HOMES OF DISTINCTION: Liberty Street residents marvel at the possibility of stories in their home
ALPENA — Dating back to around 1932, two to four horses tugged with all their might to bring a one-and-a-half-story home through the powerlines of Washington Avenue and West Lincoln Street to the doorsteps of Liberty Street.
The home was originally located where Bingham Academy now resides. The journey through Alpena’s neighborhoods happened because the school needed property to call home, as well.
According to Alpena County Library’s special collection of historical records, the original homeowner reported in 1939 was Henry D. McDonald and his wife, Selma McDonald. Henry ran his own automotive dealership called Levitt Lloyd R.
The records show that, in 1996, a couple, Robert and Barbara Rigg, lived in the home, where Robert worked as a sales representative for Reynolds Communications, according to Don La Barre, special collections librarian at the library.
Additionally, Robert had been running a radio station on the second floor of the home.
According to current residents Dale and D’Anne Adrian, Robert was in a rock band in the late 1960s and featured mainly rock music on his radio station.
“We get stuff all the time that’s addressed to 312-and-a-half, which must have been the radio station address,” D’Anne said.
About 91 years after the horses had made their way on Liberty Street to drop off the home, Dale, D’Anne, their 15 year-old son, and a miniature golden mountain doodle named Maverick have called it their home since December 2021.
Asked what made them decide to move to the home, Dale and D’Anne both agreed they had wanted an older home which was within walking distance of downtown.
“We always came and walked in town by all the old houses,” Dale said.
However, what was important to Dale was a long driveaway to fit their recreational vehicle. Luckily for the couple, their realtor found their current gem, which has the original rose-colored, diamond-shaped driveway from when Henry McDonald installed it in the early 1930s.
Being in an older home can be a gateway to new hobbies. Dale and D’Anne have been exploring numerous antique shops around Michigan to decorate their home, incorporating their flare into the nearly-century-old home’s own style.
To match the original wooden picture-frame-styled floor, the Adrians purchased an antique wooden trunk. They had to file a portion of the bottom of the trunk to refrain it from tipping on the unlevel floors that softly creak under your feet.
“Yes, they have their quirks,” Dale said of old homes. “It drives (our son) crazy that the floors aren’t leveled across the living room. You just kind of notice. But, for some weird reason, that’s what I really like.”
Dale explained the couple’s initial concerns when they moved in and asked the contractor if the floors were in stable condition. The contractor said it was just the way houses were built in the past, “because they didn’t have any precise tools,” Dale said.
“He goes, ‘Most of your rooms will not be square,'” Dale added. “‘Like the corners, they’ll be a little off, because they either had something they thought was square that they always use … It could have been a little off.'”
Traveling down to the stone basement on a steep, white-painted staircase, hand-hewn wooden beams line the ceiling. According to Reclaimed DesignWorks, hand-hewn beams were logs that were prepped by hand with either an adze or broad axe before sawmills came into play.
“We just wanted something with character,” D’Anne said.
Not only is the couple bringing out the beauty of what the inside beholds, but outside, as well. On the front porch, where the Adrians enjoy people-watching and taking in the fresh air, flowers and bushes of all sorts add a splash of color to the white-painted home.
On the side of the house, although it is sealed up, a coal chute remains.
“My mom is deceased but was born in 1928 (and) used to talk about shoveling coal into the furnace,” Dale said. “So that’s why the coal chute is still there. Most people have taken them out. I think it’s kind of cool that it’s still there.”
D’Anne referred to her personal experience living in the home as peaceful and comforting. Dale talked about some of the thoughts that have bubbled into his mind while relaxing in the aged home.
“I’m watching (this) show on all these guys or people or guys are getting killed,” Dale said. “And I sit there and I go, well, this house pretty much looked exactly the same as when this happened — when World War II happened.
“Did anybody from this house get drafted into the service? Did anybody die? Did an Army representative have to knock on the front door and tell some mothers that her kid got … It’s just like, this house has been here for so long.
“How many girls walked down that stairway going to prom? I mean, how many pictures are in somebody’s picture album of their daughter or their great aunt standing on that stairway in her prom dress? Could be none, could be 50 years’ worth. You don’t know. That’s the sad part.”
The home on Liberty Street has undergone more than 90 years of history, including world wars, a pandemic, and the stories that are left uncovered.
Originally, Liberty Street was named Bismarck, after the German chancellor. However, around World War I, the city renamed the street Liberty because of conflicts with Germany, La Barre, the librarian, said.
La Barre said the U.S. had remained neutral in the war until they were forced to get involved.
According to Delaware Historical and Cultural Affairs, then-President Woodrow Wilson had tried to keep America out of the war but, when a German U-boat sank a British cruise liner on May 7, 1915, killing 1,198 people, including 128 Americans, it was impossible not to intervene.
After Wilson issued warnings stating the incident was a violation of international law, Germany paused any further attacks until January 1917, when they sank seven U.S. ships.
Soon enough, in April, the U.S. had declared war on Germany.
Therefore, the name changed to Liberty Street to diminish German roots within Alpena, La Barre said.