WARNING: Under no circumstances should you enter this property without consent or permission. By doing so you risk bodily harm and/or prosecution for trespassing on private property.

One of the most talked-about and legendary homes in all of Saginaw was that of The Cat Lady.

The house itself is a grand mansion - a red brick Queen Anne - that was built in the 1870s (some say 1877, others 1885) by lumber baron Charles Lee. He didn't make his dough just from lumber – he also owned major railroad stock and was a bank director. Married three times, Lee's death occurred in that house in 1899. Not long after, the house was purchased by Dr. Michael Ryan.

Ryan was a staff physician at St. Mary's hospital, turning in a 55 year stretch. He was also one of the original members of the Michigan State Medical Society, and worked for the draft board during both World Wars.

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Now, Dr. Ryan just happened to have a daughter, Rosemary. When Rosemary married Roy DeGesero, they moved into the mansion. Rosemary had a well-known love of cats, of which she was said to have 100 of them at the time of her death. Knowing this, when the Saginaw Daily News building was torn down in 1960, they gave Rosemary some of the ornamental lion heads that formerly adorned the building – she put the heads on display in front of her own house.

A dream of Rosemary's belonged to the circus...she always wanted to join one and be a lion & tiger tamer. That wasn't to be, so to make up for it, she acquired her own leopard, that she named 'Chichu'. She got Chichu when he was no bigger than her hand...by the time he was full-grown, he was three feet tall; AND he slept in the same bed as Rosemary and Roy. Chichu was tame enough where she took him to entertain the kids at local high schools.

In 2000, the Large Carnivore Act was passed, meaning no more large cats for Rosemary. Previously, it had been okay for anyone to walk a large cat down the sidewalk on a leash, like a dog. It was also rumored she once owned a panther.

By 2004, Chichu died, having lived with Rosemary for 25 years.
Rosemary herself passed away in 2012 at approximately 93 years old.

The house lay deteriorating for years and was marked for demolition – but enough people showed interest in preserving the house and renovations eventually began. The photos below show the house before renovation. It has come a long way since then!
Keep updated on its progress at:
https://www.facebook.com/CharlesLeeMansion/

Drive by and take a look sometime...but always get permission to look inside to avoid prosecution for trespassing.

It's located at 633 S. Washington in Saginaw.

House Of The Cat Lady

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