|Located on historic Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and nestled amongst contemporaries, as well as newer and older structures, the Voigt House is a testament to Victorian design through it’s embracing of formality, civility and societal structure within and out of the home. It further
stands as a unique example of Chateauesque, Queen Anne Victorian architecture due to the employment of technology considered advanced at the time throughout and because of it’s virtual “time capsule” condition, as the home has always been within the original family (prior to it’s acquisition by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids). Little to no changes or modifications have been made since its construction began in 1885, making it one of the few homes in the United States accurately representative of the period in which it is built.
The Voigt house’s ability to allow viewers this step into the past is only further complimented by the locally crafted and custom case goods with the intricacy and level of craftsmanship synonymous with the heyday of the “Furniture City” of Grand Rapids, Michigan. A potpourri of one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces, machine crafted and combination machine and handcrafted pieces make up the Voigt collection, many purchased during local sample sales which would contain pieces used as display during the Grand Rapids Furniture Market (similar to the one now held at the Chicago Merchandise Mart) from some of the big makers, such as; Berkey & Gay Furniture Co., Baker Furniture Company and Kindel Furniture Co. Only people who worked in the furniture trade could tour a manufacturer’s actual showroom displays, so the sample stores offered a glimpse of the coming season’s newest introductions to the general public.
Although the Voigt’s were newly wealthy due to Carl G.A. Voigt’s success as a successful retailer and flour miller they still favored furnishing their home one bargain at a time, rather then purchasing a suite ensemble at full price; thus the Voigt’s were quickly known regular customers of the sample stores (Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America’s Furniture City, Christian Carron, ©1998). This frugality and “cutting of corners” was not only a permeating trait of the family, still apparent today in details within the home (it is not uncommon to find differing degrees of finish from room to room, or even door to door, depending on the amount the space is exposed to people outside the family or staff, or status of user), but also an attribute mirrored in Victorian ideology.
|The house itself is to the credit of by prominent regional architect William G. Robinson, who took inspiration from the chateaux at Chenonceaux, France. True to Victorian design the home is divided by function and purpose into a series of rooms with varying levels of access and allotted activities. The home itself is filled with personal items, such as the paintings displayed on the main staircase landing and the Art Nuevo stenciling upon the cove ceiling in the dining room, both done by one of the Voigt daughters, or the wooden rocking chair, presumably given as a gift, that sprouts from it’s back carved ears of corn, a link back to the family’s milling business.
Victorian innovation was also applied throughout the house. Cisterns on the roof collected rainwater, which was used for non-potable water needs throughout the home. The lamps used supported both electricity and gas. Radiators and gas Adam’s style fireplaces heated the home, while technologies such as call boxes and cords allowed communication between family and staff.
The preservation of such items, from common kitchen utensils to the youngest child (and last resident) Ralph’s childhood suit, is what makes this home an intriguing historical collection of life in the late Victorian period and a testament of one family’s devotion to Victorian and immigrant values.