The City that Built Chicago : The Hackley and Hume Houses in Muskegon, MI

On Saturday 7th September as we drove into Muskegon, a city of 38,000 in the State of Michigan more or less opposite Milwaukee on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, and drew to a stop outside the Hackley and Hume Houses I thought I had arrived in pre-revolutionary Russia!

The Hackley House

The Hackley House

Hume House

The Hume House

Look at the pictures and you will see what I mean. But I could get no satisfactory answer from the tour guide as to why the houses were built in this particular style. But otherwise we had a most interesting tour of both houses and were able to compare and contrast the house styles and the lives of their former inhabitants.

Our guide referred to Muskegon as the city that built Chicago due to its huge influence and reliance on the lumber (timber) trade.  Needless to say that was what Charles Hackley and Thomas Hume were involved in.

Hunts' Guide

Victorian love of ornament may have reached a new height in the 1888 home of Muskegon’s great benefactor and richest lumber baron, Charles Hackley. Together with the house of his partner next door and the elaborate, prominent carriage house they share, it forms a remarkable urban ensemble, almost Oriental (we thought it Russian) in its turretted silhouette and rich colors and textures. Houses of this size and splendor were usually made of brick or stone, but Hackley and Thomas Hume, his friend and business partner since 1875, built with the material that made their fortunes. It is said to have taken years for German woodcarvers to finish the Hackley House’s fanciful, fascinating carvings of birds, dragons, bats and a portrait of Hackley himself.”

Taken from Hunt’s Guide to West Michigan (above).

Carriage House

The Prominent Carriage House

Charles Hackley

Charles H. Hackley carved in wood

Bat carving

Bat Carving

Hackley Fireplace

The Hackley Carved Fireplace

Ornate Room

Ornate walls, ceiling and door in the Hackley House

Hackley Stairs

Staircase at The Hackley House

Wedding preparations

The Hume House was being Prepared to Show a Wedding Party

Charles Hackley was a generous benefactor to the city of Muskegon and many buildings and sites still survive today as evidence of this. We visited the park, the library and the art museum, all very near the houses, but there’s also a hospital, a school and other philanthropic institutions.

Hackley Library

The Hackley Library

Library poster

Welcome to The Hackley Library – the Hackley Park is behind

Hackley Library 1

Hackley Library 2

Inside The Hackley Library Today

Glass Floor

The first floor mezzanine has a glass floor to allow as much natural light into the building as possible.

Art Museum

The Muskegon Museum of Art


8 comments on “The City that Built Chicago : The Hackley and Hume Houses in Muskegon, MI

  1. Renata says:

    Frequently glass floors were also used because they were fireproof. The library that I work in at UofT also has glass floors in it 1910 stacks wing.

  2. Julie Stivers says:

    I see my feet.

  3. sherry says:

    are those place cards for the wedding? They look fascinating.

  4. Nilly says:

    Fascinating houses and wood carvings! I’m reminded of our visit to St Martin’s church at Glandford, another tour de force in wood. I’ll bet you’ve seen it!

    • Thank you, Nilly. Well, I’m sure I must have been in Glandford Church but it’s a long time since. As I was in the village this summer I can’t think why we didn’t go inside.

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