TRAVERSE CITY — Stepping into the 125-year-old Perry Hannah House, now the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home, is like taking a stroll through time.
The Victorian-era home was built by Hannah, a lumber baron and Traverse City’s founding father, who retired there. It is now a historic landmark, its three stories rising gracefully, turrets and all, from its place along the Boardman River on the brick-paved Sixth Street.
The home has also become the place where many want to have their final services, said Peg Jonkhoff, who owns the building with husband Dan Jonkhoff, funeral director.
“People want to be at the Hannah House,” Jonkhoff said. “This is sacred space … It’s a unique space. It’s peaceful and beautiful.”
Reynold’s-Jonkhoff will celebrate the home’s 125th birthday from 1-4 p.m. Sept. 9, with an Open House. The home and its gardens will be open for tours, with more than 40 volunteers ready to give visitors all the historic details.
The event will feature the "Fathers Partner in the Parlor" food pantry collection, with life-size cutouts of both Hannah and Father Fred of the Father Fred Foundation for visitors to pose with for ‘selfies.’
Junior and senior students can pick up an application for the “Leadership Lessons Learned” essay contest sponsored by the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council.
The tour includes Christmas Trees in the Attic/Ballroom, in which 33 decorated trees will be on display. There will also be door prizes, refreshments and tours of Sunnybank Garden, also on Sixth Street.
Through the years the Perry Hannah house was owned by the American Legion and was a temporary school, housing students from the burned out Central School for three years before becoming a funeral home.
Dorothy French, 93, attended the fifth grade at the Hannah House, where her classroom was located in one of the home’s turrets, with curved window seats that look out over the corner of Sixth and Pine streets.
“It was kind of fun going there, looking out of that big round window,” French said. “We went down in the basement for gym.”
The carpets and stairway were all covered with canvas to protect it from all those little feet, and French said she doesn’t remember anyone carving their initials in the wood paneling.
It took 40-60 laborers two years by hand without using power tools to build the Perry Hannah house, Jonkhoff said, which was completed in 1893.
There are 40 rooms in the house, all paneled in woods native to Michigan, including cherry, birdseye maple, curly maple, pine and beech.
The Mahogany Room is the only room done in a wood not native to the state — Brazilian mahogany. Once the dining room, it has a button in the floor that Hannah would push with his foot to call for a servant. It also has a pass-through door used to bring food in from the kitchen and to take back dirty dishes.
Other details of the house have been preserved through the years — hand-carved cherries on a cherry wood fireplace, pink marble sinks, brass door hinges and ornate chandeliers.
When it came to the main staircase, Hannah was not happy with the first two versions and had it rebuilt, Jonkhoff said. The end result is a majestic staircase that includes three levels and a Romeo and Juliet balcony.
Jonkhoff said each room is identified by what it was back then rather than by its current purpose: Mr. Hannah’s bedroom, Mrs. Hannah’s dressing room, the parlor.
Very few of the original furnishings remain, but Jonkhoff said every piece in the house is a reproduction of what would have been there back in 1893 or so.
“Everything is Hannah-era correct,” she said.
The home has 10 fireplaces, though it was heated by steam radiators. It was later converted to a gas furnace heating system, Jonkhoff said, but the radiators are still there.
It also had other modern amenities, such as running water, indoor toilets and electricity.
“They weren’t sure electricity was going to catch on, so every light fixture has gas tubes,” Jonkhoff said.
What the house doesn't have is ghosts or secret doors and passageways, she said. And she has looked, she said, as she was at one time sure that there had to be a hidden tunnel to the carriage house across the street, where Hannah parked his vehicles.
The Jonkoffs in 1992 purchased the Hannah House and the funeral business from Dan Jonkhoff’s parents, who bought it in 1976.
The Jonkhoffs' two daughters, Christy Jonkhoff-Hater and Lindsey Rogers, are both licensed funeral directors and plan to one day take over the business.
Jonkhoff says that over the years funerals have become very personalized and unique.
“You never know what people are going to ask for,” she said. “The minister, the location, the music … If you want a Harley on the front steps we can do it.”
Jonkhoff said a funeral service is so important to give comfort, support and closure to those the deceased leaves behind.
“It’s like a baptism or a graduation or a wedding. It’s a rite of passage, if you will. The funeral marks the end of that live span.
“It’s sad if we don’t have a service to remember that life.”