Robert Morris Montgomery

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The home at 620 Townsend Street appeared in the architectural survey, Memorandum “76, which was one of the earliest attempts to make Lansing residents and elected officials aware of the exceptional buildings that still existed in Lansing in 1976. The survey documented 110 architecturally significant structures the committee felt that reflected the unique history of Lansing. Of the 110 structures/areas described in the work, more then 30% have been torn down in the past forty years a shocking number.[1]

The earliest photograph of the Montgomery residence at 620 [612] Townsend. Not the small oriel window on the second floor on the southside of the home, it is to the left in the above image. The addition below it was added after 1913.

The State Republicanin September of 1893 stated that a new residence was being built for Judge Robert M. Montgomery at 620 [612] Townsend Street. (SR9/12/1893) There was no other information provided in the article and no architect or builder was noted.[2]The extensive front porch can be observed, it has the square over rectangle pattern as well as the recessed entrance porch. In all likelihood the front porch at one point had a covering.

An expanded view of the windows on the home.

Observe the two-story oriel window, see how the window forms a parapet for the third story window. Speaking of windows observe the glass block windows on the second floor of the oriel windows capped by the diamond pattern on the third-floor windows. There is also an ornate pattern on the parapet between the second and third floor windows, that mimics the square pattern found on the porch.  Alongside of the oriel window is an oval window which seems to have a pattern that cannot be made out, or its simply a curtain covering the window.

 

In the above 1906 Sanborn image you can see that 620 [612] Townsend has an extensive porch that wrapped around near the entrance, compare the porch to the first photograph of the home.

The Montgomery home was a captivating structure that had several architectural features. The one that catches the eye is the heighten gambrel dormer, I have only seen this style dormer in only one other house in Lansing at 301 N. Walnut, the M. J. Buck house which had an open dormer, as opposed to a closed dormer that was present at the Montgomery home. One thing that is odd is the stacking of the windows on the facade, four over five (or seven depending how you count) over four, an odd pattern that results in an unbalanced front of the home.

Ok this is a really bad image of 620 Townsend, the first question which comes to mind is that we now live in the 21stCentury and we have yet to bury powerlines? Undoubtedly the photograph of the home was taken early in the day, which resulted in the massive amount of sunlight along the facade of the home.

In the above image the sunroom addition to the south of the home can be observed as well as the wing added to the rear of the residence. Both were added sometime after 1913 and before 1926 based upon data from the Sanborn Maps. Note the palladium window on the third-floor gable end. One other interesting aspect of the home are the small windows at the peak ok of each gable, these were not present in the first image of the house. Were these windows or vents? The home was sold to Edgar M Thorpe in 1910-1911 and ten years later to Alexander Brownell Cullender Hardy, ABC Hardy as the home was so often referred to in newspaper and historical accounts. The home was purchased by Michigan Conference of Seventh Day Adventists in 1940. (LSJ6/2/1940) Just when the house at 620 Townsend was torn down is yet to be determined. But I can tell you this, the site is now the location of, wait you know what I am going to say don’t you, a parking lot! Almost wants to make you cheer or cry. Well at least we won the Golden Crater Award.

Robert M. Montgomery 1849-1920

Robert Morris Montgomery was born in Eaton Rapids Township on May 12, 1849 to Johnson and Elvira (née Dudley) Montgomery. Robert grew up on the family farm attending the local schools. At the age of 15 Robert enlisted in the Michigan Seventh Cavalry Regiment, Company I on August 22, 1864, he was discharged three months later due to illness. After leaving the army, Robert taught school in the winter months and farmed during the summers, it was at this time that he decided to become a lawyer. He secured a position to study law under Frederick J. Russell in Hart, Michigan, and on July 25, 1870 Robert was admitted to the bar in Grand Haven, Michigan. Soon after passing the bar, Robert opened a law office in Pentwater, Michigan and in 1872 was elected Prosecuting Attorney for Oceana County, he was reelected in 1874. Three years later, he was appointed Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District and moved to Grand Rapids. Robert married Miss Theodosia C. Wadsworth on December 23, 1873, in Pentwater, Michigan. The couple had two children; Morris W. and Stanley B. Montgomery. In 1881, Robert was elected as a judge to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court and was reelected in 1887. Shortly after his reelection, he resigned his position and established a law practice with McGeorge Bundy. He was nominated by the Republican Party to run for the Michigan Supreme Court, he was elected and was seated on January 1, 1892. In 1909 Robert became a candidate for Governor but lost the Republican nomination to Chase Osborn. President Taft appointed Robert to be the Chief Justice of the United States Court of Customs Appeals a position he held until his death on June 27, 1920. For more information on Robert’s life see Men of Progress 117 and the LSJ 6/28/1920.

[1]At a later date the buildings in Memorandum “76 will be examined. The 30% figure may grow, there needs to be a thorough review of the document and the buildings cited in the book.

[2]The original address of the home was 612 Townsend the address changed in 1905-1906 to 620 Townsend when Lansing renumbered street addresses for the last time.

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