Trenton City Hall: 2800 Third St. Trenton, MI 48183 | Phone: (734) 675-6500 Fax: (734) 675-4088


Trenton Museum Relates Story Of Moore-Boelter Home


In response to many requests for information and in conjunction with Michigan Week, the Trenton Historical Commission presents this story of the Moore-Boelter House and a glimpse of the people who have made it their home. Much of the facts and memories were shared by Mr. And Mrs. Arthur Asmus, Mr. And Mrs. Lyman Lilley, Mr. Nellis Moore and his daughter Miss Addie Moore.

Early records show that on January 18, 1881, a deed was filed for the purchase of a lot situated at the north-west corner of St. Joseph Avenue and Third Street in the Village of Trenton. The purchasers of this property were John Moore, a tavern keeper in the village and his wife Sarah. At that time the lot was described as extending four rods west from the corner and north to the present alley, a distance of some twelve rods.

The exact date of the building of the home has not been determined, but undoubtedly it was completed within the year. The impressive gingerbread style house with its gingerbread trim and green shutters, as popular in that period, was greatly admired by the townsfolk. The tall, narrow front doors facing St. Joseph Avenue opened into the front hall with its graceful stairway leading to the upper story. To the right was the front parlor, which of course was reserved just for company and special occasions. The more commonly used family entrance was by way of the narrow side porch facing Third Street. The porch door opened directly into the dining room, with the back parlor just to the left. Beyond at the right was the kitchen with a pantry for storage of dishes, food and other provisions. At the extreme rear of this room was the usual summer kitchen. Nearby were the necessary outbuildings, one of which still remains. This shed, then near the street for easy access by the drayman, was used first for wood storage, then for the winter's supply of coal.

John and Sarah Moore had four sons: Henry, Willia, Byron and Burris. After the death of her husband, her sons having grown, Mrs. Moore continued living in the family home. When the Lyman Lilley family needed a place to stay until their new home on Front Street (now Riverside Drive) was being completed, she shared her home with them. The Lilley family then included three children: Charles, Beatrice and Lyman jr. While living there a fourth child, Marion, was born.

Mrs. Moore sold thirty -three and one-half feet of the northern portion of the lot before leaving Trenton to spend the rest of her days with a sister in Canada, where she died on March 16, 1914. Before her death she had deeded the house to her grandson, Nellis, the son of Burns and Nellis of Wyandotte.

From 1914 until 1919, Mr. Nellis Moore and his wife Mary lived in the lovely old home with their four children: Nellis, Robert, Addie and Betty. In 1916, Mr. Moore modernized by installing electric wiring and plumbing. He combined two small rooms for a bathroom. Previously all the water came from a "penstock" in the backyard. In the summer kitchen was a cistern for rain water which was fine for washing but not for drinking.

In 1919, the Moore family sold the homestead. (At the present time, Mr. Nellis Moore and his daughter Addie have a home in Detroit.) They sold the home to Mr. Fred Boelter and his wife Lizetta. Their two elder sons, Fredrick and Arthur, remained on the farm on Telegraph near West Rd. Their daughter Harriet had married Elias Burke and their daughter Martha was married to William Homeister. Three other daughters, Emma, Minnie and Dorothy were still at home. Soon after moving to Trenton, Minnie married Arthur Asmus. Dorothy finished her schooling at the Trenton High School, which was just across the street from their new home, then married Lyman Lilley Jr., Emma remained home with her parents.

In 1928, Miss Emma Boelter converted the front parlor into a Beauty Shop. By this time the inner shutters had been removed from the windows. A portion of the side porch was enclosed and converted into an entrance to the shop. To allow privacy to the family, French doors were installed in the huge archway between the front and back parlors. The summer kitchen was removed to another location to be used as the garage. Miss Boelter removed the base burners (coal stoves) and replaced them with gas heaters. She continued to have her beauty shop until her retirement from business in 1957.

The western portion of the Moore lot was sold to Mr. Earl Henegar in 1955, at which time the garage, formerly the summer kitchen, was demolished to make room for the house he was soon to build.

In 1964, Mr. Henegar purchased the Moore-Boelter home. After enlarging the very small basement and installing a gas furnace, he decided the large house would make a good two-family flat. About this time, however, the Trenton Historical Commission found itself in dire need of a good place in which to store its few pieces of furniture and its mounting number of articles of historic interest.

The Trenton City Council considered the problem of the Commission. Finally an agreement was reached with Mr. Henegar to lease the lower floor of the house to the City of Trenton for use as a museum. In March of 1965, the Historical Commission began to use the building. During Michigan Week, in May 1965, the Trenton Historical Museum came into being, marked by a public ribbon-cutting ceremony. At that time Mr. Robert E. Teifer was Trenton's mayor. Members of the Council were Clifford Cook, Clarence Hanlon, James Mihaloff, Audrey Seay, Clifford Turner and Robert Wright.

Later the same year, more difficulties were encountered when the Peoples Bank felt the need for parking space for the employees of their enlarged banking facilities. Along with other properties in the area, the bank had purchased the Moore-Boelter property from Mr. Henegar. The musem faced demolishment. The problem was resolved by the directors of the Peoples Bank agreeing to sell the building and immediate grounds to the City of Trenton for continued use as the Trenton Historical Museum.

At the present time, only the lower floor is in use. The Commission is hopeful that in the near future the second floor will be renovated and in condition to be opened to the public.