WKTV Community Media Center offers everyone an opportunity to create videos, tell stories, and explore a topic that interests them. The following was written by volunteer producer, editor, videographer, and writer Thomas Hegewald. He has always been interested in the homes of Heritage Hill in Downtown Grand Rapids and shares his insights:
The homes of Heritage Hill have fascinated me all of my life – from their varied architectural styles to their unabashed grandeur. On every occasion that I have driven through this area, I have gawked at the homes and picked my favorites. I had been volunteering at WKTV for a few months when Tom Norton, the Station Manager, suggested that I produce a series on these homes. It seemed like an ideal match.
For the first two homes I selected the ones that were opened to the public – the Voigt House and the Meyer May House. Both of these homes showcased how the original owners had once lived. The Voigt house featured not only the original furnishings, but the décor as well. The only restoration came in replacing an item, and only when completely necessary. Since there had been an addition to the Meyer May house, followed years later by it being broken up into apartments, a complete restoration had to take place to bring it back to its original state.
The third home in my series (the Connors House) was privately owned. I went through it during the annual tour of Heritage Hill homes. One of the reasons the owners had purchased this house was because it had remained a single-family dwelling and had been owned by one family for nearly its entire life. But, the home needed to be brought up to code with electrical and plumbing. With extensive renovations underway, much thought was also put into the décor of the home to reflect its past, but with a contemporary feel as well.
Producing the series, Grand Homes of Heritage Hill, was a huge undertaking. I did most of the work myself, from coordinating and taping interviews to scheduling and shooting each room in each house. I even spent a couple of Saturday afternoons lugging a bulky tripod in one hand and a heavy camera in the other, walking up and down streets in Heritage Hill shooting a variety of exteriors which I used in the opening sequence for the show.
Once I had the footage shot for one house, I pored over it, developing a storyline based on the interviews. I then crafted the finished piece together during the editing process. Creating a cohesive and compelling story about each home was a long process. On average, each show took nine months from start to completion. It took so long because I was doing it all in my spare time.
The deadline for each new show was annual tour of Heritage Hill. Each time I completed a new show, WKTV would air it, along with the others in the weeks leading up to the tour.
In the end, I came away with an appreciation for this area in our city – from the original owners who built the homes to those who fought to save them from destruction during the days of urban renewal. I also applaud the efforts of the homeowners today who strive to keep up with the amount of work it must take to keep these homes in good repair. And, I still wonder about the many intriguing stories that are contained in each of these grand homes.