House History

The House Prior to Robert Whaley’s Reconstruction

In 1885 the Whaley family moved into their home at 624 E. Kearsley Street. Robert J. Whaley had hired Detroit architect George Watkins to design and oversee construction of the home, which was either a serious remodel or a complete replacement of the Italianate home that once stood at the address. When the family moved into the new Victorian style home in 1885, the family consisted of Robert J. Whaley, his wife Mary McFarlan Whaley, their young ward Florence Bickford Whaley, and Robert’s teenage half-sister Laura. The Whaleys joined several other prominent Flint families who lined Kearsley Street in ornate Victorian-styled residences.

Nineteenth Century Image of the Whaley House

The Whaley House was the home of the family until the death of Mary McFarlan Whaley in 1925. At that time, as stipulated in her will, the house was turned into a home for elderly women. From 1925 to 1976 the House went through serious renovations, at one time even being connected to the home next door (currently Chavez and 475). This remained the primary use of the home until 1974 when the McFarlan home vacated the House and moved to a new and larger structure next to the Whaley House. At this time seven community organizations came together to preserve this piece of Flint history, thus creating the Whaley Historical House Association.

Since 1976, the year of the Association’s creation, the House has gone through extreme renovations to return it to its original form. Walls have been torn down and reconstructed, wallpaper researched and installed, specialists consulted, and twentieth century additions demolished. Preserving and maintaining an historic house museum is an ongoing process to resurrect the past and spread the stories it has to share.

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