The Henry A. Chapin House, photo c. 1972
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Chapin, Henry A., House
508 East Main Street (US-31), NE corner of 5th Street, Niles - Berrien County
Other Names Niles City Hall / Fort St. Joseph Museum
Property Type brick house
Historic Use DOMESTIC
Current Use GOVERNMENT
Style Late Victorian
Queen Anne
Architect/Builder Clay and Wheelock
Significant Person Henry A. Chapin
Narrative Description The red brick, two-story-plus-attic, Queen Anne style, Henry A. Chapin House stands on a four-foot thick foundation of Bedford blue stone finished with a granite water table coping. The structure consists of a squarish main section, capped by a lofty hip roof, and a lower, hip-roofed, rear wing, but this basic form is all but invisible beneath a profusion of projecting and recessed porches, semi-hexagonal bay window units, a turreted round corner tower, and four gables poking through the roof planes. Window sills, lintels, and belt courses in both stories are of granite. Although the original slate roof has been replaced with asphalt shingles, the metal crestings remain. Exterior detailing includes a dentil-band cornice, panels of herringbone, checkerwork, and lozenge-pattern brickwork, and lathe-turned posts and beams in the front porch and window trim. Gables are treated with sunburst-pattern inserts and paneled and rosette-decorated vergeboards. A two-story, red brick carriage house with an irregular, steep-sided roof broken by numerous, bargeboard-trimmed gables is also on the property.
Statement of Significance The Henry A. Chapin House is a landmark in the history of the Queen Anne style and the home of one of Niles' most prominent businessmen in the late nineteenth century. The residence was constructed for Henry A. Chapin based on designs by Wheelock and Clay of Chicago between 1882 and 1884. It is, thus far, the only documented Michigan example of the firm's work. Henry Chapin owned land in the Upper Peninsula on which the lucrative Chapin Mine was located. With the royalties from the mine property, Chapin became an investor in local real estate and industry. The Henry A. Chapin House currently houses the Niles City Hall while the carriage house is home to the Fort St. Joseph Museum.
Marker Name The Chapin House / Henry Austin Chapin
Marker Text THE CHAPIN HOUSE This Queen Anne-style house, completed in 1884, was the Henry A. Chapin family home until 1902. In 1932, when the city of Niles bought the property at auction for $300, the Chapin grandchildren stipulated that it be used only for civic purposes. Now serving as the Niles City Hall, the house is built of local brick and terra cotta tile. The interior is ornamented with leaded glass windows and transoms, handcarved woodwork, and stenciled ceilings. In 1939 the Works Progress Administration joined the carriage house to another outbuilding, thus creating the Fort St. Joseph Museum structure. The museum holds over 10,000 items, including Fort St. Joseph and Potawatomi Indian artifacts, local memorabilia, and a collection of original drawings by Chief Sitting Bull. HENRY AUSTIN CHAPIN Henry A. Chapin (1813-1898) spent most of his early life in Ohio. He married Ruby N. Nooney in 1836 and settled in Edwardsburg, Michigan. In 1846, Chapin and S. S. Griffin opened the first general store in Niles. With his son Charles, Henry A. later established an insurance and loan agency. Their firm had interests in nearby paper mills and electric companies and real estate in Alabama, Illinois and Michigan. The bulk of the family capital came from the discovery of iron ore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Chapin Mine, near Iron Mountain, began operations in 1879. "Mr. H. A.," as he was known, received up to $300,000 yearly in royalties from the mine. Owing to the Great Depression, the Chapin Mine closed in 1934, after fifty-five years of continuous production.
Period of Significance 1866-1900
Significant Date(s) 1881-2
Registry Type(s) 10/20/1978 Marker erected
07/30/1981 National Register listed
11/03/1976 State Register listed
Site ID# P22612