Historical Cadieux Farmhouse could be moved to Park property

Park City Council expected to vote on proposed relocation this month

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 4, 2013

GROSSE POINTE PARK — The Park could become home to one of the area’s most historically significant remaining houses.

Stephen and Lisa Thiel are hoping city officials will allow them to “adopt” the Cadieux Farmhouse and have it transported to their large property at 16641 E. Jefferson. Built in the 1850s by Isadore Cadieux (also spelled “Isidore” in some records) and owned by him and his two brothers, Charles and Richard, the house is believed to be one of the oldest and final remaining examples of French frame architectures from the ribbon farm era in the Pointes and Detroit, according to data collected by Grosse Pointe Historical Society Board Trustee Liz Vogel. It might well be the last original French farmhouse in the Pointes, she said.

The house, currently located at Notre Dame and Jefferson in Grosse Pointe City, stands in the way of neighboring Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe’s plans for a parking expansion in that area. The hospital has purchased all of the adjacent homes on Notre Dame from Jefferson to the hospital entrance on Notre Dame, including the Cadieux Farmhouse, but hospital officials have been working with the Grosse Pointe Historical Society to try to find a new site to put the historic structure.

Michael Hoeflein, the program leader for real estate development and planning for Beaumont Health System, said this location would only require moving the house roughly 1,000 feet along Jefferson.

“This is one of the best options we have out there,” he told the Park City Council during an Aug. 26 meeting. “It is a straight shot down Jefferson Avenue.”

Although the Thiel property could be split into two parcels in the future, with the historical house on one lot and the main house on the second, Hoflein said the Thiels are planning on using the 800-square-foot historic structure as a guesthouse on their property.

But the prospect of a future lot split was one of the issues that city leaders wrestled with as they debated the house move.

“In effect, it would be a de facto lot split because it would be hard to deny (later). … I don’t raise the issue because I’m opposed to a lot split, per se, but we ought to view it from a long-term perspective,” City Council member Daniel Clark said.

City Council member Robert Denner was worried that the house could turn into another rental property.

“My sense is, I like the physical location of it,” Denner said of the historical home. “My concern is the potential use” and how that pertains to city ordinances.

City Council member Daniel Grano echoed that concern, saying that if the council allowed the house to be moved to the Thiel property, they’d essentially be allowing the Thiels to have a carriage house that can’t be rented. He said the city has become “increasingly restrictive” on not allowing carriage houses to be used as rentals.

“I’m happy that everybody is trying to save the house … but I’m very concerned about the intended use,” Grano said.

Stephen Thiel said their lot is one of the largest on Harvard. And Hoeflein said the Thiels have already talked to their next-door neighbor on Jefferson and gotten a letter of approval from her about adding the historical house to the property. Thiel told officials he and his wife are trying to get their house on more of a par with neighboring residences with similar accessory buildings, and they’re open to whatever uses for the historical structure that officials might see fit.

“The intended use is flexible,” he said.

City Manager Dale Krajniak suggested that the council could apply deed restrictions to the property to limit use.

Hoeflein said the prospect of a lot split was just something that might be considered later, possibly with a new homeowner.

“A lot split may never happen,” he said.

City Council member Laurie Arora said this would be a good location for the home, and she said the lot split question is a non-issue at the moment.

“I want to thank you for working with the community to save this historic home,” she said. “I think it looks good (in the rendering) on the property. … I’m not sure we can make decisions on a lot split when we don’t have a lot split in front of us.”

Mayor Palmer Heenan also voiced support for the proposal.

“It’s a historical thing, and I think we should lean in favor of doing it if the council approves,” he said.

If the house returns to the Park, it would be coming full circle, in a sense. Built in Detroit, it was delivered by barge to its original location, at the foot of Bishop in the Park, but was moved to its current home at Notre Dame and Jefferson in 1870, Vogel said.

Complicating matters for Park officials was the fact that City Attorney Dennis Levasseur was ill and not present to respond to legal questions at the Aug. 26 meeting. Officials said they needed more time before they could make a decision on allowing the move, and they voted unanimously to table the matter until their next regular meeting, which would either be Sept. 9 or Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

“I like a lot about (this proposal), but there’s a lot of unanswered questions,” Denner said.

Grano was also among those who said he was in favor of the move, once setbacks and other issues were addressed. Clark concurred.

“I’m favorably disposed (to the idea) and would love to see this property saved and maintained. … I just want to raise some of the issues that may come back at us,” Clark said.

Hoeflein said only the original historical house — which is about 800 square feet — would be moved, not an addition put on circa 1991, when a master suite and garage were built during renovations.

Parents to a 16-week-old daughter, Ellie, the Thiels are Grosse Pointe natives, with Lisa Thiel having grown up in the Park and Stephen Thiel having grown up in the City. Both remember seeing the Cadieux Farmhouse often as kids, which is one of the reasons they’re so passionate about preserving it.

“I always rode my bicycle by it,” Stephen Thiel said.

And he said they have experience working on older houses, having renovated a number of others in the past. Their current home is older, as well, dating back to around the 1920s, Stephen Thiel said.

Hoeflein said Beaumont fielded inquiries from about 20 different possible new sites for the house, but this is the best option among those. He said the hospital hopes to move the house this fall to make way for breaking ground on new parking in spring 2014.

“We have a need to add additional parking to ease the burden on the community … and to have more parking onsite for our patients and our staff,” he said, noting that Beaumont officials have been working on parking planning and design with Grosse Pointe City leaders.

For an agenda or more information about the Park’s upcoming council meeting, visit www.grossepointepark.org.