1304 College Avenue
1304 College Ave. Houghton, MI 49931
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1304 College Avenue

National Register of Historic Places
Built 1893-1896 for Ransom B. Shelden Jr.
Masonry porch added 1898
Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity since 1969

“. . . an outstanding example of urban residential architecture in the Portage Lake Mining district of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula between 1885 and 1915.” National Register of Historic Places application

Ransom B. Shelden Jr. acquired property from the Shelden and Columbian Copper Company and built this stately Queen Anne home between 1893 and 1896 on two of the lots. He was the third son and youngest child of Ransom Bird Shelden Sr., who, along with his brother-in-law, Columbus Christopher Douglass, established the first general store and platted the Village of Houghton. Ransom Jr. was born at Portage Entry in 1852 — the first white male child to be born in Houghton County. He attended Houghton High School and in 1873 married Miss Cordelia A. Paull, from Wisconsin. He was a clerk in the office of the Deputy U.S. Collector. In 1898, Shelden sold the home to John H. Rice and moved to California with his wife and young son, Ransom Paull Shelden.

John Rice started as a teller in the Houghton National Bank (600 Shelden Avenue) and by 1910 had worked his way up to become President. He was a board member of several local organizations and had figured prominently in forming the Houghton Chamber of Commerce in 1919. The Rice family – John, wife Ethel and daughter Katherine, lived in the house until 1941. The house was resold several times and finally, in 1969, the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity purchased it for use by Michigan Technological University students. It has been the fraternity’s home ever since.

The Queen Anne style house is asymmetrical with an octagonal tower. A diversity of textures can be seen in the original wood siding, rough-cut sandstone, and fish-scale shingles of the exterior. The front gable features gingerbread trim typical of the era. The interior contains a paneled foyer with carved hardwood and a tiled fireplace, floral stained-glass windows, cornice moldings and swags, and parquet floors. Bedrooms include fireplaces, hardwood floors, wainscoting and original hardware. Carved fretwork fills the archway in the main hall.

It is rumored that two of Rice’s servants hanged themselves in the first floor alcove, and that their souls still haunt the house. Current residents have complained of objects being moved around and strange sounds in the stairwells when no one is around.

Sources: Historic Houghton Walking Tour (c. 2000); Keweenaw Time Traveler; National Register of Historic Places registration (1987); Scarlett, S.F. (2021). Company Suburbs. University of Tennessee Press; Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity; University Archives and Historical Collections.; Image: Vernacular Architecture Forum. (2024). 1304 College Ave. North of the Northwoods: From Mines to Motels on Michigan’s Lake Superior (p. 60). photograph.

Style:
Queen Anne