When was the last time you went cruisin’ through Ionia?

Chances are, if you did, you more than likely passed by this impressive old house on East Main Street. It can look creepy – it can look majestic – it can look historic – it can look incredible,,,and it fits all of those descriptions.

It’s the old John C. Blanchard House at 253 East Main Street in Ionia. It took two years to finish, from 1879 – 1881. The structure features and outside made of brown & pink sandstone; other features include tall windows, baroque trim, a winding staircase, Victorian parlor with a 12-foot ceiling, conservatory, and sandstone window hoods. Blanchard and his wife Harriet called their home “La Palistina” which means “little palace.”

Blanchard came to Michigan from New York in 1836 and ended up working in Detroit and Shiawassee County. It’s reported that he also ended up owning all of Bois Blanc Island up north in Lake Huron. He moved to Ionia in 1850 after becoming an attorney.

He was heavily involved in local politics, part of which was his presidency of Ionia Township.

Blanchard lived in his mansion until he passed away in 1905. The Ionia County Historical Society bought the mansion in 1974 and is now a museum. The old carriage house is still there, sitting behind the mansion.

According to the Historical Marker in the front lawn:

SIDE ONE (excerpt):
“Blanchard worked as a laborer in Detroit, Livingston and Shiawassee Counties before walking sixty miles to the U.S. Land Office at Ionia. Using $50 of the $53 he had saved, he purchased forty acres of land in 1837. Two years later he began "reading the law" as a student in the law offices of Roof and Bell in Lyons." 

SIDE TWO (excerpt):
“The house looks much as it did when Blanchard’s lived here and retains many original interior features, such as brass chandeliers, faux marble fireplaces and walnut shutters. The Blanchard House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.”

Some folks believe there is some sort of paranormal activity within the house, but that remains to be seen.


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