A Community Jewel of Grand Rapids
Northland Uncovered: Gilbert House
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In the 1900s, Florence and William Gilbert were very well-known in the Grand Rapids community.
The Gilberts owned many banks in the area, as well as, many thousands of acres of land.
The Gilbert Mansion, built in 1904, showed off the family’s wealth with intricate glass designs in each window and highly sought-after quartersawn white oak all around.
In this week’s Northland Uncovered, we tour the Gilbert Manor and meet the woman who now calls the house home.
She has a “fascination with everything old,” and she has a connection.
Growing up in Grand Rapids, Christie Graupmann was just 5 years old and already intrigued with the Gilbert House just down the road.
“It was very rundown at that time. There wasn’t a lot of paint left on it. A lot of kids were scared to come up here because it looked kind of scary,” said Graupmann.
Unlike the other kids, Christie was drawn to its quirkiness.
“I knew them, they were just nice old people, and spent a lot of time out here on the front porch with old Bob, he would play his ukulele and sing to us kids, we were a great audience, so we had a lot of good concerts out there,” Graupmann recalled.
Christie married her high school sweetheart, Tim.
“When we were dating we’d drive by this place and I’d say some day we’ll get that place and fix it up,” said Graupmann.
For 17 years, the two moved to Chatenooga, Tennessee to start a family of their own when their roots came a-knocking.
“Sure enough, the phone rings when we’re down there, and my brother was on the other end telling Tim, ‘Tell Christie the house is for sale,” said Graupmann.
Just like that, Christie, Tim and their six kids moved into the house the couple had always dreamt of living in.
However, there were a few surprises.
“I was shocked, I had no idea so much of their stuff was upstairs,” said Graupmann.
Tennis racquets, golf clubs and yearbooks are just a few examples of what you might find.
“You’re kind of prying into people’s lives, and at first you almost feel like Gosh, I shouldn’t be reading this, if they’re love letters and stuff like that, but then you, like I said it’s like a novel, it sucks you in, and now I feel like I know all of them intimately just after reading all of that,” said Graupmann.
In the house you’ll find a parlor, dining room, living room, kitchen, six bedrooms, maid’s quarters and a ballroom filled with both Christie’s own collection of antiques and the Gilbert belongings found in the attic.
“And people have said oh you should sell that, or you could donate that here, and I think it just belongs here,” said Graupmann, “in my mind, the stuff belongs with the house, because it was theirs,” said Graupmann.
With a soft spot for preserving the old, Christie has just one main goal.
“The past, it kind of grounds us, a much simpler, a different way of life, I mean for example they had formal dinners every night, they had servants, they would dress for dinner unlike what we do today,” said Graupmann.
Graupmann wants her visitors to feel like they are entering the Gilbert’s home in 1904.
Christie and Tim have opened up the Gilbert home for tours and this summer they are turning the mansion into a bed and breakfast.