Pearls In Our Past - Hartford MI A Pictorial History of Hartford Michigan




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Gleason house

    Photo submitted by Pat Bachman Empson - 11/2002

     This house was located on N. Center Street, across from the present Post Office.  Photo was taken in late fall of 1957 or early spring of 1958.  This is one of the houses demolished to make way for the new Hartford water tower.   Chemical Bank Shoreline (formerly Standard Federal Savings and Loan) currently occupies this location.

     The dark green house, with white trim, (in the background to the left) is the former office of Dr. Stagg.

The Gleason House
by Roy (Bud) Davis

The Paw Paw River Journal 
Published in the Tri-City Record 
January 1, 2003

On our new Hartford web site, Webmaster Emma Sefcik has a group of old Hartford homes.  One was not labeled, and Emma said she would like to have it identified.  That is the old Gleason House, once located north of Main Street right about where the new water tower stands.  How do I know its name?  Well, that is what it was always called.  In fact, Marion and I lived there for the first year we were married.  It was called the Gleason House then.  

I believe it was built by Henry Gleason, an early Hartford merchant. He came to Hartford and first built the store that still stands on the northeast corner of Hartford's only traffic light.  It has seen various incarnations...a battery shop and gas station, poolroom, furniture store owned by Eddie and Mary Jane Grant's folks.  Now, it is Huffman's Furniture. 

On the side fronting Main Street, there is still a door on the second floor.  It opened up on a wooden balcony.  Here, Treva Garrett and her boyfriend stood one summer day to watch an approaching thunderstorm.  The balcony collapsed, sending them to the street below.  The young man came out unscathed, but Treva spent some months in traction with a broken back.  After recovering, she went on to a long nursing career.

On North Center Street's west side stood an old saloon owned by George Harley.  Gleason bought it, moved it up to Main Street.  On its old site, he built his new house.  Finally, he needed more room, so he again moved the saloon down near the Theater.  In its place, he built the store he finally sold to Hubbards, and which later became Abrams.  For a time the old saloon was a battery and tire shop owned by Arlene Hurley Ward's family.  Then, it became Van Liere's Shoe Repair Shop.  Thus, it remained until it was torn down and became part of the restaurant that was once the Midget. 

All of my childhood, we had our shoes fixed in Van Liere's.  His prices were very reasonable.  When I clerked in the A&P Store, just east of there as a high school student, Bick Beckwith was shining shoes in Van Liere's. The 8th wonder of the world is that either of us was fit to go to Crystal Palace on a Saturday night.  Bick's hands were covered with shoe polish; and, as the newest clerk in the A&P, I had to clean the fish case before closing.

During WW11, John and Kay Paulus moved to Hartford from Bangor.  Here he opened a hardware and auto supply in the old Knapp building, which was just west of Hubbard's, Gleason's second store.  John and Kay also bought the Gleason house, just north of Main Street and the parking lot.  They had an apartment on the second floor.

When I returned from the war, I needed a job.  I was just knocking around, waiting for Marion to finish nurses training.  So, I started working in John's store.  He was good to me, but it was a job without much future.  When I enrolled at Western Michigan University, I still clerked for John part time.

The summer before we were to be married, we were looking for a place to rent.  John and Kay offered us the upstairs apartment in the Gleason House.  It was in disrepair, but John said he would furnish paint and materials if we would fix it up.  So we did...with the help of our families.  When we were married in October, that place looked like a little jewel.

After that, while Marion worked as office nurse for Dr. Carl F. Boothby on S. Center Street, a bunch of us guys drove over to Western for classes each day.  We were a real outfit, each wearing our uniform remnants.  But we were preparing for the future.

Two summers I got a job in a Benton Harbor factory.  A good friend of ours, John Robertson, also worked there and we rode together.  One afternoon he stopped in front of the old Gleason House, and as I got out, John said, "Gee, I wish I had a nice little wife at home, busily opening cans!"  I laughed as I climbed the stairs.

All over Hartford, older homes were being converted into apartments for returning GIs and their families.  In our neighborhood, the Stebbins house (just south of our present post office) and the Simpson house (right where the new bank now stands) bulged with new young couples, busily starting their lives.

We have happy memories from those days...get-togethers for our friends, many of whom were not yet married.  One day we held an impromptu party for some close friends after their wedding reception. 

If you look closely at Emma's (Pat Bachman Empson's) picture of the old Gleason House, you can see a hitching rail running along between the house and the parking lot behind the stores.  Sometimes horses were even hitched to it at that time.

One of our friends left the party that day.  His car was in the parking lot, and he ran across the yard carrying a bottle of some kind of cola in one hand.

He yelled back, "Watch me jump right over that hitching rail! And he did so.  Well, he made it, but the bottle he was carrying splattered all over the parking lot.  Days of Glory!


Information for this web site was gathered from personal interviews, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, personal photo albums, and other documented materials - many available to the public at the Hartford Public Library or Van Buren County Historical Museum.  Please report any typographical errors, updated information, or incorrectly stated information to the webmaster for correction.  Reprinting for personal and instructional purposes is permitted, however, unauthorized commercial reprinting of this information or unauthorized linking to photos-pictures on this site is strictly prohibited without written permission from the webmaster. 

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A Pictorial History of Hartford, Michigan
Emma Thornburg Sefcik,
Competent Secretarial Service
Copyright 2000 - All rights reserved.

Revised: May 27, 2015