If a childhood dream of yours was ever to spend the night in a Gingerbread House, a version of that dream can now come true thanks to an historic home in Benton Harbor now featured on Airbnb by descendants of the very family that was responsible for its construction 100 years ago.
Jennifer Nowlen-Boyer and her husband live in a home that her grandfather built 100 years ago. They’ve spent years reviving it, and have started a business on Airbnb in an effort to maintain the house and pass it on to the next generation of Nowlens.
Their “Gingerbread House” on Airbnb is now available for overnight visitors. Here’s a bit of the back story for you:
Descended from Scotch-Irish immigrants to America in the early 1700s, the Nowlen family arrived on the forested shores of Lake Michigan in Benton Harbor in 1861. Albert Russell (A.R.) Nowlen, the patriarch of the current line of descendants, was born in New York in 1830 and arrived with his wife, Sarah Jane Pratt, as the village of Benton Harbor was undergoing rapid change.
A fruit farmer by profession, A.R. immediately began purchasing and clearing the fertile land and planting acres and acres of fruit trees, peaches, apples, along with fields of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. That farm was at 245 Broadway, at the corner of Broadway and Empire.
Nowlen prospered and went into partnership with the leading citizens of the town, Stanley Morton, Dr. John Bell, Capt. J.H. Lee and Peter English to form the Benton Harbor Improvement Association, attracting business growth for the city.
Known as a quiet philanthropist, A.R. was instrumental in the founding of the First Congregational Church and the town’s first hospital. In 1902, his son Bert Montell (B.M) took over the Morton-Stevens lumberyard renaming it the Nowlen Lumber Company, a family run business which lasted long enough to celebrate its’ 75th anniversary in 1977.
B.M. Nowlen and his wife, Annie Hagaman lived on a large piece of property on Napier Avenue in Benton Harbor. Their home and property was sold at their death to the Napier Baptist church. Bert and Annie had six children—four sons: Stanley; (who built the Gingerbread House in 1923); Hilton; Tom; Eugene and two daughters; Annie and Bertha. Stanley Nowlen raised his two sons, Thomas Tyrrell and Gratton ‘Bud’ in the home. Tom’s daughter Jennifer and her husband Parris Boyer are continuing the family legacy.
The Gingerbread House is located in Fairplain/Benton Harbor, in a neighborhood known for its stately homes, many of which were built by the Nowlen Lumber Company. The subdivision where the Gingerbread House is located was purchase by Stanley Nowlen in the early 1900s, originally a grape farm, Mr. Nowlen subdivided the farm and named it “Nowlen’s Addition to Indian Hills.”
The Airbnb offer says, “We are in a beautifully private setting, surrounded by over 20 acres of woods and trails, yet are only minutes from grocery, restaurants, golfing and beaches. You have your own private suite, stone patio overlooking wooded ravine, private coded entrance, and plenty of space to park. A place of respite.”
The Gingerbread House Airbnb listing and additional details, photos, and contact information can be found at this link: