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Townsend and Celia Gibson North House

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1865; 1880 remodeling and addition. 325 N. Main St.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

Commanding a high bluff on the Cass River, the Townsend North House overlooks Vassar. The Queen Anne house took its present appearance in 1880 as the reworking and addition to an earlier house built by the Norths in 1865. A massive, square, pyramid-roofed tower rises from the angle of the building's L-shaped plan and dominates the asymmetrically gabled mass. Unlike many Queen Anne houses, the North house has extensive unadorned clapboarded wall surfaces, although the gables do have simple vertical boards. Eastlake decoration includes turned spindlework in the porch friezes and turned trusses in the gables. Behind the beautiful etched-glass front door is a modern nineteenth-century home; it was the first in town with central heating and a hot and cold water system. It is finished with cherry, walnut, and oak. Born in Ulster, New York, Townsend North (1814–1889) came to Washtenaw County in 1836 and to Vassar in the late 1840s. North was granted three thousand acres of land for participating in building the first bridge over the Cass River at Bridgeport. He founded the town of Vassar and established its first sawmill in 1849, as well as a bank and a woolen mill. North also served as state senator from 1874 to 1875. On the centennial of the founding of Vassar, the Tuscola County Pioneer Times for July 29, 1949, articulated the community's affection for the North house. “Standing proud and tall on a bluff it is reminiscent of the majestic forest which was felled to bring commerce and civilization to a community.”

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Townsend and Celia Gibson North House", [Vassar, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 359-360.

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