223 S. Mears Ave. Whitehall, Michigan 49461
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Larry Robertson,
Lisa Tallarico
and our dear friend,
Lois Ekstrand

Instead of boring you with family pictures, below are the notes from the program made to the White Lake Area Historical Society's Annual Meeting held at the Cocoa Cottage Bed and Breakfast on September 18th, 2003 and a few of the images we shared with members on that evening.

The Cocoa Cottage was one of the first recipients of the White Lake Area Historical Society's
2004 Award for Preserving & Improving the Historical Resources of the White Lake Area.


Arts & Crafts Architecture

The style of our home is an Arts and Crafts Bungalow. The Arts and Crafts movement started in Great Britain around 1890 and was in reaction to the highly decorated Victorian style and the industrial revolution. The movement was primarily led by John Ruskin and William Morris. Simple lines, natural colors, fabrics and materials are hallmarks of this period. Beauty was inherent in the material used and the craftsmanship of the artist.

The Arts and Crafts movement was not just a physical style, but also a philosophy of living. Simplicity was key. Co-op gardens, metal-smiths, potters and woodworkers all shared their craft.

The Arts and Crafts movement evolved into Mission style which evolved into Prairie Style, which was Frank Lloyd Wrights milieu. Although closely related, these styles have unique differences. The Arts & Crafts period returns us to a time of simplicity, authenticity, and enduring style.



Ownership History of 223 S. Mears Avenue Whitehall, MI 49461

1911-1956 Hardy A. and Madge (nee: Perkins) Esterdahl

1956-1977 John and Beatrice Fielstra

1977- October 1986 Ann C. Rudholm (nee: Chris Ann Lipka)

October 1986-September 1991 Michael E. (Mike) and Ruth Benovic

September 1991-Present Larry Robertson and Lisa Tallarico (husband and wife).

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What We Have Discovered 

Built by Hardy A. and Madge Esterdahl circa 1912.

No abstract, plans nor very few historical documents exist for this property. We estimate our home was built circa 1912 because of the extensive research on the history of the property discovered by Larry Robertson and Bob Hubbard. They have discovered the following:

The Polk directory of 1908 shows Charles Esterdahl, a dyer, (probably at the Whitehall Leather Factory) residence at Obell Street near Johnson. Hardy A. Esterdahl, bookkeeper, (At the State Bank of Whitehall) boards with Charles Esterdahl. (We believe Charles was Hardy's father.)

October 27th, 1910, The County Clerks Registry of Marriages at the Hackley Library shows Hardy A. Esterdahl, 25 years old, of Whitehall married Madge Perkins, 20 years old of Spring Lake. (Rumor has it that he "married money") Witnesses from Montague were Arved and Ester Nelson. Minister was Archibald Hadden.

December 1911, The Register of Deeds shows Hardy and Madge Esterdahl purchased the property from Maude E. Carlton, et al. (Probably from her estate.)

Since we found no formal documentation as to the date this house was built, our best detective work points to 1912. Since the deed to the property changed hands in December of 1911, it is not feasible that construction began in the month of December in a Michigan winter.

We discovered a 1911 Almanac in the walls during renovation, and we assume it was placed there to commemorate the date they purchased the property, not the date the home was built. Later issues of Polk directories do not indicate Hardy living with his father, but also do not indicate 223 S. Mears as his address. 

Our research of ancestry records (Access Genealogy) indicates that they had one child, a daughter born in 1913. In discussions with Edna K. Blomdahl, she remembered the Esterdahls as having two children. A daughter, Elaine who was the same age as Edna's sister, was born in 1913. Edna also remembered a son. Other comments were made implying that no one understood why they built "such a big house for such a small family". 

In 2002 we discovered that Hardy and Madge did have a son, Maxon. Max, as he was known to friends, graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Chemistry. Unfortunately, after a long an exhaustive search for Max, we were told that Max passed away in 2002, just months after we discovered he was retired in Florida.

1956 Hardy and Madge Esterdahl moved to Florida after selling to John and Beatrice Fielstra.

1958 Hardy A. Esterdahl died in Florida.

We speculate that at this time Madge left Florida and went to live with one of their children in Fairfax, VA, which is where a death certificate was issued in October1990. We have not been able to locate the daughter, Elaine. We assume she was married and took her husbands name, and thus fell out of public records. 

The Fielstra's lived in the home with their 6 children (Jack, Mary Lou, Lois, and ?) until 1977. John Fielstra owned the local tavern, which is now Corsi¹s Pub.

We have had the honor of showing our home to Jack Fielstra two times during our renovations. Once, at the very beginning and again just last year, Mary Lou and her daughter have also stopped by for a tour and shared several stories of Mom and grandma, especially of her garden and Lisa's similar gardening insights.

November 28, 1977 John and Beatrice Fielstra sold to Ann C. Rudholm, a single woman. Ann (Chris Ann as she was called) had "The Homestead Gallery" a gift shop in the front half of the house that featured many hand made items, including macramé plant hangers, clocks and tables made from tree slices and photography by Brad J. Bogart. Many thanks to Bob Bartlett who, in August of 2003, provided us an original copy of Chris's brochure that hung in his hardware store formerly at 103 E. Colby in Whitehall, where she also worked.

October 1986 Ann C. Rudholm sold to Michael E. (Mike) and Ruth Benovic. They lived there with their three children, Jason, Lori and Lisa.

August 1991 Michael E. (Mike) and Ruth Benovic sold to Larry Robertson and Lisa Tallarico-Robertson, of Kansas City Missouri.

The restoration process begins...













Restoring the Esterdahl Property.

July1993 Larry and Lisa took residence in Whitehall and began the 10-year restoration of the Esterdahl property.

We did (and are still doing) extensive research on the design, architecture and philosophies of the Arts and Crafts movement. Since no original plans were available, and the house had been "modified" several times, many of the original details were gone. The house has been remodeled and redecorated more than once, with the interior spaces suffering more than the exterior. With the exception of non-period décor and neglect, the principle rooms, living, dining, parlor and front porch appear to be original to when the house was built. Most of the stained and leaded glass is still intact and the fireplace has been fully restored.

Our goal was to bring the house back to its original splendor, to restore it.

Since we have no original plans or even photographs, all we had to work with was our extensive research of the Arts and Crafts period. The corrections we made to the house were done to honor the Arts and Crafts era.

The original molding and trim that had been lost or damaged beyond restoration was replaced with new trim, made of the same material, milled to the same dimensions, and finished as close to the same manner as current materials allowed.

In the process of our restoration, we discovered parts of shipping crates and a shipping label from the Chicago Milworks Company of Chicago, Illinois.

Addressed to H. A. Esterdahl, Whitehall, Mich. There are order and invoice numbers, but unfortunately no date.

The push button light switches and brass cover plates throughout the house are the same as when originally built.

The new kitchen cupboards were made using materials salvaged from the restoration, including the interesting old glass in the cabinet fronts.

The antique Arts and Crafts main entry doors came from an antique shop in Muskegon.

The bathrooms were restored in the ³sanitary bathroom² style, popular during this era. All white, with subway tile on the walls and 2' hexagon tile floors.

The lighting is a combination of antique fixtures and reproductions.

The colors chosen are all colors naturally found in nature, and true to the Arts and Crafts palette.

The blending of nature, indoors and out, is a cornerstone of the Arts and Crafts philosophy. The landscape restoration included saving the foundation plantings, many bulbs and the transformation of a gravel parking area into a pergola enclosed garden room; which is very typical of this era.

We have done about 70-80% of the work ourselves, from demolition to design and finish work to fund-raising. We hired local professional contractors to replace all the electrical, plumbing and heating systems.

While restoring our home, issues such as originality and the quality of materials used became much more important to us than the time schedule. Besides, we were doing our civic duty by providing free entertainment to our small town for 10 years!

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The Cocoa Cottage Bed and Breakfast Opens!

Are we done yet?
Heavens no. The privilege of owning an old house it that you are never done!

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