121 North Huron Street

121 North Huron Street

This spectacular example of a house in the Italian Villa style was built in the early 1870s. It became the home of Dr. John Andrus Watling, the first college-educated dentist to practice in Michigan and one of the founders of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. The house features a tall tower, an ornamental bay window on the side, and a front gable with hipped hoods over the street-side windows on the first floor. (Dr. Watling’s dental office was next door at 119 North Huron.)

In the mid-1980s, Oscar Haab rented to Mary and Doug Kisor one of the four apartments then in the house. A memory from that period is of the gravel parking lot that stretched from the back of the house to Pearl Street. It is hard to picture that parking lot today because gardens and trees now fill the space. In the mid-1990s the Kisors purchased the house. Since then, restoration has fluctuated between the inside and the outside, depending on the greatest need and available resources.

The interior features wonderful wood floors, including a rich and special parquet floor of walnut, oak, and cherry in the dining room. A circular stair provides access to the second floor (the two levels in the tower can only be reached by ladder). In the early 2000s, the Kisors began to transition the house back to a single-family home. Significant progress has been made, although renovations continue in the formal rooms downstairs and in the tower entry space.

Two side notes, one informative and the other fun. First, the house was previously thought to have been built in 1865. But Doug Kisor has found several bricks with a patent date of December 13, 1870, which indicates that the earliest date for the house would be 1871. Second, Dr. Watling’s wife donated an impressive pier mirror from her home to the nearby Ladies’ Literary Club, where she was a member. It still graces the club’s main meeting room.

Photo by Lynda Hummel