William Clark Chapman House
Backstory and Context
William Clark Chapman was born in Proctorsville, a village in the township of Cavendish, Windsor County, Vermont on March 1, 1866, the third of four children and the youngest son of Clark H. Chapman (1822-1888) and Ellen M. Sherwin (1833-1898). Clark Chapman was a prominent man in Windsor County, Vermont; he
was an attorney, delegate to a state constitutional convention, and Register of the Probate Court. The family variously lived in Ludlow, Cavendish, and Proctorsville, Vermont, all neighboring towns within Windsor County, until 1882, when Clark H. Chapman decided to move his family to Detroit.
William C. Chapman was sixteen years old when his family moved from Vermont to Michigan. His older brother and only living sibling, Charles Sherwin Chapman (1864-1912), was eighteen. William attended a business college and then took a position as bookkeeper for Detroit lumber and real estate magnate William C. Yawkey (1834-1903). One of Michigan's great lumber barons, Yawkey's holdings included vast timberlands in Minnesota and Wisconsin. William Chapman spent eight years learning the lumber business from Yawkey and then spent four years on his own working in the lumber trade in Rhinelander, Wisconsin before returning to Detroit.2 In 1891, Yawkey and William's brother, Charles S. Chapman, organized the Western Knitting Mills in Detroit and brought William on board as secretary-treasurer of the company.
WKM moved to Rochester in 1896, building a state-of-the-art factory on Water Street at the foot of Fourth, and establishing itself as the community's primary employer for a generation. Both Charles and William Chapman made their homes in the village of Rochester. William Chapman married Ada Josephine Barney (1869-1955) in his old home of Ludlow, Vermont in March 1890. Ada Barney was the daughter of a Vermont businessman in the granite and marble industry, and was a member of the 1889 graduating class of the Black River Academy in Ludlow, where Calvin Coolidge was one of her classmates.3 The couple had one son, Carroll Barney Chapman (1890-1990).
After making the decision to locate permanently in Rochester, William Chapman purchased for his home the former Lorenzo D. Morse residence at 311 Walnut Street, (which had been occupied most recently by Joseph D. Partello, former superintendent of the old woolen mill in Rochester that had been bought out by WKM). Chapman made several improvements to the frame house, including adding a wrap-around porch. He also became heavily involved in real estate development in the village of Rochester, and platted three subdivisions: the Ludlow Addition and W. C. Chapman Addition on the west edge of town in 1899, and the Chapman and Yawkey addition at the south edge of the village in 1900. Chapman owned various business and residential
lots throughout the village and is responsible for the construction of a significant portion of the housing stock that was built in the village in the first decade of the twentieth century, partially in response to a need for additional housing for laborers employed by Western Knitting Mills as the company grew in national prominence.
In 1916, Chapman moved his house at 311 Walnut to another lot that he owned immediately to the west of it on Pine Street (now numbered 311 Pine), and contracted for the construction of a grand, new residence at the 311 Walnut address. The Rochester Era reported on April 14, 1916:
"William C. Chapman will move his present residence on Walnut street back to his lot on Pine street purchased of Lew Bitters, and will erect a modern bungalow on the site."
Far from a bungalow, the house was actually a 5,000-square foot Italian Renaissance style mansion designed by MacFarlane, Maul & Lentz of Detroit that cost $45,000, according to this report, published in the late summer of 1916:
"The plans for W. C. Chapman's new $45,000 residence on Walnut street are out and work is being rapidly pushed. The basement is well under way and it is expected the building will be completed this season."
The American Contractor issue of July 1, 1916, described the work as follows for potential contractors:
"Res. 2-sty, 87x50, Rochester, Mich. Archts. MacFarlane, Maul & Lentz, D.W. bldg., Detroit. Owner Wm. C. Chapman, Rochester. Archt. taking bids. Hollow tile, shingle roof, hot water htg."
Aside from real estate development and his role in the Western Knitting Mills, W. C. Chapman was involved in the community of Rochester as president of the Rochester Savings Bank, and as president of the village of Rochester from 1893 to 1895. William Clark Chapman died at his Walnut Street residence at the age of 80, on May 20, 1946. His remains were sent back to Ludlow, Vermont for burial with other members of the Chapman and Barney families. His wife, Ada, died in 1955 and was buried beside her husband in Vermont.
The family home at 311 Walnut remained in the Chapman family until 1973, and since that date has housed a number of businesses. The interior of the building was substantially damaged by fire in July 1934. It was destroyed by another fire on April 17, 1997 and was restored. Most recently, the house was the location of the Chapman House farm-to-table restaurant, from 2016 to 2018.
"William C. Chapman," in Fuller, G. N. (George Newman)., Avery, L. Drake., Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society. (1925). An Account of Oakland County. [Dayton, Ohio]: National Historical Association, Inc., pp.165-166.
The American Contractor, v.37, no.27 (July 1, 1916), p.111.
"The plans for W.C. Chapman's new $45,000 residence on Walnut street are out and work is being rapidly pushed. The basement is well under way and it is expected the building will be completed this season," Rochester Era, August 11, 1916.
"Chapman Home in Rochester," Detroit Free Press, May 16, 1926, p.72.
"Fire Damages Chapman Home: Nearly $10,000 Damage Done to Beautiful Residence," Rochester Era, July 6, 1934, p.1.
"William C. Chapman Dies Monday: Industrialist, Developer, Factor in Village Growth," Rochester Era, May 23, 1946, p.1.
"Ada Chapman Dies After Long Illness," Rochester Clarion, February 3, 1955, p.1.
"Blaze Guts Historic House," Rochester Eccentric, April 20, 1997, p.1.
Almond, Mary Beth. "1916 Chapman House Reopens to the Community," Rochester Post, June 21, 2016.
"Chapman House in Rochester Suspends Restaurant Service," Detroit Free Press, June 1, 2018.
"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZQ5-F2X : accessed 13 July 2020), William Chapman, Avon, Oakland, Michigan, United States; citing ED 159, sheet 7B, line 95, family 182, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 789; FHL microfilm 1,820,789.
"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XQ1V-G7T : accessed 13 July 2020), William C Chapman, Rochester, Oakland, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 4, sheet 14B, line 69, family 333, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1016; FHL microfilm 2,340,751.
"United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K4GB-Q2X : 29 February 2020), Wm C Chapman, Rochester, Avon Township, Oakland, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 63-4, sheet 10B, line 61, family 241, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 1798.