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Living history

Hewitt Onion Tower a peek into Victorian architecture

The Hewitt Onion Tower is seen from the street. The home was built in 1898 by D. Fred Charlton for Louis Vierling. (Photo courtest of Hewitt Onion Tower)

MARQUETTE — Hints of a home’s age lie in its wood trim, its staircase and banisters, its rooms wrapped in wallpaper and other architectural intricacies.

Unique structures and century-old homes can be found throughout the streets of Marquette, signs of the city’s still-standing history.

A historic Victorian home along Hewitt Street in Marquette — long known for its dome-shaped tower — recently became an Airbnb rental called the Hewitt Onion Tower by hostess Wendy Hill Manson, who is also a Marquette Senior High School teacher.

Manson purchased the triplex home last fall after she noticed, from her own home next door, that the house was on the market.

“It’s been on the market for almost three years now and I was starting to see the gardens go and things like that and I was like: ‘Oh, I don’t want it to become like some sort of college place. I want it to stay up,'” she said.

Owner of the Hewitt Onion Tower Wendy Hill Manson shows off the onion tower room in the historic Victorian home and short term rental property in Marquette. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

Already owners of an Airbnb space, Manson and her husband David, co-owner of Blackrocks Brewery, purchased the home to rent to tourists and locals alike. They are only the third family to ever own the home.

According to the Airbnb listing, the home was built by D. Fred Charlton for Louis Vierling in 1898.

For many years, the home was rented out by Vierling. It was eventually purchased by its second owners, the Johnson family.

The 3,400-square-foot home has five bedrooms and three full bathrooms. There are two apartments separate from the main of the house, which have separate entrances.

The main house sleeps 11 and the price per night ranges from $200 to $500 depending on the number of guests and what’s happening in town. Guests can rent the back apartment in addition to the main house and open up the door to accommodate more guests.

A dining room in the Hewitt Onion Tower is pictured complete with a detailed ceiling and stained glass windows. (Photo courtesy of Hewitt Onion Tower)

While the house has been renovated with more modern features, it still holds some of its historic charm, with features such as stained glass and curved windows, fireplaces, pocket doors, detailed woodworking which can be seen in the floors baseboards and more, grand decorative ceilings, decades old wallpaper designs, curved walls, a bathroom vanity made of the card catalog from the Peter White Public Library and, of course, the onion tower room.

“It’s like you’re in some sort of art museum,” Manson said.

Manson has made a few renovations of her own, such as redoing the basement and putting in new flooring in some areas. She also decorated some of the rooms according to their already standing decor such as a ’40s-themed room and a ’70s room, complete with striped wallpaper.

“Maybe eventually we’ll redecorate. But, I thought you know what, this is like walking through time so why not just enjoy what was here for people to see it, a little museum,” Manson said.

Manson herself is a fan of more contemporary design, but understands that many enjoy the charm of old buildings. Rather than keeping as much of the home’s historical touches as possible, her focus was to reuse the space.

The living room of the home is seen with its blend of historic architecture such as the curved walls and more modern decor. Walking through the home is like a walk through time, homeowner Wendy Hill Manson said. (Photo courtesy of Hewitt Onion Tower)

“I’ve always loved older homes. I love using buildings instead of knocking them down and building new buildings. I like reusing spaces and so does my husband, that’s kind of why they redid the little yellow house over there rather than putting something brand new,” Manson said. “Repurposing them, having people be in the space instead of them being empty and having people enjoy the beauty of an older home, that’s fun for me.”

The house has become more than just a rental for those visiting from out of town, as it’s been booked for corporate parties, weddings, birthday parties and even cooking classes for the public.

“It’s a nice gathering space. It’s a big enough space where instead of having a hotel room and having a hall, it’s sort of more comfortable to wake up in the morning and have coffee with all of your friends that have gathered in the area,” Manson said.

Guests of the onion tower have enjoyed their stay in the home and Manson has come to love being an Airbnb hostess, she said.

“People do have their complaints and they have their issues but for the most part it’s nice to be an ambassador of the town and to have people come here and enjoy it and let them know the fun things to do,” Manson said. “One of the things that we like to say to our Airbnb guests is: ‘Help them live like a local’ rather than just being a tourist in a hotel on the highway or something like that, to feel like you can walk to all the restaurants and shops and be right in the heart of the town.”

Photos of the home can be found by visiting the Hewitt Onion Tower Manor listing on Airbnb. To take a tour of the home and stay up to date on events at the tower and renovations, visit Hewitt Onion Tower on Facebook.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is tcarey@miningjournal.net.