The city of Eaton Rapids has a very interesting and historically important past and Chris and Pam Sturgill are working hard to educate the public about it. They have started a new business, Island City Tours, and are conducting historical walking tours in downtown Eaton Rapids.
The Sturgills are the owners of the old Harriet Chapman/Stimson Hospital, located at 101 West Plain Street. Their plans involve restoring the old Second Empire architectural-style building into a haunted bed and breakfast. Much work needs to be done on the house to reach that goal, however.
The building was built in 1874 by John Sweezey as his residence. In 1918 it became the Chapman hospital, named after Harriet Chapman, the nurse who helped create the hospital along with Dr. Charles Stimson and Dr. Francis Blanchard. Due to Dr. Blanchard’s untimely death in 1919, after falling down the elevator shaft in the hospital, there have been stories of the building being haunted.
After Chapman died it became known as the Stimson Hospital. It was closed in the late 1950s due to disrepair.
“We didn’t think we would have a chance to start the tours this year due to ‘the plague,’” Chris Sturgill said, “but we decided to go for it.
“With the tours being held outdoors, it was easy to keep social distance,” he added.
The first walking tour, with the name “Scandal in the New Saratoga” was held on Saturday, September 19, and lasted two hours. It was sold out with most of the participants being from out of town. The Sturgills dressed in period clothing and served as tour guides for the group as they explored the historic landmarks downtown. Due to some of the subject matter, the tour was recommended for those ages 13 and older.
The tour began at Milo Stewart Park, the small pocket park next to City Hall, and participants learned that City Hall in its early days served as both a hotel and as the library. Other stops included the locations of the Wesley Vaughn house, Capital Theater, Livery Row, Hotel Daniels, the Anderson House, the Stirling House, Toles House, and Red Ribbon Hall, with numerous other historical tidbits shared along the route.
The Sturgills are hoping to offer one more tour later in October with the same theme and route for those who missed the initial offering. “People are bored stiff and just want to get out,” Sturgill said.
Future tour themes include ghosts, general history, and more scandals. Pam is the researcher, Chris explained, while he, as a former musician, is the main tour guide.
The Sturgills have hosted many ghost hunts in the building, and hope to further capitalize on the paranormal happenings in the old building to help fund the needed renovations.
“The plague put us off by a year in our plans to open as a bed and breakfast,” Sturgill explained. “We hope to have a couple of rooms ready by next spring for occupancy, and within two years be completely done.”
They plan to have 4 to 5 guest rooms, plus meeting rooms and a commercial kitchen. “It’s all subject to reality, plagues, and murder hornets. It’s all on the table,” Sturgill quipped. More than likely there will be a guest room in the hospital’s morgue in the basement, he added.
“The tours are just an offshoot of the other stuff we are doing,” Sturgill said. “We really love this community.”
A major project currently happening is repainting the ornate trim on the house. Sturgill is re-creating some of that tin trim by hand; it was damaged in the fire which destroyed the third floor of the building in the 1960s.
For more information about the tours or about Eaton Rapids history, contact the Sturgills at email@example.com or visit their Facebook page Stimpson Hospital.