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December 10, 2012

Help chronicle the history of Madison Heights

Last call for pictures to appear in book from Arcadia Publishing

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
The building in this 1918 photo still stands today at 950 E. Lincoln in Madison Heights. People from Detroit would use the house as a country club, arriving on horseback. The Madison Heights Historical Commission is putting together a city history book with pictures such as these. Any photos from before the 1970s are valuable, and the authors are eager to hear from anyone with stories to tell or pictures to share.

MADISON HEIGHTS — If you or someone you know lived in Madison Heights or has family or friends who did, now is the time to check and see what photos are available from the city’s past.

Members of the Madison Heights Historical Commission are asking people to share their historical photos by the end of this month, especially if they depict the city before the 1970s. It’s all for possible inclusion in an upcoming, still-untitled history book through Arcadia Publishing. 

Like all books in the Arcadia line, it’ll take the form of a sepia-toned photo history, sold everywhere from gift shops to Barnes & Noble to Amazon.com. It will share the story of Madison Heights, from the present to before its date of incorporation in 1955, when Madison Heights was still Royal Oak Township and consisted mostly of farmland.

Those who take the time to go up in their attic, dust off the shoebox or binder full of old photos, and share what they have won’t go unrecognized, either. If they wish, they’ll receive a credit in the book.

City Councilwoman Margene Scott, who’s co-authoring the book, says she’ll even visit people’s homes to copy the photos, and all photos borrowed will be returned. 

The pictures are important, since the project, which began with Arcadia expressing interest last year, will consist largely of photos with detailed captions.

The book will start with an early history of the area, followed by an overview of the Royal Oak Township era; the birth of Madison Heights; the city’s growth and development; its government and departments; its economics, business and technology; its school system; its community services, clubs and organizations; and its recreation, sports and quality of life.

“As for particular years, I would say any year that anyone can relate to, who is living today,” Scott said. “For instance, we have a lot of records of young boys that went off to World War II, and we’d like to hear their stories and how it affected their family, especially if they died in action.

“The other thing I would push for is our attempt to find relatives or descendants of our original families that were here in the 1800s, including the Kendall family, the McBride family and the Kutchey family.”

In fact, the original Kutchey family home, built in 1891, still stands today at the current Century 21 Campbell Real Estate office at 1186 E. 12 Mile.

That’s one example of what Scott, along with the book’s coauthor Roslyn Yerman, director of the Madison Heights library, are starting to uncover. They’ve found that there are many old structures nestled among the newer developments in the city, including homes from the 19th century that were once surrounded by open fields.

For instance, one photo from 1918 shows a house that still stands today at 950 E. Lincoln. In it, a crowd of people are gathered around, with their horses. Apparently, the house was once used as a country club for people from Detroit; they would ride out from the city to rest and relax there. The children would play lawn games outside, the ladies would be inside sewing and baking, and the men would hunt foxes in the area.

Nearby is the property where the Kendall School and farm was once located. Roosevelt Elementary would later be built in the area, and now it, too, is gone.

Then there’s the city’s oldest home, at 1560 E. 13 Mile, on the corner of Elmhurst. Mayor Pro Tem Bob Corbett, a real estate agent, helped run a title search through Seaver Title Co., tracing the property to an individual or family with the last name Millard, who received the land from the government in 1834, possibly with the condition that they clear the land and build a house on it first.

That house is still standing today, including a smokehouse in the back. Other records show that in 1839, the property was deeded to another family by the last name of Noyes, who had two kids attending the first schoolhouse in the Lamphere district.

“It’s very exciting,” Yerman said. “I’ve worked in Madison Heights for over 25 years; it’s become my second home. I’ve learned more and more about Madison Heights through this project — it’s become a full-time job of its own accord.”

Starting next year, the book will begin being assembled — a monumental task in its own right. In the meantime, the last call is out for photos.

“Don’t be left out,” Yerman said. “What you have may be more valuable than you think. This is a chance to be a part of history.”

To help contribute to the history book project, contact Roslyn Yerman, library director, at (248) 837-2852.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.