VINTAGE POINT: McGee Hill

 

You know that “jog” that Farmington Road makes at Shiawassee, after it dead-ends in front of the First Baptist Church? Back in the day, Farmington Road ran straight through, angling down McGee Hill in a sharp, steep curve.

By the early 1960s, the road over the Rouge (in this photo, downtown Farmington is behind you) had been closed for traffic safety. The farmhouse is gone, and the area is now the Twin Valley subdivision.

Historic photo from Farmington: A Pictorial History by Lee Peel. Contemporary photo by Maria Taylor.

VINTAGE POINT is Preservation Farmington’s photo column, featuring an exclusive focus on Farmington history: a look at our city through the lens of time. Look for Vintage Point every month in the Farmington Observer and Farmington Voice and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We also keep an archive of all past issues on our website under the Vintage Point tab.

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VINTAGE POINT: Salem church

In May 1902, 500 people watched as the cornerstone for the Salem Evangelical Church (now Salem United Church of Christ) was laid at 33424 Oakland, a block north of downtown Farmington. During World War I, a Red Cross sewing circle met there weekly to make bandages, socks, and helmet liners.

Here’s another shot, taken at a point when the church was covered with ivy:

And here’s one taken from near the Masonic Lodge/Old Town Hall:

Historic photos from the Farmington Community Library Heritage Room. Contemporary photo by Maria Taylor.

VINTAGE POINT is Preservation Farmington’s photo column, featuring an exclusive focus on Farmington history: a look at our city through the lens of time. Look for Vintage Point every month in the Farmington Observer and Farmington Voice and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We also keep an archive of all past issues on our website under the Vintage Point tab.

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VINTAGE POINT: Slocum House

This house at 33702 Oakland, two blocks north of downtown, was built in 1924 and was once home to the Slocum family. The tiny tree in the front yard still stands, and the area to the right of the house, where the light-colored building was, is now a small public park.

Historic photo from the Farmington Community Library Heritage Room. Contemporary photo by Maria Taylor.

VINTAGE POINT is Preservation Farmington’s photo column, featuring an exclusive focus on Farmington history: a look at our city through the lens of time. Look for Vintage Point every month in the Farmington Observer and Farmington Voice and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We also keep an archive of all past issues on our website under the Vintage Point tab.

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A Few Updates

A BARN UPDATE

While we’ve been quiet on the Grand River barn front, other’s have been at work making sure this gem is saved. Somehow, somewhere our contact information was passed incorrectly, but through the efforts of a contractor for the new property owner, our DDA president and fellow preservationists at the Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society, the barn is going to be disassembled and moved to the property of Pine Grove Historical Museum in Pontiac. The barn will not be immediately assembled in its new location, but Preservation Farmington and OCPHS will retain open communication on the barn, with PF contributing history for a display on the barn’s original location.  We’re very sad that we’re losing another part of our history, but are thankful the barn isn’t going to be lost.  Look for disassembly of the barn to commence as soon as tomorrow.

Here are a few interior shots from our trip last Thursday to photodocument the barn and house:

 

The house will be lost, unfortunately. According to assessor records, it was built in 1890. At some point the interior layout was reconfigured. The walls are now drywall rather than plaster. We’re currently researching the property to find out if the barn pre-dates the house or post-dates it.  We have a very tight time-frame, but are trying to relocate architectural salvage to other historic homeowners, though none of the trim appears to be the original trim for the home.  We’ll also be looking for a few helping hands, so let us know if you’re ready to wield your Wonder Bar soon!

HISTORIC HOUSE RESEARCH WORKSHOP IN THE HERITAGE ROOM

Are you starting your historic house research? Would you be interested in getting a boost from an experienced researcher? We’re floating the idea of doing a small group workshop in the Heritage Room where researchers can get help from Jena Stacey as they begin or continue their research. Group sizes would be limited to eight (8) researchers per workshop and would be on a weekend day. Email us at PreservationFarmington@gmail.com with your interest.

 

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VINTAGE POINT: Orchard-Ten strip mall

Farmington’s first strip mall outside the downtown was the Bel-Aire Shopping Center at the southwest corner of Orchard Lake and 10 Mile, which opened in July 1959. This photo is from the Farmington Enterprise; the caption notes that the center has parking for 350 cars and provides the “heavily built-up communities around it” with five different stores.

Historic photo from the Farmington Community Library Heritage Room. Contemporary photo by Maria Taylor.

VINTAGE POINT is Preservation Farmington’s photo column, featuring an exclusive focus on Farmington history: a look at our city through the lens of time. Look for Vintage Point every month in the Farmington Observer and Farmington Voice and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We also keep an archive of all past issues on our website under the Vintage Point tab.

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VINTAGE POINT: Bel-Aire plane crash

On October 9, 1960, a single-engine plane carrying three people crash-landed at Prospect and Loomis in the Bel-Aire subdivision, just west of Farmington High, where the St. Leo football team was playing Our Lady of Sorrows. It crashed in the Mathiesons’ front yard at 23680 Prospect, then skidded 100 feet. The right wing knocked a utility pole. The left wing hit 12-year-old Michael Wilson, who’d been riding his bike and had stopped to watch the plane circle. No one died, although all were injured.

Historic photo from the Farmington Public Safety Facebook page (it’s a cool album: see it here). Contemporary photo by Maria Taylor.

Crazy story, right? Here’s the story on the front page of the Detroit Free Press on Monday, October 10, 1960:

From the Farmington Observer:

And a follow-up from the Observer on the fate of those involved:

VINTAGE POINT is Preservation Farmington’s photo column, featuring an exclusive focus on Farmington history: a look at our city through the lens of time. Look for Vintage Point every month in the Farmington Observer and Farmington Voice and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We’ll also keep an archive of all past issues on our website under the Vintage Point tab.

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Saving the Farmington Barn

LATEST: The “open house” to view the barn, scheduled for Sunday 2/11, has been cancelled due to a heavy snowstorm. It will be rescheduled, and we’ll post a notification when that date is set.

This is the saga of the social media blitz that’s saving the “Farmington barn.”

It started on January 26, when we got a call from Kate Knight at the Farmington Downtown Development Authority.

If you’ve lived in Farmington for a while, you’ll probably recall the former Ginger’s tea house, formerly Mrs. Lovell’s tea cozy, at 32905 Grand River. Look down the driveway, and you’ll see a large lavender-colored barn.

Recently, the property with the house and the barn was sold by Ginger Weichers (of Ginger’s tea house fame) to a developer who purchased both that lot and the former Grand Cafe building next door. Their plan is to turn the Grand Cafe into a sushi bar and eventually a Japanese steakhouse, and to turn the old Ginger’s property into a private parking lot for the restaurant.

Tearing down heritage buildings for parking? That’s not something historic preservationists like to see.

But there’s a positive side to this story: When Kate called on that January afternoon, it was to let us know that the new property owner was offering the barn free of charge to anyone who wanted to move it.

The catch? It has to be out of there by early March. And it’s up to the lucky barn recipient to foot the bill for the move.

Could we help spread the word? Kate asked. Absolutely! That afternoon, we took some photos, then posted them on our Facebook page with a memo outlining the terms. (Click over to the link, and you can see photos of the inside of the barn: the high ceiling, the loft, the feed chutes, the three stalls for horses, each stall with its own little window.)

OLD MICHIGAN BARN NEEDS A NEW HOME // PLEASE SHARE, we wrote. We hoped that would help.

Share they did, and the post went viral. We started getting messages and emails from the media, too. Farmington’s story of the “barn for free” got picked up by Patch, Farmington Press, Oakland Press, Farmington Voice, Fox 2 News, WWJ, ClickonDetroit/Channel 4, WXYZ/Channel 7, Curbed Detroit, and Detroit Free Press.

If you read through the links above, you’ll find some fascinating history on the property. For example: Did you know that someone died there? Or that it may have been used as a stagecoach stop?

As of today (2/10, two weeks later), the post that launched the barn to its 15 minutes of fame has been shared more than 800 times and viewed by nearly 120,000 times people.

And the messages came flooding in from prospective barn-movers, too. We had inquiries from as far as New York and Canada and as close as Brookdale Street, just a couple of blocks away from where the barn currently sits. We’ve had folks who want to refurbish it as a cute little house, and folks with a historic farm who’d love to use it as a home for their horses.

The feedback has been amazing. And it’s so encouraging to see how many people truly care about saving a bit of our heritage and giving it new life and a new use.

How does one move a 30-foot-tall barn? The property owners have lined up a contractor and a team of professionals to move the barn, and part of the agreement will be that the barn recipient will use those movers.

Due to the interest, the broker for the property decided to hold an “open house” on Sunday 2/11 so that anyone who was seriously interested in moving the barn and wanted to see it in person could do so.

That didn’t pan out: Farmington got hit with a snowstorm, and the open house got cancelled. It will be rescheduled, though, and the date will be posted on our Facebook page.

If you’re interested in following this story, you might want to take a moment and like our page so you get updates.

Important note: We at Preservation Farmington are *not* the ones making the decision about who will ultimately end up taking home this piece of Farmington history. That’s up to the property owners; we’re just helping spread the word.

That’s the story of the Farmington barn, in a nutshell. The barn will be moved (fingers crossed) in early March. The house is available to move too, if there’s interest, but it’s a lot easier to transport/find space for a barn than a house, so that’s where we’re focusing our efforts. And, as the chairperson of the Farmington Historical Commission has remarked, the barn is more significant and more intact, whereas the house has been “upgraded” numerous times and lost a lot of its historic value in the process.

When it comes to the day of the move, we’ll post photos and probably some live video as well. We’ll post photos of the barn at its new home, too.

And while our focus right now has been on saving the barn itself, we haven’t forgotten how important it is to address not only the issue at hand, but the root of the issue itself: things like the zoning that translates into tearing down buildings for additional parking, just to meet city code. For those of us who are frustrated with demolitions or disenchanted with the kind of development going up in and around our downtown, we need to remember that it’s not so much the businesse owners (like the folks demolishing Ginger’s for the soon-to-be sushi bar parking lot) or even the developers who we should be pointing fingers at. It’s the policy-makers who set the rules, or bend the rules and grant variances (whichever the case may be), and enable this kind of behavior in the first place.

Public pressure for policy change, coupled with saving what we can when the occasion arises, is how we can all make a difference in the city we love. As the story of the old Ginger’s tea house and the heritage barn continues to play out, we’ll continue the campaign to make sure that Farmington’s heritage—our older and historic buildings that make the city a one-of-a-kind place to live—are honored, respected, and cherished as they deserve.

#thisplacematters

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VINTAGE POINT: Grand River and Oakland

These three “Main Street” houses, as the caption on this old photo calls them, once stood at the northwest corner of Grand River and Oakland, one block west of downtown Farmington. The blue house at left still remains, as does the Salem United Church of Christ (at far right).

See the then-and-now slider here.

Historic photo from the Farmington Community Library Heritage Room. Contemporary photo by Maria Taylor.

VINTAGE POINT is Preservation Farmington’s photo column, featuring an exclusive focus on Farmington history: a look at our city through the lens of time. Look for Vintage Point every month in the Farmington Observer and Farmington Voice and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We’ll also keep an archive of all past issues on our website under the Vintage Point tab.

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VINTAGE POINT: Our Lady of Sorrows

In 1927, when the top photo was taken, Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church (23815 Power Road, at left) had just started celebrating Mass in the newly built, 125-seat “Little White Church on the Hill.” The Ely farmhouse next door (at right), overlooking Shiawassee Park, was used as a rectory until being torn down in early March 1961, after which the new church was dedicated.

Here’s a close-up look at the Ely house, back when it was used as a home:

Imogene Ely (Bicking), pictured below, lived in the house in the early 1900s.

From the second floor, you could see the whole valley spread out in front of you. Perhaps that’s where she wrote her poem “The Old Mill” in 1908:

Historic photo from the archives of Our Lady of Sorrows. Contemporary photo by Brian Sosnoski. Photos of Ely house, Imogene Ely (at left), and poem are scanned from Farmington: A Pictorial History by Lee S. Peel (pg 40, 139).

VINTAGE POINT is Preservation Farmington’s photo column, featuring an exclusive focus on Farmington history: a look at our city through the lens of time. Look for Vintage Point every month in the Farmington Observer and Farmington Voice and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We’ll also keep an archive of all past issues on our website under the Vintage Point tab.

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VINTAGE POINT: Old Band House

A note on this photo from the Heritage Room archives tells us this 1870s Mansard house, once located at Grand River and School Street, was called the “Old Band House.” It stood at the northeast corner of Grand River and School Street, at what is now the park in front of Farmington Place.

Historic photo from the Farmington Community Library Heritage Room. Contemporary photo by Maria Taylor.

VINTAGE POINT is Preservation Farmington’s photo column, featuring an exclusive focus on Farmington history: a look at our city through the lens of time. Look for Vintage Point every other week in the Farmington Observer and Farmington Voice and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We’ll also keep an archive of all past issues on our website under the Vintage Point tab.

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