Whenever I tell people about Redford, I mention that most of the Township was built in the 50s. Literally blocks and blocks of brick ranches and bungalows. According to the 1950 census, there were 18,940 people living in Redford. By the time the 1960 census rolled around, that number jumped to 71,276 people. In a single decade, the population increased 276%!

Everything was booming – the economy, new home construction, and the population (hello Baby Boomers!) To understand the surge, we have to go back a few decades. Developers actually began buying out farmers in the mid-1920s and submitting their plans for subdivisions to the Township. What turned out to be great timing for the farmers, was quite the opposite for the developers. The Great Depression hit in 1929 and lasted until 1941. Of course by that time, World War II had started and everything was at a stand still. The developers’ plans were stalled and they had no choice but to sit and wait.

Acordex ViewTIFF PDF
The original plat map for Pine Ridge subdivision. This subdivision was approved by the Township in 1925, but major construction on new homes did not begin until 1953. The area marked in red was never developed. It is where Claude Allison Park is today.

When the war ended in 1945, people were eager to start having children. With an increase in population there was also an increase in spending. Unemployment rates were low & wages were high. To top things off, the G.I. Bill subsidized low-cost mortgages for returning soldiers. Families could finally afford a home and with the rate at which they were growing, they needed a home….and fast.

 

The Krohn Family

The Krohn family’s story is like many others who moved to Redford in the 50s (we’ve dubbed these individuals as the “originals”).

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Edward & Grace Krohn

Edward Krohn, a Detroit native, was a topographical engineer during World War II. Several years after his discharge from the Army, he fell in love with Grace Frances Makey, also a native of Detroit. They married on January 20, 1954.

Like many other World War II veterans, Edward was able to use the G.I. Bill to help purchase a home. On September 1, 1954, they bought a brand new bungalow in Redford located at 18425 Olympia for $10,500. Their mortgage payment was a hefty $53.92 a month. Edward & Grace’s granddaughter, Jaclyn Hanus, explains:

“My grandparents wanted a ranch style home but couldn’t afford the extra $4 a month for it. So they bought the newly built home on Olympia. The first year, they couldn’t even afford a toilet seat.”

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Photo of the home as it nears completion
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Looking south on Olympia toward Pickford. The field you see in the background is now Claude Allison Park.

Near the end of 1954, the Krohn’s had their first child, David. Two years later they became a family of four with the birth of their daughter Kim.

Originally a 2-bedroom home, the Krohn’s eventually finished the upstairs as the 3rd bedroom, built a 2-car garage, and added their own finishing touches. Grace passed away in 1991 and Edward passed away in 2001, but the home remained in the family until 2008.

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Current view with stone added to the front by the Krohn’s
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Current view of the home & Claude Allison Park

New Construction in Redford

With 60% of the homes in Redford being built in the 1950s, that left little room for any new construction ‘boom’ in the following decades.  The early 2000s saw major growth, to the tune of 184 new homes from 2003-2006. Most of these homes were the Ashley Park Condos (Schoolcraft & Sarasota) and the Chesterfield No. 2 Subdivision (on the old site of Volney Smith School at 7 Mile & Lexington). The rest of the decade was spent listening to crickets due to the economic crash, wondering if things would ever get back to normal.

A new subdivision, The Parks of Shamrock Village, began in 2005 on the former site of Detroit Catholic Central School, but major progress was halted when the recession hit. They began ramping up construction again in 2011. The 47-acre site has seen a total of 218 new homes in phases I & II. Thirty-three more homes are planned for next year, with a handful already under construction. When I stopped by to take a few photos, I couldn’t help but think that this is pretty much what all of Redford looked like in the 50s.

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A row of houses under construction on Breakfast Dr.

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If you have any photos or documents of Redford’s housing boom or a home under construction, we’d love to add them to our collection. Let us know by commenting on this post or e-mailing us at rthc09@gmail.com.


*Thank you to the Krohn family for the awesome pictures and information.
*Thank you to Marisa Ciaramitaro of Real Estate One-Troy for the information on Shamrock Village. Homes are being developed by Triangle Development.

 

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2 thoughts on “The 1950s Housing Boom

  1. My mother still lives in the same house my father had built for her in 1950 in the Chesterfield #1 subdivision south of Grand River and west of Beech. It is a Pastor (sp?) Built home made of cinder block. There are others in the neighborhood similar to it that still exist as well. I don’t have all my mother’s old pictures yet, but there are pictures of the house under construction and newly finished. My father put an addition on the back in the early 50s to fit their growing family. Thanks for sharing this.

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  2. My father had my our house built for my mother in 1950 in the Chesterfield #1 subdivision. It was a “Pastor Built” home made of cinder block. There are others in the neighborhood as well, all different. My mother still lives in this house to this day.

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