John Bellairs Walk

Marshall, Michigan has been home to a number of prominent people since Sidney and George Ketchum founded the Midwestern settlement and named it in honor of John Marshall (1755-1835), the first of dozens of communities and counties named for the former Chief Justice of the United States. In this town Sam Hill surveyed the state's Great Lakes; Thomas O'Brien was an ambassador to Denmark, Japan and later Italy; Abner Pratt and Clarke Hovey were members of the state legislature as senator and representative, respectively; William D. Boyce, the founder of the Boy Scouts of America, owned a summerhouse in Marshall; Isaac E. Crary and John Pierce forged Michigan's public school system under an oak tree; and merchant Jeremiah Cronin Jr. built a house. Yes, that house.

Established in 1830 and expected to become the state's capital, Marshall is located in the south central part of the state and has become one of America's largest historic districts. Laid out in the 1860s, the National Park Service notes the city’s large number of 19th century buildings in a variety of architectural styles from Federal to Beaux Arts with minimal intrusions, as well as an exceptionally intact community plan, typical patterns of land use and common patterns of development. Although the community had hoped to be the State capitol, prosperity came in the form of railroad activity and later a patent medicine trade.

Preservation efforts began in the 1920s when Mayor Harold C. Brooks (1885-1978) began buying and restoring some of the town’s early buildings. The Nineteenth and Twentieth Century architecture of Marshall has been so carefully preserved that it has garnered the city accolades over the years, including its 1991 designation as a National Historical Landmark District by the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior. The district includes over 850 homes and businesses, prompting one National Park Service manager to bestow Marshall as a "text book of 19th century American small town architecture." Today Marshall has a vibrant downtown with shopping and restaurants with stores located along Michigan Avenue and larger businesses located along Michigan Avenue near I-69.

The historic buildings and their stories intrigued young John Bellairs, who fantasized his own adventures walking to home, to school, and to visit friends and family. Bellairs adapted his experiences - these cherished sights and sounds - into his books, describing Marshall in The House With a Clock in Its Walls as:

"...marvelous. It was the sort of place [Lewis] had always wanted to live in....It was full of tall, elaborately decorated old houses. Even the ordinary white-frame houses had things that made them seem different -- a stained-glass window or a bouquet of iron flowers on top of a cupola."

Ann LaPietra originally researched and created this walking tour of the inspirations found in Bellairs' hometown and how they were transformed into memorable locations in both the books by John Bellairs as well as the novels completed and continued by Brad Strickland.


  • American Museum of Magic (107 East Michigan Avenue)
    • Inspiration for the National Museum of Magic of New Zebedee, Michigan.
  • Brooks Memorial Fountain (Intersection of Michigan Avenue and Kalamazoo Avenue)
    • Inspiration for the Fountain of New Zebedee, Michigan.
  • Carver Park (Intersection of Michigan Avenue and Exchange Street)
    • Inspiration for East End Park of New Zebedee, Michigan.
  • Elks Cigar Store (208 West Michigan Avenue)
    • Inspiration for Monday's Cigar Store of Hoosac, Minnesota.
  • Jeremiah Cronin, Jr. House (407 North Madison Street)
    • Inspiration for Barnavelt House of New Zebedee, Michigan.
  • Eagle Opera House (101 South Eagle Street)
    • Inspiration for the Opera House of New Zebedee, Michigan.
  • Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hall (402 East Michigan Avenue)
    • Inspiration for the G.A.R. Hall of New Zebedee, Michigan.
  • Hemmingsen Drug Store (132 West Michigan Avenue)
    • Inspiration for Heemsoth’s Drug Store of New Zebedee, Michigan.
  • Honolulu House
  • Lund Memorial Library (111 East Mansion Street)
    • Inspiration for Public Library of Hoosac, Minnesota.
  • Marshall Middle School (100 East Green Street)
    • Inspiration for the High School of Hoosac, Minnesota.
  • Masonic Temple building (115 East Green Street)
    • Inspiration for the Masonic Temple of New Zebedee, Michigan.
  • Michigan Avenue
  • Oaklawn Hospital
  • Oakridge Cemetery
  • Pendleton-Alexander House (218 South Eagle Street)
    • Inspiration for Winterborn House of Hoosac, Minnesota.
  • Saint Mary's Catholic Church
  • Schuler’s Restaurant (115 South Eagle Street)
    • Inspiration for Schuyler’s Restaurant of New Zebedee, Michigan.