The historical William Gates House, 36130 Grand River Ave., was a farmhouse once owned by Gates, who moved to Farmington in 1862.

The historical William Gates House, 36130 Grand River Ave., was a farmhouse once owned by Gates, who moved to Farmington in 1862.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Historical marker program focuses on these old houses

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published June 5, 2018

 The historical markers enhance historical homes and properties. The cast aluminum green markers are available to owners of local or state-designated historical properties.

The historical markers enhance historical homes and properties. The cast aluminum green markers are available to owners of local or state-designated historical properties.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Advertisement

FARMINGTON HILLS — The city of Farmington Hills is into history.

A number of historical homes from the era of farmland and unpaved streets are still standing tall today, according to the Farmington Hills Historic District Commission, which is helping to keep that local history intact.

The Historic Marker Installation Program, through the HDC, designates historical homes with markers to enhance the appearance of those properties.

The markers help promote the historical value of the city, according to a press release.  

The Historic Marker Installation Program has about 71 homes designated as historical and three cemeteries with such a designation. There are 52 markers in the city — about 11 markers are without a historical district because they don’t have structures, but they are at a historical site. 

HDC members were scheduled to reveal the first of two new markers at 5:30 p.m. June 6 at the historical William Gates House, 36130 Grand River Ave.  

The Gates House, according to a press release, is a farmhouse once owned by William Gates, who moved to Farmington in 1862.  

He was the 12th owner of the property and added Craftsman-style additions to the house after 1893, the release states. Today, the home is used as an office space and is part of the Muirwood Reserve Apartments owned by the Farmington Hills-based Beztak Properties. 

A marker will be installed soon at the Addis Emmett Green House, located at 38201 14 Mile Road. 

Dan McCoubrey, vice president of operations at Beztak Properties, said the William Gates House is a gem. 

“Something we always wanted to look into,” he said of the house the company inherited. He said there may be changes in store for the property, “be it turn it into a bed and breakfast. … We take a great deal of pride in it.”

The house is also used as storage space, McCoubrey said. 

“We’ve even reached out to certain people of (an HGTV network show) to see if they want to get it ... with us,” he said. “As a major development throughout metro Detroit, we look forward to the opportunity of making Farmington-Farmington Hills a more historical presence in the area.”

HDC staff liaison Angeline Lawrence said the markers enhance historical homes and properties and are an initial roughly $600 investment for property owners; the HDC pays the remainder of about $1,700. 

The cast aluminum green markers are available to owners of local or state-designated historical properties, according to the press release. The installation and maintenance of the markers is a function of the HDC. 

The markers are not a requirement, and the HDC does about two installations per year with a roughly $5,000 annual budget.

“We let the residents know it is available and if they want to participate, then they make the investment — nothing mandatory,” Lawrence said. “It … adds curbs appeal. … It shows the community this was an asset (and) has historical significance.”

Lawrence said that the HDC uses federal guidelines and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties for rehabilitation based on historical preservation principles and best practices.

The standards are based on a series of ideas about maintaining, repairing and replacing historical materials, and designing new additions or making alterations.

Lawrence said the HDC does not have jurisdiction on changes made inside a historically designated home.

“We only look at the exterior of the home, not the interior,” she said, adding that if someone wants to remodel a porch or do other projects, it is best to maintain the original structure of the house as close to its historical era as possible.

“There are so many resources out here that help homeowners restore their home using as close as they can get to historical-looking material,” she said, adding that last fall, the HDC had a wood window workshop to help homeowners learn how to take care of their home’s original windows. And there are other workshops planned for this fall.

“Small things like that … help you learn how to maintain an older home and keep its character and significance,” she said. 

The Farmington Hills Historical Commission also designates historical homes with markers.

Lawrence said that the Historical Commission established the Historic District Commission in 1981 as an ad hoc committee.

“We don’t have a downtown — our historic districts are residential homes, cemeteries, our barn(s),” she said.

HDC Chairman Ken Klemmer said HDC members are appointed by the mayor of Farmington Hills.

He said the program’s earliest markers are at least 35 years old.

“The earliest markers are from that era,” he said.

“The Historic District Commission is really responsible for administering maintenance and needs,” he said. The eight-member body is now at seven members and is looking for the eighth.

 “We are always interested in having Farmington Hills residents apply for the Historic District Commission,” he said. Experience in architecture, law or constriction are a plus, but not a requirement.

“I think it is an excellent way to promote awareness of the historic housing and building stock that we have in the city,” he said. Even when people drive by a marker at 40 mph, “that gives us a (quick) teaching moment … to learn about the historic equity of our city.”

The Historic District Commission meets on the second Wednesday of each month. To attend a meeting, contact Lawrence at (248) 871-2553.

At 9 a.m. Sept. 8, a plaster restoration workshop will be held at the Costick Activities Center. A walking tour and a lecture on pioneer architect Emily Butterfield will be held at Oakwood Cottage, 31805 Bond Blvd., in September — a date has not yet been determined.

For more information, go to www.fhgov.com.

Advertisement