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.
HI-SPEED GAS STATION | 33604 Grand River
1930s Farmington had a Hi-Speed gas station at Grand River and Grace (33604 Grand River Avenue), across from Thayer-Rock Funeral Home. Today, it’s Acosta Sales & Marketing.
SHIAWASSEE HOUSE | 33430 Shiawassee
This house at 33430 Shiawassee, no longer standing, was reportedly built in the 1820s or 1830s and owned by Arthur Power, who founded Farmington. It stood at what’s now the western edge of the First Baptist Church side lawn.
QUAKER MEETINGHOUSE | 34196 State Street
This home at 34196 State Street, one lot south of the Quaker cemetery on Gill, was once the site of an 1832 Quaker meetinghouse. Subsequent owners built around it rather than tear it down; in the top photo (1957), you can see part of the original structure in the built-in garage. It’s gone now — the current house was built in 1993.
BOTSFORD INN | 28000 Grand River
Farmington Hills’ historic Botsford Inn was built in 1836. Henry Ford bought it in 1924 and moved it back from the road, where it still stands today, surrounded by the Beaumont Hospital complex at Grand River and Eight Mile.
GRAND RIVER AND GROVE | 33025 Grand River
In the early 1900s, residential houses occupied much of what is now retail space in downtown Farmington–like Dress Barn at Grand River and Grove.
GRAND RIVER RESIDENTIAL | 33712 Grand River
This historic house stands at 33712 Grand River, just west of Cass in downtown Farmington. It was built in 1920.
GRAND RIVER, SOUTH SIDE | Downtown Farmington
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.
LUMBER YARD | 32720 Grand River
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.
METHODIST CHILDREN’S HOME | 34700 Grand River
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.
VICTORIAN HOUSE | Shiawassee Road
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.
GRACE HOTEL | Grand River, Downtown Farmington
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.
OLD BAND HOUSE | Grand River and School Street
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.
OUR LADY OF SORROWS CATHOLIC CHURCH | 23815 Power Road
In 1927, when the top photo was taken, Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church 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.
“MAIN STREET” HOUSES | 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).
BEL-AIRE PLANE CRASH | Prospect and Loomis
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.
BEL-AIRE SHOPPING CENTER | 10 Mile and Orchard Lake
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.
SLOCUM HOUSE | 33702 Oakland
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.
SALEM CHURCH | 33424 Oakland
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.
McGEE HILL | Twin Valley subdivision
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.