorced him, and moved into a house around the block. She likes to keep it local. hahaha That's as interesting as this house gets. It's SO cool that you were able to find out all that stuff about Nina and her families! That really makes you wonder what her life was like and why she moved back to your house so many times!


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