Page 30 - Scene Magazine 41-03 March 2016
P. 30

Scene In Time
What’s in a name: Frelinghuysen continued
After the Freling- huysen article in the January issue of Scene (4101), I got many expressions of interest. I decided to write a continu- ation. For such a short street, there
are plenty of tales to be told. I can only add a few here.
Millard Hitchcock (1869-1947) was born and lived his life at 33 Frelinghuysen. He died in that house at the age of 78. As a high school student he got suspended just before graduation. He turned out not to be involved in the prank (rolling buckshot down the hall) but it was too late. He found a job at the Burnham shops (American Marsh pump) and refused to go back to school. However, the family physician, Dr. Bathrick, told his parents that Millard was, “Too skinny to work in a foundry.” In his school days he hired out to drive a neighbor’s cows to and from pasture. These were from barns on the east side of Frelinghuysen and the pasture was near Piper’s Park. He said, “It was quite a chore to get the cows out to pasture and bring them back at night.” After being told he was, “Too skinny,” he went to work for the theater. Eighteen year old Hitchcock started by posting play bills. He told many stories about hauling scenery and animals up the steps of the Hamblin Opera House. In 1907 he became equipment manager for the new Butterfield Theatre Chain.
Hitchcock married Jessica Dean in Nov 12, 1895. They met when she worked part time at the Hamblin Opera House and the Post Theatre ticket office. On July 16, 1906 when he resigned from his stage manager position at Hamblin Opera House as well as the Post theatre, he, “Was one of the best known stage managers in the state.” C.W. Post hired him in 1910 and Hitchcock worked his way up to manager of the men’s employment office which he ran until 1938. He served under Harry Burt, another Frelinghuysen resident covered in the January issue (4101).
Esther Shaw told me of property she once owned there. Her great uncle on her mother’s side was Harrison M. Smith (1881-1952). In 1930 he married Louise Smith of 40 Elm Street. In the wedding announcement, it says they would live in his apartment house at 111 Frelinghuysen.
Later in life they lived at Gull Lake. He was in the shoe byusiness in Battle Creek for 38 years. Later he entered the real estate business with Lyle W. Arms (Scene 4101). He had 111 Frelinghuysen built in 1925. It shows influence from the Prairie architectural style of Frank Lloyd Wright with strong horizontal lines, low-pitched hipped roof and clerestory windows, high above the roof line, for light on the top floor.
Harrison was an active community member belonging to the Battle Creek Board of Realtors, the First Presbyterian Church, the Exchange Club, and the Masons. Harrison and Louise did not have children so they willed the apartment house to their nephew, Wayne K. Smith, Esther’s father. When he was unable to care for it any longer, Esther managed it. When he died, she inherited it. She sold it in 2000.
Esther was close to her great uncle as a child. She would let only him carry her out of the hospital after she had her appendix out. She knew the apartment building quite well as a niece and then as the owner. She said there were four units, each with one bedroom, dining room, bath, large living room, and kitchen. It had a lot of natural woodwork which is also true of Prairie style. There was full floor storage in the basement and also on the third floor as well
as a garage for each apartment which was a great draw. Esther said each apartment had a Murphy bed in it for guests. She told me she was afraid of it when she was a child as she was convinced it would fold up on her. As a child, she was also impressed by the ice boxes and the waste paper chute to the basement. She had many well-known tenants. One in particular was WBCK announcer Jim Cleaver. He used to call all the funeral homes to get the obituaries for the “Noonday News” and Esther supplied them from Shaw’s.
Harry Burt (1866-1923) at 143 Frelinghuysen was covered in the previous article but his son Robert is also of note. In the summer of 1910 he built a glider and flew it off a bluff at Goguac Lake where the Burts had a Jennings Landing summer home. It did not work well so Robert decided to use a bluff at St. Mary’s Lake for another try. His parents stopped him because they did not want him injured. However, proud Dad decided to have it as a float in the Homecoming Week parade (see February Scene 4102). He withdrew it when he realized that the wing-spread might cause problems. Previously I thought that Edgar “Pete” Goff’s glider flight on a hill where the KCC library is now was the first flight but that was January 1912. Fortunately Pete’s parents did not stop him and he went on to become a pilot (See Scene 3702 “From Gliders to Jet Fighters” for Pete’s and other boys’ stories.) Maybe Robert’s parents were right though because 19 year old Robert, driving a Hudson coupe, was struck by the Canadian Flyer at a RR crossing. He and his date survived. Indeed, he was a, “Chip off the old block” because his father, Harry, was one of the first men in Battle Creek who dared to try to drive a car as fast as possible. Robert went on to be an engineer working at Lockheed. His first invention was welding goggles helping to speed up production of Hudson Bombers in World War II.
To see all the houses on Frelinghuysen, go to the Willard Library local history site which has photos of the houses from the 1940s. Thank you to Esther Shaw for her stories. A most valuable source for street histories is the Battle Creek Historic District survey done in 1988, supervised by Mary Butler. These files are at the Community and Research Archives of the Historical Society of Battle Creek. Back issues of Scene can be accessed at at
Louise Smith, Esther Smith Shaw and TR Shaw

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