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  1. #1
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    Default Detroit's Oldest Cabin Lies Hidden in a Neighborhood

    http://www.freep.com/story/news/colu...hood/80866138/



    This is the state of the James Smith farmhouse, the city’s oldest cabin and its second-oldest house, located on Clements near 14th Street on the city’s west side. Built as long ago as the 1830s, it's a small, one-and-a-half story box that sits partly hidden and largely unknown in a fading neighborhood dotted with abandoned homes, tucked between two old houses that shield it from view. A small historical plaque offers the only clue that there’s something special about it.

  2. #2

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    What a find!

    That it sets at such an odd angle relative to its surroundings suggests the unsolved mystery: What accounts for that disclination? To what other grid was it originally aligned? And how can that crooked chimney still stand?

    Street view

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimaz View Post
    What a find!

    That it sets at such an odd angle relative to its surroundings suggests the unsolved mystery: What accounts for that disclination? To what other grid was it originally aligned? And how can that crooked chimney still stand?

    Street view
    I can't answer for the chimney but the other grid is 'Public Land Survey System'. (also refereed to as Township and Range). Eight mile was the Base Line for the system explaining the north south orientation. I wonder how much acreage the original farmer worked.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Land_Survey_System
    Last edited by ABetterDetroit; February-28-16 at 11:20 PM.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by ABetterDetroit View Post
    I can't answer for the chimney but the other grid is 'Public Land Survey System'. (also refereed to as Township and Range). Eight mile was the Base Line for the system explaining the north south orientation. I wonder how much acreage the original farmer worked.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Land_Survey_System
    However this land and it's subdivision is within the 10,000 acre tract which predacted the PLSS. The subdivision was platted in 1916 and this house sits on a 35 foot wide lot just like every other one in the block. Either it was already like that (unlikely to fit in the plat so well) or it wasmoved when the neighborhood was developed. Either way a good question as to why it is laid out how it is!

  5. #5

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    Not sure what you mean. Define "predacted"? The house was there long before 1916 and almost all farm land in Michigan in 1820-1850 was surveyed and sold under PLSS.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by ABetterDetroit View Post
    Not sure what you mean. Define "predacted"? The house was there long before 1916 and almost all farm land in Michigan in 1820-1850 was surveyed and sold under PLSS.
    Predated is what was meant. Almost all land in Michigan was surveyed in a directional grid and sold under the PLSS, but perhaps the biggest exception to that were the parts of Detroit that had already been laid out in an orientation based on the course of the Detroit River.

    Included in that previously surveyed area is the Ten Thousand Acre Tract, which was granted to Detroit by Congress in 1806 in reaction to Judge Woodward's and Governor Hull's pleadings to defray many of the costs after the 1805 fire. It looks like the location of this house falls within that tract.



    The 10,000 Acre Tract is the large rectangle in the middle of this survey map. It's northern boundary is a couple of blocks north of today's Davison, right around where this house is.

    Here is an old thread on it:
    http://www.atdetroit.net/forum/messa...tml?1173667967
    Last edited by EastsideAl; February-29-16 at 12:44 AM.

  7. #7

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    Here is an 1876 map of the Smith farm, which may hold some clues about the orientation of the house.

    To orient you, the "Pontiac Road" on the east of the map is Woodward. I believe that the black boundary line on the southern edge of the Smith farm is where Davison is today, and the northern edge is just a little north of Oakman. I think the road to the east of the farm is now Rosa Parks Blvd. (12th St.). Note where Fenkell (5 Mile) seems to begin just to the north.

    This map shows 2 structures on the Smith farm (the black dots). One of them is just north of where I think Davison is now, and the other on a street that no longer exists that appears as if it may be an extension of today's Glendale.

    Name:  smith farm 1876.jpg
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    Here is a link to the entire map of what was then Greenfield Township:
    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty...image&size=400

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by EastsideAl View Post
    Here is an 1876 map of the Smith farm, which may hold some clues about the orientation of the house.

    To orient you, the "Pontiac Road" on the east of the map is Woodward. I believe that the black boundary line on the southern edge of the Smith farm is where Davison is today, and the northern edge is just a little north of Oakman. I think the road to the east of the farm is now Rosa Parks Blvd. (12th St.). Note where Fenkell (5 Mile) seems to begin just to the north.

    This map shows 2 structures on the Smith farm (the black dots). One of them is just north of where I think Davison is now, and the other on a street that no longer exists that appears as if it may be an extension of today's Glendale.

    Name:  smith farm 1876.jpg
Views: 1682
Size:  146.0 KB

    Here is a link to the entire map of what was then Greenfield Township:
    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty...image&size=400
    Do I spot a plot of land owned by a W. Mouch just above the stream, at the corner of today's Fenkell and Rosa Parks?

    Any relation? Still Alive??

    I've only heard of one other centuries old Detroiter, in that Jarmusch film:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TbxI_oRSKI

    Name:  only-lovers-left-alive.jpg
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Size:  14.4 KB

    Apologies again.
    Last edited by bust; February-29-16 at 03:06 AM.

  9. #9

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    And here's a map of the same area from 1904. Highland Park is now growing to the east. The Smith land has been split between Hannah Smith and E. Ford. Only one structure shows there now on this map, a house on the E. Ford land that appears to be near the no longer existing extension of Glendale. Could this be the house that's still there today, and could the siting of the current structure still be oriented to the the diagonal orientation of old Glendale?

    Name:  smith farm 1904.jpg
Views: 1522
Size:  207.0 KB

    Here's the map of Greenfield Township that this was taken from:
    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty...image&size=400
    Last edited by EastsideAl; February-29-16 at 02:58 PM.

  10. #10

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    I stand corrected. I bow to the Detroit history knowledge of fareastsider and eastsideAl, fascinating stuff, thanks for the maps. They answered my question of the size of the farm.

  11. #11

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    You can find this Picturesque Detroit and its Environs, on Google books. Photo of the farmyard is on page 26.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by bust View Post
    Do I spot a plot of land owned by a W. Mouch just above the stream, at the corner of today's Fenkell and Rosa Parks?

    Any relation?
    That sly ol' Wesley. He never let on that he was a land tycoon. Owning what's now such prime Lodge Freeway frontage.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikefmich View Post
    You can find this Picturesque Detroit and its Environs, on Google books. Photo of the farmyard is on page 26.
    That's a great find. Love the pig!

    If I had to guess, I'd say that the part of the house that now faces the street on Clement was actually the back side, and that the old front porch shown here was probably on the other side.

  14. #14

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    The link to the plat is below. The cabin is on lot 68. Judging by the fact that there is no deviation from the lot in the middle of the block from many other in the plat I have to imagine it was placed there. Many times on plats you can see either a larger lot or the plat wrap around the original house on a farm parcel and it typically would not be included in the plat. What ever the history its always great to find another hidden historical location in the city!

    http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/platmaps..._SUBINDEX=2317

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by EastsideAl View Post
    Here is an 1876 map of the Smith farm, which may hold some clues about the orientation of the house.

    To orient you, the "Pontiac Road" on the east of the map is Woodward. I believe that the black boundary line on the southern edge of the Smith farm is where Davison is today, and the northern edge is just a little north of Oakman. I think the road to the east of the farm is now Rosa Parks Blvd. (12th St.). Note where Fenkell (5 Mile) seems to begin just to the north.

    This map shows 2 structures on the Smith farm (the black dots). One of them is just north of where I think Davison is now, and the other on a street that no longer exists that appears as if it may be an extension of today's Glendale
    Al, a house I work on near Fenkell on Evergreen indicates on the original plat "12th Street" rather than Fenkell. It is from the early 30s.

  16. #16

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    A 180 year old home in the Detroit ghetto-hood and nobody knows about it. It stood against robberies, squatters and even arson. I hope the folks in that area are doing what ever it can to save it. That's amazing.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by EastsideAl View Post
    And here's a map of the same area from 1904. Highland Park is now growing to the east. The Smith land has been split between Hannah Smith and E. Ford. Only one structure shows there now on this map, a house on the E. Ford land that appears to be near the no longer existing extension of Glendale. Could this be the house that's still there today, and could the siting of the current structure still be oriented to the the diagonal orientation of old Glendale?

    Name:  smith farm 1904.jpg
Views: 1522
Size:  207.0 KB

    Here's the map of Greenfield Township that this was taken from:
    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty...image&size=400

    Upon closer examination, it appears that what is marked Plymouth Road is in fact modern day West Chicago. Is it mismarked? Did they change? Judging by the railroad tracks at Fullerton and the fact that the southern boarder of Greenfield Twp appears to be Tireman, something appears odd.....

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hamtragedy View Post
    Upon closer examination, it appears that what is marked Plymouth Road is in fact modern day West Chicago. Is it mismarked? Did they change? Judging by the railroad tracks at Fullerton and the fact that the southern boarder of Greenfield Twp appears to be Tireman, something appears odd.....
    You are correct. The "new" Plymouth Road was built in the early '20s as part of the automotive friendly widening, rebuilding, rerouting, and rationalizing of Detroit and Wayne County roads (same time as Outer Drive was built, and Vernor Hwy. was linked up across the city). The old Plymouth Rd. (W. Chicago) was cut off by the Rouge River, and travelers had to jog north on what's now Evergreen to get to the the road that crossed the Rouge and actually went to Plymouth (on the alignment of today's Plymouth Rd.). The new, wide Plymouth Rd. linked Grand River directly to this more northerly road, and was cut through the then brand-new Rouge Park.

  19. #19

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    Wonder if the dude sitting on the porch knows what he lives next to?

    Name:  Clements.JPG
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  20. #20

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meddle View Post
    Wonder if the dude sitting on the porch knows what he lives next to?

    Name:  Clements.JPG
Views: 1056
Size:  85.9 KB
    Even back then, people were into aluminum siding, imagine that.

  22. #22

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    This is fascinating. I love this lost history stuff.

  23. #23

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    Little House in the Ghetto! That would be a great TV serious.

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny View Post
    Little House in the Ghetto! That would be a great TV serious.
    Nice!.....

  25. #25

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    Just for it's own protection, move it to Greenfield Village.

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