Year Built: ?
Sq Ft: 1,382
Garage: 2+ car
Lot: 1.6 acres
I hope you love a good mystery, because this home has left us scratching our heads! That’s why it’s the perfect start to our Centennial Homes blog (check out more information on the project HERE)
In mid-November 2015, I hit the streets to begin photographing homes. I had a list of 4-5 homes that I wanted to get to that day since they were all located in the same area. I made it to the first four houses, and after talking to some of the homeowners for awhile, the sun started to set. I knew if I hurried I could get to the last house and still be able to take some pictures before it got dark. The 5th house, on Gaylord, was just a few streets away, so I headed in that direction. When I pulled up to the stop sign at Gaylord, it had gotten dark enough that I had a hard time seeing the house numbers. I turned left, hoping I was right. As luck would have it, I was wrong.
Suddenly I was just yards away from the tragedy that had occurred just a few weeks prior, when a home exploded, severely damaging neighboring homes, shaking residences for blocks, and ultimately ending with the loss of the homeowner’s life. With enormous restoration trucks still parked in the street, there was no where to turn around, so I drove through.
As I passed, a beautiful farmhouse caught my eye. I looked at the address and double-checked my list to see if this was my 5th house – but it wasn’t! I pulled out my phone to see what public record showed for the year. And, of course, no year was listed – but that meant it had to be old.
For a November evening in Michigan, the weather that day was amazing. I noticed the homeowners outside and decided to ask them if they knew when the house was built. Wow – was I in for a treat. Owners Tom and Sandy warmly invited me into their home. Although they didn’t know what year the house was built, they had an incredible story that revealed clues as to the age of the home.
Tom and Sandy both grew up in Redford. They initially dated for 6 months, but then broke up. After 5 years had passed, they reconnected and eventually got married. They have been married for almost 40 years (congrats!). People move around a lot these days, so I was surprised when they told me they’ve lived in the house for 31 years. They also have 3 kids, who all grew up in “The Farmhouse”. Sandy began telling me that in the first few years they lived there, two elderly sisters stopped by one day. They had lived in this house as little girls and wanted to stop by to reminisce. I’m sure glad they did because they had all kinds of interesting information about the home.
As it turns out, this wasn’t the original location of “The Farmhouse”. According to the sisters, the home was moved there from Livonia, just on the other side of Inkster Rd. But not just “moved”, like hauled down the road by a semi – that would make for a boring story. The home was rolled on logs, across a potato field, to its current location. And it gets better – the basement was dug out using horsepower. Literally, horses were used.
The interior of the home also gives us clues as to the year it was built. Original features include a coal chute, hardwood floors, doors, light fixtures, and steam radiators. When Tom pointed out some unique building materials in the attic, I had to check it out for myself. Check out these beautiful timbers that are used for the trusses and the wooden pegs that can be spotted at the joints of hand-hewn beams. The attic space above the kitchen appears to be an addition since different materials were used in the construction.
The enormous 1.6 acre lot (in Redford!?) really helps with the farmhouse feel. There is an oversized 2-car detached garage behind the home, as well as a quaint front porch at the home’s main entrance.
I told you this one was a good mystery! I’ve researched…and researched…and researched some more to see if I can come up with an estimate on when the home was built or moved, based on the existing clues. And, of course, there is always more research left to do. I have recently taken on the painstaking task of reviewing the Redford Record, a weekly newspaper that began publication around 1900, for any mention of a home being moved. As I review the digitized copies, and the dreaded copies on microfilm, I have to take a break when my eyes start to cross. I’m not sure where the logic was 100 years ago, because I swear the font is size 6. I honestly don’t think the print could be any smaller. But I can’t give up now – this home tugs at my heart strings, and I know it has a history that’s waiting to be discovered.
So….here’s what I can gather, with research and help from friends: The home’s architectural style appears to be Greek Revival, which was popular up until the start of the Civil War in 1861. My hunch is that after the home was moved to Gaylord, the kitchen addition was constructed, and an original center chimney may have been removed .
From street-view, the left side of the home may be an addition as well. It looks like a lean-to, which was either added for extra space or was an existing porch that someone enclosed. The homeowners noted that the wall between the lean-to and the actual home itself had 2 separate doorways, which leads me to believe this area was a parlor or foyer area at one time.
All signs point to mid 1800s for the original construction. The light fixture might not be original, an indication of a remodel at some point (this fixture was popular at turn of the century). So, my best guess is 1830s at the earliest, and 1860s at the latest. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out the landowners, as recorded on various Township maps. No home is marked at this location on any of the maps.
1855 – F. Prouty, 78.44 acres, no home marked at site. House marked on 7 Mile.
1860 – Andrew Race, no home marked at site. House marked on 7 Mile.
1876 – A. Race, 80 acres, no home marked at site. House marked on 7 Mile.
1883 – P. J. Chavey, 80 acres, no home marked at site. House marked on 7 Mile.
1893 – P. J. Chavey, 80 acres, no home marked at site. House marked on 7 Mile.
1905 – Dr. Chavey, 40 acres. No home marked at site.
1915 – One of the only subs around. Shows Woodland to the north of the property, running E & W, now Pembroke. Shows Centralia to the south of the property, running E & W, now Vassar. Shows Highland Ave, now Gaylord.
1925 – Shows subdivision names only.
1936 – Shows subdivision names only.
1960 – Correct (current) street names.
As for the damage caused by the explosion across the street, this home held up pretty well. Besides for the windows being busted out, the home also has cracks in the plaster walls. A true testament to the saying “They just don’t build ’em like they used to.” I know Tom and Sandy are ready for the boards to be replaced with new windows. It has been a dark winter over there, literally and emotionally. With the restoration still underway in the area, my thoughts are with the families and neighbors that have been affected.
A huge thanks to Tom and Sandy for sharing their beautiful home with me!