Dr. Nathan M. Thomas House

Also known as: Underground Railway House
613 E. Cass St., Schoolcraft, Michigan

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Overview.

Photo taken by Nathan Holth in August 2009

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Information About This Historic Site 

From Michigan Historic Sites Online

Other Names Underground Railway Station
Property Type frame house
Historic Use DOMESTIC
Current Use DOMESTIC
Style Greek Revival
Significant Person Pamela S. Brown Nathan M. Thomas

Narrative Description
The Dr. Nathan M. Thomas House is a one-story, rectangular building with an end-gable, left-hand part-- the original house, built in 1835-- and a hip-roof, right-hand section added in 1840. A hip-roof, left-hand section, two bays wide in front like the east or right-hand wing-- and also added in 1840-- has been removed. The house is a vernacular, Federal/Greek Revival structure exhibiting thin classical cornices with returns and double-hung windows with twelve-pane sash. Although the original clapboard siding, cornices, and some of the window trim survive, the simple, Federal-style, pilaster-and-entablature entrance and several windows have been removed. The walls are covered in horizontal, wide exposure aluminum siding and the front gable is clad in vertical aluminum siding. Local citizens organized the Schoolcraft Historical Society to acquire and restore the house; the society purchased the property in May, 1975. The historical society has adopted as its policy the restoration of the house to its appearance during the 1840s and 1850s.

Statement of Significance The Dr. Nathan M. Thomas House is significant as the early Schoolcraft home of Dr. Thomas, the first physician in Kalamazoo County and a leader in the anti-slavery cause, and for its well documented role as a station on the Underground Railroad. Dr. Thomas (1803-1887) arrived in Prairie Ronde Towhship in about 1830 and built the original, end-gable section of his house, consisting of a doctor's office in front and his "dwelling room" in back in 1835. A Quaker, Dr. Thomas became well known for his abolitionist sentiments. In 1839, Thomas joined others in founding a Michigan newspaper dedicated to the anti-slavery cause. With his marriage to Pamela S. Brown (1816-1909) in March, 1840, Thomas had his house moved back from the street line and enlarged with wings on either side of the old structure; the work was completed and the Thomases moved in on July 22, 1840. After the enlargement of their house, the Thomases helped slaves in small groups on their way to Canada. In her memoirs, Mrs. Thomas quotes an estimate that she and her husband gave aid to between 1,000 and 1,500 fugitive slaves between 1840 and 1860. Nathan Thomas was also instrumental in the founding of the Republican Party in Michigan. The house remained the residence of the Thomases until 1867 or 1868 when it was moved to its present site to make way for a new home on the old site.

Period of Significance 1826-1865
Significant Date(s) 1835 1840 1888
Registry Type(s) 04/22/1982 National Register listed
10/29/1971 State Register listed
Site ID# P23705

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on April 22, 1982
Reference number
82002843
NR name
Thomas, Dr. Nathan M., House
Architectural styles
Mid 19th Century Revival: Exotic Revival; Federal
Areas of significance
Exploration/Settlement; Politics/Government; Social History
Level of significance
State
Evaluation criteria
B - Person
Property type
Building
Historic functions
Medical business/office; Single dwelling
Current function
Single dwelling
Periods of significance
1875-1899; 1825-1849
Significant years
1835; 1840; 1888

Update Log 

  • July 11, 2010: Essay added by Nathan Holth
  • July 2, 2010: New photos from Nathan Holth

Sources