The historic Mann House in the small farming community of Concord in Jackson County recently was repainted to more accurately reflect the Victorian-era paint scheme it likely had, but that’s not all that’s new at the house.
A recent partnership between the Michigan Historical Center (MHC) and Eastern Michigan University’s historical preservation program now places three graduate students at the state historic site each summer to operate and maintain it. The students also perform research there in between greeting visitors and giving interpretive tours.
The partnership is a boon for the MHC because it provides fresh insights and research on the property, and EMU benefits by providing students with the opportunity to have hands-on experience operating a historic site that is really a small museum.
The house, built in 1883 by Daniel and Ellen Mann, is a near-perfectly preserved Victorian-era home. The Manns’ two daughters, Mary Ida and Jessie Ellen, were taught to value education and life-long learning, which ultimately led them to preserve their family’s nearly unaltered home and its furnishings. Visitors touring the house today are immersed in the family life and Victorian culture that shaped this pair of independent women.
Last summer, the graduate students from EMU who worked at the Mann House did research on the Mann family and the community of Concord, and developed a new house tour for visitors. Among the things they learned were that sisters Mary Ida and Jessie Ellen were ahead of their time when it came to being independent women.
Ellen Mann and her daughters all graduated from Michigan State Normal School (now EMU), which was unusual for the time. The Mann sisters traveled the world – throughout the United States, Europe and Asia – before it was common for women to travel alone. Several items that they acquired on their world travels are on display in the Mann House today. Also on display are some vintage clothing, items from the 1840s that belonged to Daniel and Ellen Mann’s parents, furniture from the 1870s the couple acquired when they married in 1873 and furnishings from the mid-1880s when they moved into the house.
This summer, the EMU fellows working at the site will continue researching the community, the house and the family who lived there. One student is focusing on gardening and foods of the late 19th and early 20th century. Another is looking at various modes of transportation available in Concord at the time the family lived there. A third student is returning for her second summer at the Mann House, and is continuing her research on the lives of Jessie and Mary Ida Mann to introduce more aspects of the sisters into the house.
The Mann House is located at 205 Hanover St. in Concord. Admission is free, and visitors should know that the Mann House is not a universally accessible site. The Mann House is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Aug. 31. Visitors should allow about one hour to tour the house, grounds and carriage house.
Mary Dettloff is a northern Michigan native and currently works as a senior communications advisor for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.