Smith17

One afternoon, while on the hunt for some of our Centennial Homes, I drove past this house. I actually had to pull over to admire it. From amazing architectural detail to a lawn so well-manicured that it could be in a magazine, it reminded me of the homes in Detroit’s Indian Village neighborhood (just scaled down in size). I knew by looking at it that it wasn’t quite old enough to be a centennial home. But something was drawing me to it.

fast forward a week…

“Hi Mac, this is Perry Smith, you left a note on my door inquiring about my house?” (that’s right – I have no shame. I’ve left Redford Twp Historical Commission letters on quite a few doors, but this is the first time I got a response!). A few minutes into the conversation he mentioned a name that left me speechless. So, as we wrapped things up, he invited me over to check out the house and ask all 1 billion questions that I had been dying to know the answer to.

You see, Perry is the great great nephew of Volney Smith – a familiar name in Redford history. But we’ll have to go back one more generation to get the full picture.


Smith Family Roots

Perry’s great great grandparents are William A Smith, born in 1815, & Almira Phillips, born in 1820. They were born in New York and had 5 children together: Mary Augusta, Marshall, Volney, Nathaniel, and Harriet Ann. William was the first Justice of the Peace for the Township in 1847 and served for 11 years. He later became the Township Supervisor. On the 1876 map, William is shown as the landowner of a 207 acre parcel immediately south of 7 Mile and east of Inkster, as well as a 48 acre parcel on the other side of 7 Mile. By the 1883 map, we see land being handed down to his children. Eighty acres of William’s 207 acre farm now belongs to his son Marshall. William’s entire parcel on the north side of 7 Mile, plus an additional 88 acres, now belongs to Volney. Nathaniel now owns 20 acres at the northeast corner of 7 Mile & Beech. And Mary Augusta owns just over 77 acres to the northwest of Volney’s property.

The family line from William A. to Perry is as follows:

William had Marshall

Marshall had Perry

Perry had Wallace

Wallace had the Perry in our story.

Are you confused yet? I know, that’s not only a lot of generations, but A LOT of the same names. Stay with me, we’ll come full circle at the end.

William and Nathaniel Smith
William A. Smith (left), with son Nathaniel

Volney Smith Farm

The Volney Smith farm was 136 acres, bounded by present day Grand River Ave to the north, Beech Daly to the east, 7 Mile to the south, and Delaware to the west. When Josephine Lockwood married Volney in 1880, they moved into a modest farmhouse near Grand River & Beech. They had one son, George, who was born 1886. In 1901 they moved into a beautiful brick mcmansion, near the same location. The Smith’s sold the farm in 1923, keeping about an acre surrounding their house. Volney passed away in the home in 1926. Josephine passed away in the home in 1957, just 10 days before her 100th birthday. Both are buried at Grand Lawn Cemetery in Detroit.

The home was torn down in the 1960s to make way for a bowling alley, and eventually Aldi.

Josephine Smith death article
The Township News, January 10 1957

Volney Smith School

Volney Smith School

Not uncommon during this time, some of the Volney Smith property was given to family members as part of a dowry. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d much rather receive land as a wedding gift than a toaster oven – but that’s just me. In 1914 one of the family members that received a portion of the land deeded 10 sections to Redford Union School District #10.

Volney Smith School nameThe Volney Smith School, located at 26545 Vassar, was built in 1925, starting out as a five-room school. Throughout the years the school saw 3 additions, numerous renovations, and partial demolition. The building was also used for a variety of purposes – serving every grade level during its existence, as well as the Board of Education Administrative Office, an Adolescent Day Treatment Program, a storage facility, and lastly a day care. Final demolition began in 2003. The property was sold to a developer for $800,000, who built 56 houses. The development was appropriately named Volney Park Place.


The Perry Smith Home

19130 Lexington
1,748 sq ft
4 bed / 1 bath
2 car detached garage

I don’t imagine a lot of people can say they live in the home their grandfather built. But Perry has the unique opportunity to do just that. His grandfather, also named Perry, served as the Township Clerk in 1929. The home was finished the following year and was modeled after “The Russell-Bird”. The builder’s price at the time was $14,500. Check out this ad from 1925 that the family kept:

full home article

A few modifications were made to the home’s layout, which moved the fireplace (and chimney) to the front of the house.

thenandnow exterior

thenandnow fireplace

The home is a treasure in itself, but the home’s furnishings and original pieces really make it a special place to be. Original dressers, headboards, light fixtures, doors, and woodwork fill the rooms.

The sunroom is one of those places you never want to leave – Wall to wall windows, french doors…what more do you need? It also happens to be where a special piece of furniture is displayed. The cabinet, which belonged to Perry’s great great Aunt Mary Augusta, is beautifully showcased by the natural light that pours into the room.

thenandnow sunroom

Notice the window reflection on the cabinet door compared to the window reflection on the french doors. The cabinet’s glass is wavy – a product of 19th century glass blowing.

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Perry has truly loved this home. As the wood windows & doors faded from the sun, Perry refinished the woodwork by hand.

photo7

He also extended the original small rear porch into a covered deck. Arched doorways, glass doorknobs, phone nook, cove ceilings, large bedrooms, formal dining room, and a cozy entryway with arched front door make this an unbelievably charming home.

The original garage was built with wood from a barn on the family farm on the south side of 7 Mile. Unfortunately the garage had to be torn down due to the condition of the wood. When Perry had a new one constructed, he insisted it have wood siding to match the original structure.

Original garage (left) and the garage today (right)

Complete with a fountain and garden arbor, the backyard is like a private oasis.

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Remember the Volney Park Place development on the Volney Smith School property? It sits directly across from Perry’s house.

Although the school no longer exists, the various farmhouses long gone, and acres of farmland redeveloped, the Smith family legacy will live on. A huge thank you to Mr. Perry Smith for welcoming myself and board member Regina Gilbert into his home and sharing his family’s history and photos. Stop by the museum to check out our growing collection on the Smith family.

*If you have a unique home that you would like to share with the Historical Commission, please let us know!

 

 

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7 thoughts on “The Smith Family Legacy

  1. Thanks s so much for this article! I grew up on Centralia. Down the street was where the old Smith house was, where Aldi’s stands now. That was in the fifties and sixties. I remember playing ball and running around in that field and if I remember right it, there was an orchard. If mrs. Smith died in 1957, I would have been 6 years old. I remember when they tore the house down to make way for the bowling alley. Always thought that was a shame. It was the grandest house in that neighborhood for sure.

    This certainly has a lot of mysteries that have always made me wonder over the years. I enjoy your bits of Redford history all the time. But this one really came close to home.

    One more thing, I went to Volney Smith School kindergarten through sixth grade. It made me very sad when they tore it down.

    Never knew one of the Smith family lived in that house you describe on Lexington. Will have to drive by the next time I’m in the area. I currently live in California.. Thanks again

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      1. Boy, I’d love to see those. I went to Volney Smith from 1956 through 1963. Then Pearson 63-66 and RU High 66-70. I will definitely have to stop by the commission offices next time I’m visiting. I left the area in 1974.

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    1. We really enjoyed meeting with Perry and learning more about the family! So you are a Smith as well? Do you have any family documents or photos you could share with us?

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  2. I enjoyed the information about my old elementary school and my neighborhood. I went to Volney Smith from 1956 to 1963 then Pearson for seventh grade before moving out of the area. I lived on Gaylord and go through the old neighborhood when I’m in the area. Volney Smith school was basically in m backyard. Some great memories.

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  3. I remember the old house, then they torn it down and put the bowling ally there.I remember you Jackie Foy….Sad they had to tear it down lots of memories there….Marlene Leshuk Congdon….

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