Lennie Ingalls House

One of the stops on the Park Avenue Prowl, the 4th oldest building in Charlevoix, is gone.

The 140-year-old home of Lennie Beers Ingalls Campbell was burned to the ground on the morning of March 24, 2010. Construction of a new pay parking lot began the next day. The lot has been named “The DeWitt Lot” after the last member of Lennie’s family to live there, her granddaughter, Erma DeWitt.

A crew filming “Frontier Boys,” an independent movie featuring a scene in which a Molotov Cocktail is thrown through the window of a house, received permission from the City to use the house in its movie. Filming went on most of the night, with a fire-crew-in-training also taking advantage of the event, and culminated in the 5:30 am burn-down. It was so hot it melted some of the siding on a nearby garage.

CCHPS was able to salvage many items from the house prior to the burn and between scenes, and will offer them to Michigan historical societies so that they can be used in preservation projects and museum displays.

Watch the scene on YouTube by clicking HERE and HERE.

So what?

The Charlevoix County History Preservation Society opposed the destruction of the building. We submitted a preliminary application to the State Historic Preservation Office to see whether the house at 108 Park Avenue might qualify for historic designation. Short answer – yes! Both for its history and its architecture, as it turns out. In addition, the SHPO also noted that based on a reading of this website, it appears that much of Park Avenue could be designated a historic district, qualifying the buildings for state and federal tax credits. See our Winter 2010 newsletter issue for more information about our unsuccessful attempts to save the building: Resources.

The Story of Lennie’s House

At 108 Park Avenue, you won’t see the white building with green shutters and a big front porch, looking across Park Avenue at Lake Michigan.  As of March, 2010 it is a parking lot.

In the summer of 1868 Lennie (Magdalena) Beers Ingalls and her husband Almon M. Ingalls awaited the birth of their first child.  Lennie was born in Kent County, and was named for her mother, Magdalena PIttinger, who died giving birth to her.  Lennie had come to Charlevoix by way of Northport with her father, Philo Beers.  Ingalls, a clerk from Clayton, New York, had moved to the area with his parents and twelve brothers and sisters.

Unfortunately, while on a visit to Little Rock Illinois, 28-year-old Almon died of illness.  Lennie and Almon’s son was born on November 15, 1868, just a month after the death of his father.  His birth was the second one recorded in Charlevoix County.  Lennie named her son Almon, in honor of his father, and called him “Allie.”

One year later, on November 10, 1869, 21-year-old Lennie purchased the western half of Lot 4 and all of Lot 5 in block 6, for $75 from John and Phebe Dixon.  Lot 3 was owned by Jackson and Elnora Ingalls, Almon’s brother and sister-in-law.    Lennie commissioned Ben Campbell, a ship chandler (carpenter) from Beaver Island, to build a home on the site.  Construction began in 1870.  Meanwhile, Lennie and little Allie lived across the street with her father, Philo Beers, and sister, Harriet Beers.

Sadly, tragedy struck again.   Allie died in September of 1870, shortly before his second birthday, of diarrhea with verme febris.  Lennie’s father, Philo Beers, and her older brothers, George and Henry, died less than two years later.

A few years later, Lennie and Ben Campbell married in Cheboygan.  Shortly after the death of their 9-year-old daughter Minnie, they rented a home on Lockwood Avenue in Petoskey and lived there for more than 20 years with Lennie’s sister Harriet and their their three children, Louise (Lulu), Philo, and Winifred (Winnie), born in 1881, 1879, and 1885.

Ben Campbell was a successful ship builder.  Captain D.S.Way sailed the 50-foot schooner W.A. Smith, built by Campbell and his partner, Samuel See.  His carpentry skills are evident in the 140-year-old home.  The steps just inside the front door were intact, and still didn’t squeak when the house was destroyed.

Campbell was also, incidentally, the son of Orson Campbell, who together with Thomas Bedford had assassinated “King” Jesse Strang of Beaver Island.  Thomas Bedford’s son Harrison lived a few houses down at 201 Main Street.  Ben Campbell and Thomas Bedford’s mothers were among those who refused to wear bloomers instead of dresses when Strang proclaimed that all women in the Mormon colony must.  This refusal probably contributed to the troubles between their husbands and Strang.

Campbell was also active in the community.  He and several other men formed a brass band, and some believe that the band practiced in this home on Main Street.

On Dec. 3, 1925, Lennie transferred her house on Park to her daughters, Winifred Wentz and Louise DeWitt, reserving the use and benefit of the property for her lifetime.  In ill health, Ben moved to Harbor Springs to be taken care of by daughter Lulu and her husband Arthur, and died there in 1929.  Lennie moved to Alpena to live with her daughter Winifred and Winifred’s husband Arthur, and died there in 1931.  Their son Philo Campbell, meanwhile, married Winnifred Campbell, granddaughter of Alanson Campbell (Ben’s brother) and Julia Bedford (Harrison’s sister).  The couple moved to Charlevoix from Petoskey to live in Lennie’s house with her sister Harriet.

In 1956, the home, by order of determination of the heirs of the estate, was deeded to Magdelena DeWitt Van Der Slice.  On September 10, 1958, it was deeded to Magdelena’s sister, Erma DeWitt, who lived in the home until just before she died in 1995.  Having been owned by five different women, Lennie, her daughters, and her two granddaughters, the home was finally purchased by the City of Charlevoix, occupied for some years by the Charlevoix County Land Conservancy, and then destroyed after the Land Conservancy’s lease expired.

The story of Lennie Beers Ingalls Campbell, her life and her family, is the subject of the book Lennie’s Monument, by Raechel Wright, to be published by Charlevoix County History Preservation Society later in 2011.

The picture of the exterior of the house, taken in the 1980s, is courtesy of the Charlevoix Historical Society.  The remaining pictures are copyright 2011 by the Charlevoix County History Preservation Society.  They were taken in the days leading up to, and on the morning of the fire.

Copyright 2011 by Charlevoix County History Preservation Society, Inc.  All rights reserved.


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