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If Historic Walls Could Talk

John and Laurie Brian share the timeless charm of their 1895 colonial

Their house is more than a home – it’s a step back in time. Few can lounge where ladies once sipped tea in ruffled skirts and blouses that boasted simple brooches. Or share meals in the same dining room that hosted lively chats between dapperly-dressed gentlemen.

For the past 13 years, John and Laurie Brian have lived among a century’s worth of memories in their historic home on Belleview Street in Mount Clemens. And they have committed to maintaining its legacy and grandeur. 

“Romantically, we always wanted a Victorian-era house,” says John, noting that the couple has long had an appreciation for the vintage lifestyle. “When we moved in, we had all of this history presented to us and that really set us on a path for having a love of antiques and to restore and rehabilitate.” 

The 1895 Colonial Revival house was built by William S. Jenney for his bride, Grace Nellis. The couple married in 1899 – he was an attorney in the city and son of the mayor; she was the youngest daughter of the publisher of the Mount Clemens Monitor. They had two children before a rare and shocking divorce in 1916 – rumors circulated over the reason, though members of the two prominent families claimed it was a dispute over money.  

Grace and her children remained in the Belleview house, and she followed in the footsteps of her father and brother, Frank, who also worked in the newspaper business. Grace became the society editor for the Michigan Business Farmer and then wrote for the Monitor.

When the residence was converted into a two-flat home, the back staircase was used as the second-floor entrance for Grace’s sister, and a nook was built off the kitchen. Grace added on a first-floor bedroom for herself, which is now an English Tudor-style pub off the dining room.

One of the oldest homes in Mount Clemens, it’s still filled with unique and original features: A coal-burning fireplace in the parlor; a glistening gasolier in the dining room; crisscross window panes with oak frames meant to impress; dramatic wood archways to separate rooms; tall 12-inch baseboards, ornate crown molding and classic wainscoting; the charming front porch swing; even steam radiator heat throughout. 

“For the first week, I would walk down the stairs and it was a real Cinderella moment: I can’t believe I live here,” remembers Laurie. “I’m definitely more used to the surroundings now, but I’m honored to be a part of this legacy.” 

The Brians renovated the carriage house where Jenny’s horse, George, was boarded, preserving it with new flooring and support beams for John’s second-floor woodshop. Their work over the years has also included a remodel of the ensuite bathroom, kitchen updates and a new roof. 

Laurie’s favorite room of the house is the parlor, with its lovely afternoon light that once welcomed guests to Grace’s Musicale Mondays. It’s also where the graduate of the Detroit Conservatory of Music lay in state upon her death in 1949. 

From a decor view, the couple has created modern tension with vintage touches, from sepia-toned photographs of their grandparents to antique cameras to playful period relics.  

“I feel very grateful to be part of the history here – until something breaks,” John jokes. He’s been a member of the Mount Clemens Historical Commission for nine years. “We very much view ourselves as caretakers of this property … It’s a piece of the history of Mount Clemens.”


“For the first week, I would walk down the stairs and it was a real Cinderella moment: I can’t believe I live here. I’m honored to be a part of this legacy.”