Southfield’s Plumbrook Estates is a nationally recognized historic residential neighborhood. It is because of preservation efforts like this that Mayor Ken Siver was recognized with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network’s 2021 Citizen Award.

Southfield’s Plumbrook Estates is a nationally recognized historic residential neighborhood. It is because of preservation efforts like this that Mayor Ken Siver was recognized with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network’s 2021 Citizen Award.

Photo by Jacob Herbert


Award highlights local history preservation in Southfield

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published May 26, 2021

 The Citizen Award is presented to outstanding individuals who, through personal effort and/or involvement in historic preservation projects, have made a significant contribution to the preservation of Michigan’s heritage.

The Citizen Award is presented to outstanding individuals who, through personal effort and/or involvement in historic preservation projects, have made a significant contribution to the preservation of Michigan’s heritage.

Photo by Jacob Herbert

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SOUTHFIELD — Mayor Ken Siver said he has made it part of his mission in Southfield to lead efforts to preserve the city’s unique historical architecture. From Northland Gardens to Plumbrook Estates, Southfield is home to several interesting places that have received national recognition.

It is because of this that Siver was recently honored with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network 2021 Citizen Award. The award is presented to outstanding individuals who, through personal effort and/or involvement in historical preservation projects, have made a significant contribution to the preservation of Michigan’s heritage.

“I was absolutely surprised by this honor. I was not expecting it,” Siver said. “I am very grateful and honored, but it came as a surprise. It’s nice to know that others have watched the efforts that we’ve done here in terms of historic preservation and promoting art and architecture.”

Some of the preservation efforts the city has undergone include securing National Historic Landmark designations from the U.S. Department of the Interior for the residential neighborhoods of Northland Gardens and Plumbrook Estates.

In 2012, Siver initiated a collaboration with Lawrence Technological University’s School of Architecture and Southfield’s Planning Department to define and catalog the city’s midcentury modern architecture.

“Southfield has an incredible body of midcentury modern architecture and design,” said Ruth Mills, the chair of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network’s Awards Committee. “The committee was extremely impressed with Mayor Siver’s advocacy and education efforts over the years to highlight the cultural and historic legacy of Southfield.”

Perhaps the effort Siver and the city are most proud of is Southfield’s midcentury modern architecture tour. The annual event allows the city to boast of its outstanding examples of midcentury modern homes, offices, commercial buildings and religious institutions. The architecture style is typified by design elements of the mid-20th century, such as geometric shapes, sleek lines, a minimalist look and the incorporation of natural elements.

The architect of the original World Trade Center, Minoru Yamasaki, left his mark on Southfield with the Reynolds Metal Co. building. Gunner Birkets, the mastermind behind the Detroit Institute of Arts building and several buildings at the University of Michigan, put his stamp on Southfield with the IBM building.

“This is part of the fabric and the history of Southfield,” Siver said. “Unfortunately, people see it and just say that’s an old building or that’s yesterday. So I started this midcentury modern architecture tour as a way of promoting Southfield.”

Siver said the award would not have been possible without the support he has received from city officials. Specifically, when working on the Northland Gardens and Plumbrook Estates projects, Mills was impressed with the mayor and his rapport with residents.

“No one does anything alone, and I’ve had the support of the Southfield Planning Department, the Public Arts Commission, the Friends of the Southfield Library, the Southfield library board and Lawrence Tech,” Siver said. “So I share the award with various partners who have supported my vision for preserving, restoring and identifying the midcentury (architecture) of this city.”

According to Mills, historic preservation is more about managing change than freezing something in time. With the Northland Shopping Center, which was one of the first major malls in the country, Southfield has put in hours of hard work to not only preserve the historical significance of the mall, but to make sure it continues to be fully operational in the future.

“I think that it’s about having that sense of place and having unique places that people want to live, work and be a part of. I think that really resonates with a lot of people,” Mills said. “Economically, it makes sense too, because historic places retain their value. It’s not just preserving this history but the culture and making sure these places continue to thrive. We know that historical preservation does that.”

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