Woodward East Historic District
Streetscape on Edmund Place
|Architectural style||Late Victorian, French Renaissance Revival, Second Empire, Italianate, Other|
|NRHP Reference #||75000973|
|Added to NRHP||January 21, 1975|
|Designated MSHS||September 17, 1974|
The Brush Park Historic District, frequently referred to as simply Brush Park, is a 22-block neighborhood located within Midtown Detroit, Michigan and designated by the city. It is bounded by Mack Avenue on the north, Woodward Avenue on the west, Beaubien Street on the east, and the Fisher Freeway on the south. The Woodward East Historic District, a smaller historic district completely encompassed by the larger Brush Park neighborhood, is located on Alfred, Edmund, and Watson Streets, from Brush Street to John R. Street, and is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.
Originally part of a French ribbon farm, Brush Park was developed beginning in the 1850s as an upscale residential neighborhood for Detroit's elite citizens by entrepreneur Edmund Askin Brush. Dozens of Victorian mansions were built there during the final decades of the nineteenth century, and Brush Park was nicknamed "Little Paris" due to its elegant architecture. The neighborhood's heyday didn't last long, however: by the early twentieth century most of is affluent residents started moving to more modern, quieter districts, and Brush Park was quickly populated by members of Detroit's fast-growing working class. Severely affected by depopulation, blight and crime during the 1970s and 1980s, the neighborhood is currently experiencing restorations of its historic buildings and luring new residents.
The land now occupied by the Brush Park district was originally part of a ribbon farm dating back to the French colonial period, initially conceded by Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois to Laurence Eustache Gamelin for military services on May 1, 1747. The farm had a frontage of two arpents (about 386 feet) on the Detroit River, and extended back into the interior eighty arpents; it was bounded on the west by the Commons (Domaine du Roy), and on the east by the farm of Jean Baptiste Beaubien. After the death of its second owner, Jacques Pilet, the farm was acquired by the prominent Barthe family, and in the late eighteenth century John Askin, an Irish fur trader and land speculator, obtained it through marriage with Marie-Archange Barthe. In 1802 Askin's daughter Adelaide married Elijah Brush, a Vermont lawyer who would soon become Detroit's second mayor from its first incorporation; on October 31, 1806, Elijah purchased the farm – legally designated as "Private Claim 1" – for $6000.
Beginning in the 1850s, entrepreneur Edmund Askin Brush, son of Elijah, began developing his family's property, located conveniently close to downtown, into a neighborhood for Detroit's elite citizens. The first street, named after Colonel John Winder, was opened in 1852; the other streets followed soon afterwards, and were mainly named after members of the Brush family (Adelaide, Edmund, Alfred, Eliot). The area was developed with care: the land directly facing Woodward Avenue was subdivided into large and expensive lots, soon occupied by religious buildings and opulent mansions rivaling those built along East Jefferson Avenue and West Fort Street, while the land to the east was partitioned into relatively smaller, fifty feet wide parcels; severe restrictions required the construction of high-end, elegant mansions, giving a uniform and exclusive character to the neighborhood. In the late 19th century, Brush Park became known as the "Little Paris of the Midwest."
Architects who designed these mansions included Henry T. Brush, George D. Mason, George W. Nettleton, and Albert Kahn. Homes were built in Brush Park beginning in the 1860s and peaking in the 1870s and 1880s; one of the last homes built was constructed in 1906 by Albert Kahn for his personal use. Other early residents of Brush Park included lumber baron David Whitney Jr. and his daughter, Grace Whitney Evans; businessman Dexter M. Ferry; Joseph L. Hudson, founder of the eponymous department store; Fulton Iron Works founder Delos Rice; lumber baron Lucien S. Moore; banker Frederick Butler; merchant John P. Fiske; Dime Savings Bank president William Livingstone Jr.; and dry goods manufacturer Ransom Gillis.
In the 1890s the character of the subdivision began to change, as many prominent members of the local German Jewish community moved to Brush Park; this period of the neighborhood's history is recorded by the neoclassical Temple Beth-El, designed by Albert Kahn for the Reform Congregation and constructed in 1902. Around the same time, Brush Park saw the construction of its first apartment buildings. One of the neighborhood's earliest examples of this type of structure was the Luben Apartments, built in 1901 by architect Edwin W. Gregory and demolished in 2010. The Luben featured large and sumptuous units, and its elaborate limestone façade blended with those of the surrounding mansions; however, the construction of apartment buildings undoubtedly represented a decrease in the quality of Brush Park's building stock.
The neighborhood began to decline at the turn of the 20th century, when the advent of streetcars and then automobiles allowed prosperous citizens to live farther from downtown: early residents moved out, notably to up-and-coming districts such as Indian Village and Boston–Edison, and Brush Park became less fashionable. The Woodward Avenue frontage rapidly lost its residential character, as the lavish mansions were demolished to make way for commercial buildings; throughout the subdivision, homes were converted to apartments or rooming houses – often with the construction of two- and three-story rear additions – to accommodate workers of the booming automobile industry, and dozens of structures were razed for surface parking lots. By 1921, all of the homes on Alfred Street were apartments or rooming houses.
By the 1930s many African Americans had moved into the area; as a result, Brush Park became home to a vibrant black community, together with the nearby Black Bottom–Paradise Valley area. African American institutions located in Brush Park included St. Peter Claver, the first Catholic parish for African Americans in Detroit, established in 1914 in the former St. Mary’s Episcopal church at Beaubien and Eliot; the Most Worshipful Mt. Sinai Grand Lodge, a black masonic lodge located at 312 Watson; and the Mercy General Hospital and Clinic. Mercy Hospital was the first black-owned hospital in Detroit; founded by Dr. David Northcross in 1917, it was originally located at 248 Winder Street, and later relocated to 668 Winder.
The Great Depression and the racial tensions of the 1940s (part of the 1943 race riot took place in the streets of Brush Park) led to a rapid deterioration of the neighborhood. Longtime resident Russell McLauchlin described Brush Park's decline in the preface to his book Alfred Street (1946):
[Alfred Street] is now in what city-planners call a blighted area. The elms were long ago cut down. No representative of the old neighborfamilies remains. The houses, mostly standing as they stood a half-century ago, are dismal structures. Some have night-blooming grocery stores in their front yards. Some have boarded windows. All stand in bitter need of paint and repair. It is a desolate street; a scene of poverty and chop-fallen gloom; possibly of worse things.
Starting in the 1960s, many of the buildings became unoccupied and fell into disrepair; however, the neighborhood maintained much of its historical integrity, and some attempts were made to preserve it. The first serious redevelopment plan in Brush Park's history was the Woodward East Renaissance project, planned to be completed in 1976, America's bicentennial year. The ambitious plan included restoring the surviving historic mansions and erecting modern residential buildings on the empty lots, but it was left unrealized due to disorganization. The area bounded by Alfred, Brush, Watson, and John R. Streets, named Woodward East Historic District, was designated a Michigan State Historic Site on September 17, 1974, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 1975; the larger Brush Park Historic District, bounded by Woodward, Mack, Beaubien, and the Fisher Freeway, was established by the City of Detroit on January 23, 1980. Despite these attempts to save what was left of the neighborhood's historic character, by the 1980s Brush Park had gradually fallen into a state of "nearly total abandonment and disintegration," gaining a poor reputation as one of Detroit's most derelict areas. Abandoned buildings became targets for vandals and arsonists: as a result, dozens of structures were demolished by the City for security reasons. During the 19th century, around 300 homes were built in Brush Park, including 70 Victorian mansions; at present, about 80 original structures remain in the area. Notable buildings that were demolished include the Woodward Avenue Baptist Church (1887), razed in 1986, and St. Patrick Catholic Church (1862), destroyed by fire in 1993.
Brush Park's revival began in the 1990s and has since accelerated. New condominiums have been built in the southern part of the district, near the Fisher Freeway, and a number of the older mansions have been restored. Several other historic houses have been stabilized and "mothballed" by the City of Detroit between 2005 and 2006, on the occasion of the Super Bowl XL played at the nearby Ford Field. A handful of other buildings still remain in a state of complete neglect, and are threatened with demolition.
The French Renaissance style William Livingstone House (1894) on Eliot Street was one of Kahn's first commissions. The Red Cross intended to demolish the mansion, originally located west of John R. Street, to make way for their new building. Preservationists succeeded in successfully moving the Livingstone House about one block to the east. Nevertheless, after this change of position some serious structural problems concerning the house's foundations caused the gradual collapse of the building. Artist Lowell Bioleau commemorated the William Livingstone House in a painting entitled Open House which he unveiled the day of its demolition September 15, 2007, underscoring preservationist efforts.
On May 10, 2014, the historic First Unitarian Church caught fire under suspicious circumstances and was consequently demolished. The building, which was designed by Donaldson and Meier and dated back to 1890, represents one of the greatest losses in Brush Park's recent history, since it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
|Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity House||c. 1918||293 Eliot St.||American Foursquare||Unknown||Since May 15, 1939, this building houses Gamma Lambda Chapter, a local chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the first African-American Greek-lettered fraternity in the United States. Detroit's Gamma Lambda Chapter, founded in 1919, "served as a focal point for black social, cultural, educational, and community service activities in an era when there were few other outlets." The house, built around 1918, was designated a Michigan State Historic Site on August 30, 1977.|
|Bonstelle Theatre||1902||3424 Woodward Ave.||Beaux-Arts, Greek Revival||Albert Kahn; C. Howard Crane (remodeling)||In accordance with the wishes of rabbi Leo M. Franklin, Albert Kahn designed this neoclassical temple on Woodward Avenue for Detroit's Jewish community. Groundbreaking began on November 25, 1901, with the ceremonial cornerstone laid on April 23, 1902. After the construction of a new synagogue at 8801 Woodward, in 1925 the Temple Beth El was converted into a theater by C. Howard Crane; the façade was later strongly altered with the 1936 Woodward widening. The structure – the oldest synagogue building in Detroit – is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.|
|Max Broock House||1905||233 Erskine St.||Edwardian||Mueller & Mildner||This house (pictured left) was built in 1905 for Max Broock, a real estate and insurance broker whose offices were located in the Breitmeyer-Tobin Building. Designed by the Detroit firm of Mueller & Mildner, the structure "reflects strongly the transitional character of many houses of the Edwardian period – part Victorian, and part twentieth century."|
|Frederick Butler House||1882||291 Edmund Pl.||French Renaissance Revival, Second Empire||William Scott & Co.||Built in 1882, the Frederick Butler House is a French Renaissance Second Empire style mansion containing 8,400 sq ft (780 m2); the original owner, Frederick Butler, was a banker. It was restored and converted to condos in 2006. The house, located within the Woodward East Historic District, is presently now as Edmund Place.|
|James V. Campbell House||1877||261 Alfred St.||Italianate||Unknown||James Valentine Campbell (1823–1890) was secretary of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan, justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, and Marshall Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. The house was occupied by the Campbell family from 1877 to 1891. The building is within the Woodward East Historic District.|
|The Carlton||1923||2915 John R. St. at Edmund||Beaux-Arts, Chicago School||Louis Kamper||The Carlton Plaza Hotel opened on May 31, 1924; designed by famed Detroit architect Louis Kamper, it was his "12th major commission, and his firm's first documented hotel project." During the Jazz Age, the hotel became a popular gathering place for wealthy and affluent African-Americans, including some of the biggest names in jazz. In 1950, Ebony magazine described the Carlton as "the most beautifully decorated and most elaborately furnished hotel for Negroes anywhere in the U.S."; in May 1960, Jet heralded it as "the premier destination for the discriminating negro." By the 1980s, the hotel had progressively fell into decay; taken over by the City of Detroit and shuttered in the 1990s, it was bought by private investors and renovated as condominiums in 2005.|
|Carola Building||1912||78 Watson St.||Renaissance Revival||Renovated as condominiums.|
|Lyman Cochrane House||1870||216 Winder St.||Italianate||This house is a relatively rare example of residential Italianate architecture in Detroit. It was originally built for eye doctor John F. Terry, but in 1871 was sold to Lyman Cochrane. Cochrane was a state senator and Superior Court Judge, serving in this capacity until his death in 1879.|
|Crystal lofts||1919||3100 Woodward Ave. at Watson||Art Deco||Originally constructed as a ballroom (the Crystal Palace), the building was recently renovated as condominiums. The Art Deco façade was added in 1936.|
|The Devon||1905||64 Watson St.||Art Deco|
|J.P. Donaldson House||1879||82 Alfred St.||Queen Anne||Mason & Rice; Gordon W. Lloyd (remodeling)||This house was built in 1879 for James P. Donaldson, a ship chandler. In 1892, David Charles Whitney (son of David Whitney Jr.) acquired the home, which was completely renovated by Gordon W. Lloyd. At the time it was said to be one of the most substantial homes in Detroit and valued at $30,000 (today $750,000±). The home had several other owners before becoming a rooming house; in 2012 the building has been sold to a private buyer for $110,000. In the same year the mansion has been a movie set for the vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by Jim Jarmusch.|
|Clifford Elliot House||1899||305 Eliot St.||Victorian, Edwardian||M.A. Edwards||Built in 1899 for Clifford Elliot, a wholesale grocery executive, this turn-of-the-century house exemplifies the transition from the Victorian design to the Edwardian style of architecture.|
|First Presbyterian Church||1889||2930 Woodward Ave.||Richardsonian Romanesque||George D. Mason||George D. Mason modeled the First Presbyterian Church after Henry Hobson Richardson's Trinity Church in Boston. When Woodward was widened in 1936, the elaborately-carved entrance porch was moved from the Woodward façade to the Edmund Place side. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.|
|John P. Fiske House||1876||261 Edmund Pl.||Second Empire, French Renaissance Revival, Victorian||John P. Fiske was a Detroit merchant of china and crockery. The house, located within the Woodward East Historic District, was designated a Michigan State Historic Site on August 18, 1988.|
|Ransom Gillis House||1876||205 Alfred St. at John R.||Venetian Gothic||Henry T. Brush & George D. Mason||This building has been heavily documented by John Kossik and photographed by documentarian Camilo José Vergara. The house, built between 1876 and 1878 for Ransom Gillis, a wholesale dry goods merchant, is within the Woodward East Historic District.|
|Bernard Ginsburg House||1898||236 Adelaide St.||Tudor Revival||George W. Nettleton & Albert Kahn||Bernard Ginsburg was an important figure in philanthropy, civic service, and the Jewish community in Detroit during the late 19th and early 20th century. He commissioned architect Albert Kahn to design this house, one of Kahn's earliest works. Kahn went on to become well known in industrial and commercial architecture; the Ginsburg house and its English Renaissance style exhibited is typical of Kahn's early work. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.|
|John Harvey House||1887||97 Winder St.||Second Empire||John V. Smith||John Harvey was a pharmacist and philanthropist. The house contains 11,000 square feet (1,000 m2), eight marble fireplaces, and three-story staircase. Developers purchased the John Harvey House in 1986, renovated the structure, and, in 2005, opened it as the Inn at 97 Winder, a bed and breakfast. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.|
|Hudson–Evans House||1874||79 Alfred St.||Second Empire, French Renaissance Revival, Italianate||Unknown||Also known as the Joseph Lothian Hudson House or the Grace Whitney Evans House. Built in 1874 for shipowner Philo Wright, the house was a gift from David Whitney Jr. to his daughter Grace upon her marriage to John Evans in 1882. It later became the Joseph L. Hudson family residence. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.|
|Albert Kahn House||1906||208 Mack Ave.||English Renaissance||Albert Kahn||In 1906, architect Albert Kahn built a home for his personal use. He lived in this mansion fronting Mack Avenue from 1906 until his death in 1942; the structure was later obtained by the Detroit Urban League, which still uses it today. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.|
|George Ladve House||1882||269 Edmund Pl.||Eastlake Victorian||Originally owned by George Ladve, 269 Edmund Pl., an Eastlake Victorian style mansion built in 1882 and restored in 2008, contains 7,400 sq ft (690 m2). Ladve had owned a carpet and upholstery company. In the late 1890s, the Frohlich family added a music room. Edward P. Frohlich was among the original philanthropists to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The house is within the Woodward East Historic District.|
|Lucien S. Moore House||c. 1885||104 Edmund Pl.||French Renaissance Revival, Gothic Revival||Unknown||Originally owned by lumber baron Lucien S. Moore, 104 Edmund Place, built around 1885 in a French Renaissance Gothic Revival style and restored in 2006, has 7,000 sq ft (650 m2). The Lucien Moore House restoration was featured December 27, 2005 by HGTV's restore America Initiative in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It may also be known as the Moorie Town House or The Edmund.|
|Patterson Terrace||1903||203-209-212 Erskine St.||Richardsonian Romanesque||In ruins, the structure needs a massive renovation.|
|H.P. Pulling House||48 Edmund Pl.||Victorian||Henry Perry Pulling (1814–1890) was a doctor and the president of the Peninsular Bank from 1860 until its closure in 1870.|
|Emanuel Schloss House||1872||234 Winder St.||Second Empire||Unknown||Built between 1870 and 1872, this Second Empire house was the residence of Emanuel Schloss and his wife, Rebecca. Emanuel Schloss was a dry goods merchant and haberdasher; an active member of the Detroit Jewish community, he served in 1860 as president of Temple Beth El, the oldest Jewish congregation in Michigan. The home has been restored and now operates as the 234 Winder Street Inn. It was designated a Michigan State Historic Site on August 18, 1988.|
|Horace S. Tarbell House||1869||227 Adelaide St.||Victorian, Italianate||One of the oldest existing structures in Brush Park, the house was constructed in 1869 and originally owned by Horace Sumner Tarbell (1838–1904), Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1876 to 1878. Over the following decades, the property changed hands multiple times before being abandoned and falling into disrepair.|
|Elisha Taylor House||1870||59 Alfred St.||French Renaissance Revival, Second Empire, Victorian, Gothic Revival||Julius Hess||The Elisha Taylor House, with its French Renaissance Revival, Second Empire mansard roof, has distinct elements of Victorian and Gothic Revival style and was built in 1870 for William H. Craig, a Detroit land speculator. In 1875, Craig sold the house to Elisha Taylor. Taylor was a Detroit attorney who held many offices during his career, including City Attorney, assistant Michigan Attorney General from 1837 to 1841, and Circuit Court Commissioner from 1846 to 1854. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.|
|Joseph F. Weber House||1901||206 Eliot St.||Colonial Revival||Unknown||Originally owned by lumber baron Joseph F. Weber, the house was built in 1901. The architect is unknown; however, the structure's Colonial Revival character "is suggestive of such firms as Rogers and MacFarlane, who were already active in the Indian Village and Boston–Edison areas designing houses of colonial derivation." The Joseph F. Weber House was designated a Michigan State Historic Site on December 17, 1987.|
Brush Park is within the Detroit Public Schools district. Residents are zoned to Spain Elementary School for K-8, while they are zoned to Martin Luther King High School (9-12) for high school.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Brush Park Historic District.|
- Revitalization in Brush Park
- Dan Gilbert plans 337 new townhouses and apartments for Brush Park.—Detroit Free Press, May 7, 2015
- Detroit’s First Major Residential Development in Decades Blends Historic Preservation and New Construction in Brush Park.—City of Detroit, Press Release May 6, 2015
- Detroit Announces Plan to Preserve Iconic Brewster Wheeler Rec Center and Start Rebuilding Historic Neighborhood.—City of Detroit, Press Release April 14, 2015
- More higher-end apartments planned for Midtown, The Scott @ Brush Park.—Detroit Free Press, March 23, 2015