Preservation Farmington’s peek-into-the-past column, featuring historic photos from the Farmington Community Library Heritage Room and original photography–taken from the same angle for a true then-and-now perspective. You’ll see:
- How our streets looked 100 years ago…and how they look today.
- What homes and businesses have been built…torn down…rebuilt…repurposed.
- What has changed…and what’s stayed the same.
GOVERNOR WARNER MANSION | 33805 Grand River
Farmington’s iconic Governor Warner Mansion, built in 1867, wasn’t always white. The paint job, plus the signature wraparound porch, was added circa 1910 by Fred Warner, the home’s gubernatorial namesake.
LEE BLOCK | 33401 Grand River
Around 1910, the KitchenMaster store–at the southwest corner of Grand River Avenue and Farmington Road–was part of Lee Block. In its early days, it was home to the H.W. Lee harness store. In the 1950s, it was the Oak Pharmacy, complete with a soda bar and high stools.
GRAND RIVER HOUSES | Grand River and Grove Street
In 1916, Farmington’s downtown streets were lined with residential homes—like these four, across from the Sundquist Pavilion at Grand River and Grove Street. The tree in the foreground stands in what is now Dress Barn in the Downtown Farmington Center.
These houses were the subject of Preservation Farmington’s petition late last year, and remain threatened by some of the Farmington Downtown Area Plan’s concepts that call for their eventual replacement.
BLACKSMITH SHOP | Grand River
Around 1890, you could get your wagons repaired and horses reshod at the blacksmith shop on Grand River, just west of Farmington Road.
PIERCE HOME | 33928 Grand River
This 1894 house in the Farmington Historic District was once home to M.B. and Ernestine Pierce. He was a barber. She was a member of the Ladies’ Literary Club.
OAKLAND HOUSES | Oakland and Cass Street
While not part of the Farmington Historic District, these circa 1910 houses on Oakland (south of Grand River, two blocks west of downtown) still show a clear throwback to their original style.
KIDS ON GRAND RIVER
Times may change, but kids will still be kids. Here, Liam and Sophie Stacey of Farmington pose on the front lawn of the Governor Warner Mansion, where Warner’s grandson William Slocum (top photo, at left) and a friend once played in April 1924. Across Grand River, the streetscape remains largely unchanged.
FARMINGTON ROLLER MILLS | State and Liberty Street
The Farmington Branch Library at State and Liberty streets was once the site of a flour mill. It was built in 1888 by German immigrant Louis Gildemeister, using $1,000 donated by local citizens, and stood until December 1962.
VICTORIAN HOME | 23700 Warner Street
This historic district house at 23700 Warner Street celebrates its 150th birthday this spring. During the Great Depression, it was repossessed by the People’s State Bank of Farmington, and fell into disrepair until 1935. The porch is gone now, but the bay windows and decorative trim are original from 1866.
FARMINGTON’S FIELD OF DREAMS | Shiawassee Park
Once, a farm field. Today, the baseball fields of Shiawassee Park.
BURNETT BROS. GAS STATION | 33708 Grand River
Until the mid-1950s, you could refuel your car or get an oil change at the Burnett Bros. Gas Station, located at the corner of Grand River and Cass, just west of downtown Farmington.
FARMINGTON FOURSQUARE | 23801 Farmington Road
This ca. 1920 photo shows the Foursquare house (23801 Farmington Road) at the northwest corner of Oakland and Farmington, with the Salem United Church of Christ in the background. The home and the church look very much the same today, but the little field of corn has long since been replaced by the Collinwood apartments.
A PRETTY DRIVE | Shiawassee Road
This vintage shot of Shiawassee Road was taken around 1900, looking east from Warner Street toward Shiawassee Park. The sledding hill near Our Lady of Sorrows is behind the trees in the back-left corner. The caption on the original photo reads: “A pretty drive near Farmington Mich.”
UNIVERSALIST CHURCH | Warner and Thomas
Farmington’s little white Universalist church (old photo, at left) was dedicated on August 28, 1853 at the northeast corner of Warner and Thomas. Its tower had no bell, so the Universalists paid to share the bell in the Methodist church next door.
The church was moved to 25301 Halsted in Farmington Hills in 1967. Its former site is now a parking lot, adjacent to the vacant Maxfield Training Center in downtown Farmington.
FARMINGTON CIVIC THEATRE | 33332 Grand River
Movies and air conditioning were both big draws for the Farmington Civic Theatre, as the sign in this late 1940s photo suggests.
GROCERY STORE GRAND OPENING | 23300 Farmington Road
Two grocery store ribbon cuttings, 55 years apart, both at 23300 Farmington Road. Fresh Thyme’s was August 16. The A&P’s was February 15, 1961. Note the colonial costumes in the old photo, a nod to the A&P’s ad announcing the “New Early American Style Super Market.”
BACK TO SCHOOL | Grand River and School Street
The original Farmington High School stood at the end of School Street, just off Grand River at the east side of downtown. It was built in 1888 and burned to the ground in 1918. The building at left in the modern photo is the soon-to-be-redeveloped Maxfield Training Center.
ON TRACK IN DOWNTOWN FARMINGTON | Grand River
An old shot looking west along Grand River shows the interurban tracks that once ran through downtown Farmington.
EAGLE MILL | Power Road
Eagle Mill was built in the mid-1800s by Arthur Power. The mill came down in 1923, but the street is still called Power Road. Today, the mill site is a parking lot for the Shiawassee Park tennis courts, across from Valley View Circle.
PEOPLES STATE BANK | 33312 Grand River
The Peoples State Bank (now Edward Jones Investments) opened in 1918 and closed during the Depression. For years, it served as Farmington’s city hall. “The clerk’s office is in the Farmington State Bank, the treasurer’s office depends on convenience, and the Commission meets in the basement,” reported the Farmington Enterprise in 1935.
DOCTOR’S OFFICE/LOS TRES AMIGOS | 33200 Grand River
This house, now demolished, at the site of Los Tres Amigos was once the offices of Drs. E.F. Holcomb, Joseph Norton, and Maynard Whitehead, per a note in the Farmington Community Library Heritage Room’s digital archives.
FARMINGTON STATE SAVINGS BANK | Grand River and Farmington
Farmington State Savings Bank (now the Village Mall) opened at Grand River and Farmington Road on March 18, 1922. The lobby was marble and walnut, and the vault door weighed more than 10,000 pounds.
FARMINGTON ENTERPRISE OFFICE | Farmington Road
The Farmington Enterprise (a predecessor to the Farmington Observer) published its first edition on Nov. 2, 1888. This photo shows its office prior to 1926, when the building was razed and rebuilt on the same site (Farmington Road, just south of Grand River). It’s no longer a news office today, but you can still read the work they printed there: visit farmlib.org/local-history.
BUCK’S LIQUORS | North side of Grand River
A view of the north side of Grand River in the 1940s. John Cowley & Sons pub was Buck’s Liquors. To the right, next to the Farmington Civic Theater, was a sandwich shop.
MASONIC LODGE | 23715 Farmington Road
A hundred years ago, the Masonic Lodge (23715 Farmington Road) doubled as Farmington Township Hall. It also hosted talent shows, lectures, Eastern Star dances, political meetings, and basketball games—although some council members thought the games shouldn’t be allowed, as the basketball sometimes crashed into the electric lights. In summer, a band played on the lawn every Saturday night.
FARMINGTON FROM ABOVE
In 1930s Farmington, much of the area outside the immediate downtown—like the neighborhood between Grand River (at center) and Freedom—was still open land.
OWEN HOUSE | Southwest corner of Grand River and Farmington Road
In the early 1900s, the Owen House hotel stood at the site of The Village Mall. Rates were $1.50/day with a special Sunday dinner for 25 cents.
DUR STATION | Grand River and Orchard Lake
From 1900 to 1930, you could hop on the interurban at the local station — like this one at the south corner of Grand River and Orchard Lake — and take the Detroit United Railway streetcar to Northville, Plymouth, or Detroit. Travel rates were 2 cents a mile.