By Derek Smith
“The Painted Lady” is an ornate Victorian-era home built by lumber baron John Jenkinson in 1888. I am sure everyone has seen this magnificent residence as they pass by it on south Military Street. It is always tempting to steal a glance of it through the car window, even in heavy traffic.
In the late 1880s, John Jenkinson had one of Port Huron’s largest lumber yards. It was located on the Black River along with the lumber yards of Peter and John Hill. Jenkinson also dabbled in real estate. One would assume that most of the lumber in the Jenkinson Military St residence was obtained from John’s lumber yard. Some of the wood in the house would now be 124 years old. The lumber, lath, and shingles handled by these lumber yards were purchased from “up shore” ports. Sawmill manufacturers on the Black River in the 1880s included Henry Howard and Co., Henry Howard, the mill owner, was also Mayor of the City.
The Brooks and Joslyn Co. sawmill was another large mill located on the Black River at that time. The Painted Lady home was designed by Chicago architect George O. Garnsey and is one of three “Hyde Park Villa” homes built in the USA. Garnsey published the widely read “ American Glossary of Architectural Terms” and was the editor of the trade journal “ National Builder.” The Jenkinson family lived in the house until John Jenkinson died in 1904. After his death, John’s wife and adult children chose not to live in the house and sold it to Albert Stevenson.
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Stevenson and his family lived in the house from 1907 until 1918. Albert’s brother Elliot was mayor of Port Huron, and together they founded the Independent Order of Foresters. Albert was editor of “The Forester” magazine and one of the founders of the US Savings Bank, which closed during the Great Depression, which began October 29th, 1929 with the collapse of an overzealous stock market. Albert’s dairy farm suffered two major fires in 1917 and 1918 and was probably one of the reasons he chose to sell the house and move on in 1918.
The Burt Cady family was the next residence of the “Painted Lady.” Cady was an attorney and served as a State Senator, Port Huron Postmaster, St Clair County prosecuting attorney, city attorney, chairman of the St Clair County Board of Commissioners, Republican Central Committee Chairman, and was director and chairman of the Port Huron Y.M.C.A. He was responsible for bringing President Taft to Port Huron, where Taft made his only Michigan speech during the 1920 presidential campaign. Taft was entertained at the Jenkinson-Cady-Secory house afterward. The Cady’s lived in the house until 1949. The house remained mostly vacant until 1969 when Lew and Lynn Secory purchased it. The Secory family has done a wonderful job of restoring the home. It has been, I would think, a labor of love as the details of the restoration from the outside are amazing, and it is now considered one of the finest “Queen Anne” type residences in the State of Michigan.