DeWit Manor House


42.92855 -85.58829
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The private residence of the president of Calvin University.

A brief history

The Knollcrest Farm was originally purchased in 1931 by J.C. Miller as a diversion from his work running the J.C. Miller Co., which produced buffing material for the metal finishing industry. The English-style manor, built 1935, existed as the orchard owner’s home and became central to the property. Over the years, Miller added a barn, a guest cottage, a riding ring and quarters for workmen on the premises.

Miller also had eccentric taste in his choice of animals for the grounds: Peacocks strutted on the manor house lawn, and alligators were brought up from Louisiana to inhabit the pond, according to hired gardener, Henry Koopman.

At the age of 68 and in failing health, Miller was urged to sell the property by his wife, who wanted to move south. Miller reportedly had two stipulations for the property: that it retain the name Knollcrest and that it not be subdivided. Miller’s price tag for the property was $400,000, or a little more than $2,400 an acre. Calvin College completed its purchase with J.C. Miller on June 29, 1956. Reflecting on the sale at the time, Miller said, “This will be a wonderful place for a college.”

In the fall of 1956, a cross country course was mapped out on the campus-to-be, and an intercollegiate contest was held. A baseball diamond was seeded, and Miller’s horse track was converted to a running track for training purposes. The manor house was used for meetings and music recitals, and botany classes met on the grounds.

On July 10, 2019, Calvin College officially became Calvin University. The date coincided with Reformer John Calvin’s 510th birthday, for whom the institution was named at its founding in 1876.

50 Candles for Knollcrest
Calvin celebrates anniversary of the campus site’s purchase
The Spark, Fall 2006
By Lynn Bolt Rosendale ’85



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