Boston-Edison Historic District
Boston-Edison Historic District
Homes on West Boston Boulevard
|Location||Bounded by Edison Ave., Woodward Ave., Linwood Ave., and W. Boston Blvd.
|Area||256 acres (104 ha)|
|Architectural style||Colonial Revival, Late 19th and Early 20th Century American Movements, Late 19th and 20th Century Revivals|
|Governing body||Department of Housing and Urban Development|
|NRHP Reference #||75000965|
|Added to NRHP||September 5, 1975|
|Designated MSHS||December 11, 1973|
The Boston-Edison Historic District is a historic neighborhood located in the geographic center of Detroit, Michigan. It consists of over 900 homes built on four east/west streets: West Boston Boulevard, Chicago Boulevard, Longfellow Avenue, and Edison Avenue, stretching from Woodward Avenue on the east to Linwood Avenue on the west. It is one of the largest residential historic districts in the nation. It is surrounded by Sacred Heart Major Seminary to the west, the Arden Park-East Boston Historic District and the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament to the east, and the Atkinson Avenue Historic District to the south. The district was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1973 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
A substantial number of prominent Detroiters have lived in the neighborhood. Notable residents have included labor leader Walter P. Reuther, Rabbi Morris Adler, Detroit Tigers Harry Heilmann and Dizzy Trout, Michigan Supreme Court justices Franz C. Kuhn and Henry Butzel, U.S. Representative Vincent M. Brennan, Michigan governor Harry Kelly,  boxer Joe Louis, druggist Sidney Barthwell, Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr., Motown record label founder Berry Gordy, Detroit Tiger Willie Horton, and dentist and pioneering WCHB radio station owner Wendell F. Cox.
The District boasts the oldest continuous neighborhood association in the City, the Historic Boston-Edison Association, which was founded in 1921. The District received historic designation from the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office in 1973, the Detroit Historic District Commission in 1974, and the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Census data from 2000  (which includes the surrounding streets of Atkinson, Clairmount, and Glynn Court) show Boston-Edison has both African-American and Caucasian residents. The homes are owned by people from diverse occupations and professions.
|Walter O. Briggs House||1915||700 West Boston Boulevard||English Manor style||Chittenden and Kotting||This house was built for Walter O. Briggs, the founder of Briggs Manufacturing, a car-body manufacturing firm, and owner of the Detroit Tigers. The house is constructed from light-colored fieldstone.|
|James Couzens House||1910||610 Longfellow Avenue||Tudor Revival||Albert Kahn||This house was built for James Couzens, who was at the time a major shareholder in the immensely profitable Ford Motor Company. After leaving Ford Motor company, James Couzens entered public service, becoming the mayor of Detroit and later a U. S. Senator. His son, Frank Couzens, also served as mayor of Detroit and lived in this house.|
|Charles T. Fisher House||1915||670 West Boston Boulevard||Tudor Revival||George D. Mason||This house was built for Charles T. Fisher, the president of Fisher Body corporation. It is the largest house in the Boston-Edison Historic District at 18,000 square feet (1,700 m2).|
|Henry Ford House||1908||140 Edison Avenue||Italian Renaissance Revival||Malcomson, Higginbottom and Clement||This house was built for Henry Ford and his wife Clara, in the same year that the Model T went into production at the nearby Piquette Avenue Ford Plant. The Fords lived here until 1914, when their Fair Lane estate in Dearborn was completed. A state of Michigan Historical marker is placed in front of this house.|
|Berry Gordy House||1917||918 West Boston Boulevard||Italian Renaissance Revival||Originally built in 1917 for Nels Michalson, a Danish businessman who made his fortune in timber and real estate, the 8,000 sq ft (740 m2). mansion was purchased in 1967 by Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records. It is also known as Motown Mansion.|
|S. S. Kresge House||1914||70 West Boston Boulevard||Mediterranean villa||Meade and Hamilton||This house was built for Sebastian S. Kresge, the founder of S. S. Kresge Company, the precursor to K-Mart. The stucco house is situated on the largest lot in the Boston-Edison neighborhood.|
|Benjamin Siegel House||1914||150 West Boston Boulevard||Italian Renaissance ||Albert Kahn||This house was built for Benjamin Siegel, the founder of a large women's clothing store. It is built entirely of limestone, maintaining a strict sense of symmetry.|
Henry Ford House
|Governing body||Department of Housing and Urban Development|
|Part of||Boston-Edison Historic District (#75000965)|
|Designated MSHS||July 17, 1986|
The land now within the boundaries of Boston-Edison was first owned by John R. Williams (who was granted a single parcel in 1822) and Thomas Palmer (who was granted three parcels in 1828 and 1832). These original four grants were transferred from owner to owner over the next fifty years until they were obtained by the Joy family, the Newberry family, and Edward W. Voigt.
In 1891, Voigt, foreseeing the growth of Detroit northward, platted out the Voigt Park subdivision, consisting of seven east/west streets between Woodward and Hamilton—those being Calvert Avenue, Glynn Court, Schiller Esplanade, Shakespeare Esplanade, Longfellow Avenue, Edison Avenue, and Atkinson Avenue. Four of these streets—Schiller Esplanade (now Boston Boulevard), Shakespeare Esplanade (now Chicago Boulevard), Longfellow Avenue, and Edison Avenue—formed the Boston-Edison neighborhood. The location of the neighborhood park—originally to have been between Chicago and Boston Boulevards—was later changed to be situated between Longfellow and Edison Avenues.
Voigt Park subdivision was immediately incorporated into the City of Detroit. Voigt platted spacious lots and set building restrictions that established the unique character of the neighborhood. His vision was followed by Truman and John Newberry, who platted the West Boston Boulevard Subdivision between Hamilton and 12th Street (now "Rosa Parks Boulevard") in 1913. The subdivision included lots on West Boston, Chicago, Longfellow, and Edison, as well as on Atkinson to the south. In 1915, Henry B. Joy platted the Joy Farms Subdivision between 12th Street and Linwood. This subdivision included lots on the same seven streets originally platted by Voigt. Both of these subdivisions were annexed by the City of Detroit by 1915.
The first homes built in the Boston-Edison Historic District were occupied in 1905, with the majority of the homes built between 1905 and 1925. Each of the homes in the neighborhood is unique. Architectural styles represented include English Tudor revival, Roman and Greek Revival, French Provincial, Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance, Prairie Style, and Vernacular. These homes range in size from modest two-story vernaculars to massive mansions set on sprawling grounds. Although the homes are unique in style, homes along the streetscape are generally uniform in roofline, scale, setback from the street, and in the use of stone, brick or wood construction. This uniformity creates a gracious suburban ambiance.
One of the earliest residents of the Boston-Edison neighborhood, Henry Ford, was also one of the most well-known. In 1907, Ford had a brick and limestone Italian Renaissance Revival residence built at the corner of Edison and Second at a cost of $483,253. Ford and his wife, Clara, moved in the next year, living in the neighborhood until 1915, when they relocated to Fair Lane, their estate in Dearborn. During the time that Ford lived in Boston-Edison, his introduction of the Model T, mass production methods, and wage-price theories revolutionized American industry. Above the garage (behind the house), Henry Ford built a machine shop for his son Edsel to support and encourage Edsel's interest in automobile design. A State of Michigan Historical Marker, describing the history and significance of the home, is located on the front lawn.
Henry Ford was only the first of many automotive pioneers to live in the Boston-Edison community. Ford's early business partners and Ford Motor Company stockholders James Couzens and Horace Rackham also built homes near Ford's in Boston-Edison. (Two other Ford stockholders, John Dodge, and Alexander Y. Malcomson, lived in the adjoining Arden Park-East Boston neighborhood.) They were followed by other early and important Ford collaborators such as Peter E. Martin, C. Harold Wills, and Clarence W. Avery. In addition, other early automobile pioneers such as Walter Briggs, Sr. of Briggs Manufacturing Co, four of the Fisher brothers (of Fisher Body), Charles Lambert of Regal Motor Car Co., John W. Drake of Hupp Motor Car Co., and William E. Metzger of Cadillac and E-M-F. likewise built homes in Boston-Edison.
Other prominent Detroit businessmen lived in Boston-Edison during the early years of the neighborhood, including Sebastian S. Kresge (founder of the S.S. Kresge Company—later Kmart), Benjamin Siegel (founder of a major early clothing store), and J. L. Webber (nephew of J. L. Hudson). Other notable early residents included conductor Ossip Gabrilowitsch and his wife Clara Clemens, Detroit Tigers owner Frank Navin, Detroit Tigers player Ty Cobb (on nearby Atkinson Avenue at Third), historian Clarence M. Burton, and Rabbi Leo M. Franklin.
During the early history of Boston-Edison, three factors influenced the character of the community. First was a tendency for employees and business associates to live in a cluster, as early associates of Henry Ford did. In addition, six employees of S.S. Kresge lived in the neighborhood. Secondly, was the tendency of several family members to live in close range. In addition to the four Fisher brothers (a fifth brother, Frederic, lived in the adjacent Arden Park-East Boston neighborhood), a number of Benjamin Siegel's relatives lived in the neighborhood, as did a number of Wagner family members (owners of Wagner's bakery). A third factor was the construction of Henry Ford Hospital in 1915, only a mile south of the neighborhood. Twenty-three physicians built homes in Boston-Edison.
Residents are zoned to schools in the Detroit Public Schools district. Durfee K-8 and Loving and Thirkell elementary schools serve separate sections of the neighborhood for elementary school. All of Boston-Edison is zoned to Durfee K-8 for middle school. All residents are zoned to Central High School.
Previously Hutchins Middle School served portions of Boston-Edison.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- "Boston-Edison Historic District". Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
- Sarah Klein, "Neighborhood Museum," Metro Times, 6/5/2002.
- "Historic Residents" from the Historic Boston-Edison Association
- Arden Park-East Boston from Detroit 1701.
- "History" page from the Historic Boston-Edison Association.
- Boston-Edison Historic District from the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department.
- Census Tract 5323, Wayne County, Michigan from US Census Bureau
- Census Tract 5312, Wayne County, Michigan from US Census Bureau
- Walter Owen Briggs Home from Detroit1701.org, retrieved 9/13/09
- Jerald A. Mitchell. Archivist & Historian; Historic Boston-Edison Association, retrieved 9/12/09
- Charles T. Fisher Residence from Detroit1701.org, retrieved 9.13.09
- Henry and Clara Ford Home from Detroit1701.org, retrieved 9/13/09
- S. S. Kresge Home from Detroit1701.org, retrieved 9/13/09
- "Ford, Henry, House". Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
- "history" page of the Historic Boston-Edison Association.
- Plat map of Voigt Park subdivision from the State of Michigan.
- Plat map of Boston Boulevard subdivision from the State of Michigan.
- Plat map of Joy Farm subdivision from the State of Michigan.
- Detroit Historic Districts from Cityscape Detroit
- National Scenic Byways Program
- Information on Henry Ford is from The Henry Ford House historical marker, text available from Historic Sites Online, State of Michigan Historic Preservation Office.
- Arden Park-East Boston Historic District from the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department.
- Albert Nelson Marquis, The Book of Detroiters, 1908, A. N. Marquis & Co., p. 312
- "Elementary Boundaries - 2012/13 School Year." (Archive) Detroit Public Schools. Retrieved on November 1, 2012.
- "Middle School Boundaries - 2012/13 School Year." (Archive) Detroit Public Schools. Retrieved on November 1, 2012.
- "High School Boundaries - 2012/13 School Year." (Archive) Detroit Public Schools. Retrieved on November 1, 2012.
- "Middle School Boundary Map." Detroit Public Schools. Retrieved on October 20, 2009.
- Historic Boston-Edison Association: neighborhood website
- Photos from Detroit Rising
- Photos from National Scenic Byways