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 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.

Advertisements
Posted in Vintage Point | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Farmington barn | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 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.

Posted in Vintage Point | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 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.

Posted in Vintage Point | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Vintage Point | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

VINTAGE POINT: Grace Hotel

Grace Hotel in downtown Farmington stood on the north side of Grand River from 1915 until 1965. Grace Insurance Agency, located on that site today, reflects the family name.

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.

Posted in Vintage Point | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

VINTAGE POINT: Victorian house on Shiawassee

A note on this photo from the Heritage Room archives tells us this Victorian house, once located just west of the Baptist church on Shiawassee, was built in the 1870s by Fred Staman and demolished in the early ‘60s.

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.

Save

Posted in Vintage Point | Leave a comment

VINTAGE POINT: Grand River orphanage

This three-story brick building once stood outside downtown Farmington at 34700 Grand River, just west of Oakwood Cemetery and the Hitachi drainage pond. It was built in 1922 by the Methodist Children’s Home Society and was directed by a Miss Francis Knight. The current building dates from the 1980s, although it was built on the same site and faces the same angle.

Historic photo from the Methodist Children’s Home Society. Contemporary photo by Maria Taylor.

###

For those of us who get really excited about old maps and photos, here are some “bonus” views. Below, the building shows up on a 1926 Sanborn fire insurance map:

And in an 1930 aerial shot of the town:

Here is the area in 1940 (photo from Oakland County Property Gateway). You can see that the building is still standing:

In 1963:

Another aerial shot from the 1960s:

1980. Looks like it’s gone now:

1990. Now the current building shows up:

And today, as Google Maps shows us:

There—now you know!

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 also keep an archive of all past issues on our website under the Vintage Point tab.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Posted in Vintage Point | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

VINTAGE POINT: Lumber yard

Some hundred years ago, you could buy lumber and coal at the Amos Otis lumber yard, located at the site of what is now Bellacino’s on the north side of Grand River.

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 other week 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.

Posted in Vintage Point | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

VINTAGE POINT: Grand River, south side

This downtown Farmington postcard was taken in 1948 and mailed in 1951. The brick building with double front windows, still standing at the east side of The Village Mall on Grand River, was Mac’s Five and Dime. The little white barber shop, just to the right, is now Bead Bohemia. The Kroger, at left, is now The Rocking Horse embroidery shop.

See the then-and-now slider here.

Historic photo from the collections of Les Newcomer. Contemporary photo by Les Newcomer.

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 also keep an archive of all past issues on our website under the Vintage Point tab.

 

Posted in Vintage Point | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment