The Parsonage Inn LLC
The Parsonage Inn is home to the Kosters and shared with the public as a Bed & Breakfast guest house. It offers the comfort and charm of a grand Queen Anne Victorian built in 1882. It exists to welcome the traveler to our rich and lovely downtown Heritage Hill neighborhood and the abundance of culture Grand Rapids has to offer. Experience a bit of history with us!
The parsons behind The Parsonage Inn are pastors Steven and Deb Koster. They love ministry and hospitality, and have a heart for healthy marriages and families. For decades they have encouraged families to stoke the Holy Spirit’s flame at home. That vision eventually developed in part into opening The Parsonage Inn.
Prior to ordained ministry, Steven’s career led him through two decades of technology, communications, and community building. Before attending seminary, he directed Calvin College’s media production and then launched online communities and products for Avid Technologies in Boston. After seminary, he joined Back to God Ministries International as the Director of ReFrame Media in 2006, bringing a wealth of media knowledge and experience as well as a heart for outreach.
After over twenty years as a Registered Nurse, Deb founded Family Fire as a ministry of ReFrame Media. Following her passion for family ministry, she serves as the editor, writer, and speaker for Family Fire.
Rev. Deb and Rev. Dr. Steven are both graduates of Calvin Theological Seminary and ordained ministers in the Christian Reformed Church in North America. They enjoy leading marriage retreats and family seminars to encourage people in their most intimate relationships. They are the parents of three awesome young adults who also reside in Grand Rapids.
A Short History of 423 Madison
The house at 423 Madison was built in 1882 by Robert Corson and his wife Sarah McConnell Corson. Robert Corson was an immigrant from Scotland and a career salesman and executive in the furniture industry for which Grand Rapids was famous, primarily working for the well-known Berkey & Gay Furniture Co. Sarah grew up in Grand Rapids when it was a frontier town. She was educated at Vassar College and came from a wealthy family with roots in New York. Her father was an early merchant in Grand Rapids and claimed to have built the first brick commercial building in the city’s frontier days. In 1881, Sarah, not her husband Robert, purchased the land on which their house stands–her name alone is on the deed.
The house features three floors and at least six original and large bedrooms. It was built in the Victorian shingle style, with wooden siding on the lower level and cedar shingles on the upper level, with a Queen Anne tower and a large wraparound porch. The original plumbing relied on rainwater collected in a brick cistern in the basement. As was common, the back rooms of the house were used by servants, accessible up and down a back stairwell running from the laundry in the stone-walled basement to the kitchen on the first floor to the servants’ quarters high on third floor.
Robert and Sarah had two boys when they moved in and a daughter soon followed. They raised three children in the home and often had sisters-in-law, Sarah’s parents, and service staff living with them. Family members appear often in the social pages of local newspapers in the early 20th century. Robert Corson died in 1914, and Sarah died in 1929. After nearly fifty years, the Corson family sold the house.
In 1930, William Wallace Sherwood and Virginia Mary Vevia Sherwood bought the house and lived in it for about forty years. At the beginning, they had teenage daughters, Mary Alice and Ann Jeffry Sherwood, and a younger son, Wallace Frances Sherwood. The youngest, David Alfred, followed soon after. W.W. Sherwood followed in his father’s footsteps as the owner of the Grand Rapids Panel Company, a furniture manufacturer on Front street.
In the 1930s, W.W. Sherwood remodelled the house to be more Arts & Crafts in style, replacing the front porch, tiling several bathrooms and the kitchen with brightly colored Art Deco tilework, and building a garage for his automobiles. He also installed a grand piano in the front foyer on which his kids could practice.
W.W. Sherwood died in 1948, after living in the house for about 18 years. His widow Virginia continued in the house for over another 20 years, as post-war families chose to move out to the suburbs and our urban neighborhood began to decline from its original glory. As a widow, Virginia divided the three floors of the house into three two-bedroom apartments. Her renovations added walls and doors for more security, including the side entrance for the third floor. The current library was once part of the dining room; it was partitioned off to make a bedroom. The original butler’s pantry was converted to the fifth bathroom so there would be a tub/shower on the first floor. The main stairwell was enclosed on both first and second floors for privacy, and kitchens were installed on the second and third floors. Through those years, Mrs. Sherwood lived on one floor and rented out the others. Her kids and grandkids occasionally took up one of the other apartments. Through the late 1960s, she tried to sell the house for less than $25,000, but no one would buy an expensive house in a redlined neighborhood. She died in 1975.
A Heritage Hill Home
Mrs. Sherwood eventually sold the house for about $18,000 circa 1972, to Milton & Darcy DeVries, who worked for Steelcase. About this time the Heritage Hill neighborhood became a federally protected historic neighborhood, the first neighborhood in the country to earn the protected designation under new federal legislation.
By 1988, Susan M. Carroll owned the house and lived on the second floor. The first and third floors were rented out to students and young couples, like young seminarian John Rottman, now a professor at Calvin Seminary.
In 1995, the house was sold by Susan M Carroll to Jonathan Wege, the grandson of one of the founders of the Steelcase corporation, and his wife Anna Wege (Oct 30, 1995, SW Michigan MLS #3312503 for $207,500). The Weges invested substantially in the house, remodeling the kitchen to gourmet standards and adding built-in bookshelves to the library. They also removed the second-floor kitchen and reunified the first and second floors into a single dwelling. Sometimes the house is still referred to as 421-423 Madison because it remained at a 2-unit home until 2017, with the third floor serving as a separate 2-bedroom apartment for strangers to rent.
In 1998, the house was purchased by lawyer Daniel R. Gravelyn and Erin E. Gravelyn (Nov 24, 1998, SW Michigan MLS #3365469 $337,750). After Daniel died of cancer in 2010, the house was eventually sold by his estate in 2012 (Nov 28, 2012, SW Michigan MLS #12045427, $265,000) to John Scheid & Daniel Snyder, who filled it with a wide array of beautiful antiques.
The Kosters purchased the house in April 2017 with the goal of opening The Parsonage Inn, which received its first guests in September that year.