The Zhemba Farm
Year Built: ?
Sq Ft: 1,125
Lot Size: .51 acres
*UPDATE – 4/18/16*
The Township has decided to sell the property. It will go up for auction in about a month or so.
*UPDATE – 7/11/16*
This home is now listed for sale.
*UPDATE – 8/5/16*
This property is now under contract.
Just a few blocks from my house, this gem is sitting on a 1/2 acre. It’s one of my favorite Centennial Homes in Redford, but as strange as it sounds, it’s easy to miss, as it disappears into its surroundings. That might be because the overgrown landscaping has woven its way through the porch railing, and has become one with the house. It’s a lonely home; vacant and owned by the Township since 2013. Every time I drive by, I glance over, hoping for some kind of sign of life.
I last spoke with Mike Dennis, Community Development Director, in December, to get more information on this home. During our conversation, he expressed that the Township has 2 options for this property: 1) Sell the property (including house and barn) at auction, or 2) Raze the house and sell the property with the barn. I think I could actually feel my heart breaking into tiny pieces when I heard that they are leaning towards demolishing the home. When I expressed interest in photographing the inside of the home so that the Historical Commission could document its existence and any historic elements that remain, I was told that there was nothing original left in the home. I have to admit, my eyes got a little misty. One of the best parts about photographing Redford’s Centennial Homes is finding the unique details that help tell the home’s story. So I was bummed about that part but still wanted to photograph it. Unfortunately my request was rejected.
This home has not only captured my heart, but the heart of others as well. A few people, including myself, have offered to buy the home from the Township. But still it sits, rich in Redford history, with stories left to tell. As the end of the road seems to be inching closer, it weighs heavily on me. Can this home be saved? Is there still hope?
I don’t know about you guys, but this home appears to have plenty of original character – a huge relief for me! I hope these photographs begin to paint a picture of all the memories this property undoubtedly holds. It’s just a small glimpse of the historic beauty in Redford. I’m left imagining all the things those walls have seen – and all the things they have yet to see. I think this home would make a great flower shop, antique store, or even a new home for the Historical Commission (ok, now I’m really dreaming – but it does offer enough space for students to visit and let their imagination run wild with stories of farming, outdoor plumbing, and a place that would have truly been “unplugged”).
Don’t let the square footage fool you. This farmhouse features a good-size kitchen, separate dining area, large living room, beautiful bathroom, and foyer/mud room on the main level. Upstairs you’ll find 2 huge bedrooms, and an extra room that connects to one of the bedrooms that could be repurposed into a small office (or a big shoe closet if it were up to me). The original details in this house are mixed in with newer items, along with what looks like reclaimed materials made to look original. Hardwood floors are found throughout the house (extra-wide boards on the 2nd floor). Original doors, as well as ridiculously tall baseboard molding and window trim, are prevalent too.
But the bathroom is really where you’ll take a step back in time. A large marble slab is sitting where, I’m guessing, there was once a claw-foot tub. The faucet is brass, with a matching gold leaf sink. Heck, even the toilet paper holder is brass. I don’t even like brass, but I’m diggin’ it. Not pictured is a full wall of built-ins for lots of storage.
One thing I’ve never seen in a home is what looks like a heating vent on the wall in one of the bedrooms. I’m not sure what was originally here, but now there is a marble slab on the floor and the wall of that space. My guess would be a small wood stove to heat the front bedroom. The home has suffered some fire damage from a wood-burning stove in the dining room, but in my non-expert opinion, it’s totally salvageable.
The exterior of the home has an amazing wrap-around porch, the kind every girl dreams of. And it’s not just the home that rocks – a 3-story barn also sits on the property, virtually untouched (aside from being painted red) from its farm days. Oh yes, even a dirt floor. It’s a beautiful thing.
So here’s what we know: On maps dating back to 1876, there is a home marked near this location, with 40 total acres. The same acreage appears all the way up to, and including, the 1936 map. The home itself is marked up to, and including, the 1915 map. No homes in the Township are marked on the next map (1925). At this time there were simply too many existing homes & subdivisions to mark every single residence. Check out the history of landowners, as recorded on various maps:
1876 – G. Ingrum, 40 acres. Home is marked near site.
1883 – A. Dueffer, 40 acres. Home is marked near site.
1893 – A. Dueffer, 40 acres. Home is marked near site.
1905 – H. Bartsch. Home is marked near site.
1915 – M. Zhemba, 40 acres. Home is marked near site.
1925 – M. Zhemba, 40 acres. No homes marked on map. L. Zimba, 20 acres, to the north.
1936 – M. Zimba, 40 acres. No homes marked on map. L. Zimba & J. Zimba lots to the north.
Mary Zimba is listed as the homeowner on the field sheet available at the Assessor’s office, recorded in 1944. At this time her property was 38 acres, which is extraordinary, considering most farmers sold their land in the 20’s to subdivision developers. But she held on! A note in the spot for ‘year built’ reads: Rep. 1946. Possibly repaired in 1946? The two subdivisions that are contained within the original farm, were approved in 1953 and 1955 according to the plat maps. Mary’s family appears in the 1910-1940 Redford census. Records have been requested from Wayne County – I’m hoping this will help zero in on the actual year it was built.
Lorenz (“Lawrence”) Zhemba* was born in Austria on August 18, 1862. Mary Sosinska was born in Germany on August 3, 1862. She came to Detroit in 1885, where she met Lawrence, and they married in 1886. After living in Detroit they moved to the farm in Redford. As you can see from the map notes above, there were more family members that lived on adjacent lots. In fact, the 1925 map shows two more lots (19 & 20 acres) owned by members of the Zimba family just a mile west of the farm, at the corner of Joy & Inkster. Lawrence and Mary had 12 children, with only 6 of them living past childhood. Lawrence died in 1934 and Mary continued to live there with their children until late 1945. She died just a few months later on February 19, 1946. They are both buried at St. Hedwig’s Cemetery in Dearborn.
As of April 5, 2016, Redford Twp owns 109 properties. Knock off a handful of those for government use, and you end up with….well, a heck of a lot of properties. That’s a lot of unpaid taxes in our community. I don’t know why they are holding onto so many, but I do know they claim to be out of money to fix this farmhouse and the Wait house – the Township’s oldest residence, also owned by the Township (since 2008). Look for a separate blog coming soon on the Wait house!
*Zhemba is the original spelling of their last name. It was later changed to Zimba, which is why we see the 2 different spellings on documents and maps. During this time period, there was also a Ziemba family in Detroit, which are believed to be relatives.