The annual Heritage Hill Tour of Homes is set to kick off in a couple of weeks and to whet your appetite WKTV will rebroadcast the award-winning “Grand Homes of Heritage Hill.”
“Grand Homes of Heritage Hill” will air Wednesday, May 18, at noon featuring the 2007 Telly Award winning episode “The Voigt House.” Friday, May 20, at 11:30 a.m., all three episodes will air, “The Voigt House,” “The Meyer May House,” and “Connors House.” Hegewald also received a Festival of the Arts film award in the documentary category in 2007 for his work on the series.
“The homes of Heritage Hill have fascinated me all of my life – from their varied architectural styles to their unabashed grandeur,” said Thomas Hegewald in an 2014 WKTV article about the series. Hegewald is the producer, videographer, and writer behind the series. “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.”
In 2009, the Grand Rapids Public Museum discontinued the public hours for the Voigt House, making Hegewald’s video the about the only way to peek inside the 19th century home. Built in 1895-96 for the prominent merchant and businessman Carl Voigt, the Voigt family lived in the house continually for nearly 76 years until Voigt’s youngest son, Ralph, died in 1971. In 1974, the Kent County Council for Historic Preservation purchased the home and donated the structure to the City of Grand Rapids. One of the most noted features of the facility is that since it was a one-owner house, the first floor was redecorated in 1907 and never update again with the original silk wall coverings and carpeting remaining.
Hegewald said he selected the Voigt House and the Meyer May House because they both showcased how the original owners had once lived. “The Voigt house featured not only the original furnishings, but the décor as well,” he said. “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 Meyer May House originally was built for a Grand Rapids clothier and purchased and restored in 1987 by Steelcase. The home was opened to the public in 1987 and provides the opportunity to se a Prairie house exactly as Frank Lloyd Wright intended. Along with being part of this year’s Heritage Hill Home Tour, the Meyer May House is open to the public Sundays from 1 – 4 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursday from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
The third home in the series is the Connors House, which is privately owned. While the home was owned by one family, it needed to be brought up to code for 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,” Hegewald said.
“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,” he said. “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.”
A greater appreciation of these historic homes and the district they are in is one of the reasons Heritage Hill started its annual Tour of Homes 47 years ago. This year’s tour, which is Saturday, May 21, from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 22, from noon – 6 p.m., features six restored private houses, three historic buildings and two recent additions that demonstrate how new construction can fit into the fabric of a historic district. The tour includes the 1886 Queen Anne-style home built for the Davis family of Stow & Davis Furniture Co.; a 1916 Georgian Manor, a 1906 American foursquare and a 1912 Tudor Revival.
Advance tickets for the tour are $15 and available at the Heritage Hill Association Office, 126 College SE or at www.heritagehillweb.org. Tickets the weekend of the tour are $20. All proceeds go to the Heritage Hill Association and the organization’s historic preservation efforts. A free shuttle bus for the tour is provided between featured properties. For more information on the tour, call 616-459-8950.