Surveyors in the early 1800s enlarged the St. Joseph Indian trail, originally only about a foot wide, to create the Saint Joseph Road. It soon became main east-west artery into the Michigan Territory for early settlers. People began referring to the road as the “Territorial Road” and the name stuck.
Territorial Road was once divided by a small stream almost in the middle of the large downtown block in Marshall, separating the village into what was known as the Upper Village (west side) and the Lower Village (east side). The stream was soon diverted and the main road in town came to be called State Street. In 1923, the State of Michigan requested that all towns on the main route between Detroit and Chicago change the name of their main street to Michigan Avenue, causing State Street to be renamed.
The first hotel in Marshall was built in 1832, the Empire House. It was used as a recruiting station for the Mexican War and burned down in 1855. Other hotels to find a home in Marshall include the Exchange Hotel (northwest corner of High Street and E. Michigan Avenue, where a Shell gas station now stands), the Herndon Hotel and the Royal Hotel to name a few.
National House Inn
In 1835, Colonel Andrew Mann built the National House Inn with wood from the Ketchum mill and bricks that were molded and fired on site. It is the oldest operating inn in the State of Michigan and the oldest brick building in Calhoun County. Mann’s Hotel, as it was known then, formally opened on New Year’s Eve in 1836 with the first ball to be held in Marshall.
It was renamed the National House Inn in 1837 when it was leased by Volney Allcott. It served as a circuit court, a county meeting place, and was a favorite stop of P.T. Barnum when his circus would come to town and set up on land just west of the inn. It also served as the State Headquarters for the Democratic party which was the party of choice for the Lower Village. This fact becomes very interesting when you read about the Marshall House, below.
The Marshall House was built in 1838 for an astonishing $30,000 budget, which translates to around $850,000 in 2021. It was known as the most elaborate and costly hotel in the state of Michigan at that time, and perhaps even the entire Northwest Territory. It served as the State Headquarters for the Whig party, the main rival of the Democratic party at that time and also the rallying point for Upper Village citizens.
The Marshall House was located on the southwest corner of Exchange Street and E. Michigan Avenue. The huge building covered the entire block, with a wing extending to Green Street. It is believed that Richard Upjohn was the architect, Upjohn designed Trinity Church in New York City. The facade featured fluted columns and balconies and must have been a sight to behold for stagecoach travelers. The hotel closed in 1859.
After that, the Perrin Collegiate Institute operated out of the building from 1864-1869 when it was converted into a private residence and apartments. A fire in 1913 forced a majority of the structure to be removed. It became a funeral home in 1943 which operated until 1990. At one time Harold Brooks purchased the building to save it from destruction. Quilts at the Marshall House operates out of the building today.
The building at 201 West Michigan has worn many hats. In 1836 it was a shoe store, in 1840 a livery stable, in 1841 it housed a newspaper, and in 1844 we know that a Mechanics Hall meeting space was on the second floor. Next, the building became a store and then a Baptist church and finally, in 1850 the second floor was converted into a hotel. The main floor became an eating house for the railroad and by 1857 it was a saloon.
It suffered several fires and was christened with many names, one that stuck a long time was the Tontine Hotel by which it was known from 1879 until 1908. Albert Schuler bought the building in 1920 and then sold it to Harold Brooks in 1929, who saved and renovated this building. It was leased to Tom Brooks in 1951, who named the Stage Coach.
During Prohibition there was a puzzling sign in the window that said “The first of May will be the last of August!” In 1928, the local police, led by Calhoun County Sheriff Albert Schuler, held a sting operation on the building during which they found a “blind pig” in the basement containing several gallons of illegal whisky. Apparently, the bartender was named August.
Sources: “Old Marshall Town” by Charles B. Cook and Eric C. Cook, ©1995 and “A History of Marshall” by Richard Carver, ©1993.