One of Farmington Hills’ historical homes, sitting at 31805 Bond St., was built by Emily Butterfield, the first woman licensed to practice architecture in Michigan.

One of Farmington Hills’ historical homes, sitting at 31805 Bond St., was built by Emily Butterfield, the first woman licensed to practice architecture in Michigan.

Photo provided by the city of Farmington Hills

Historical preservation workshop coming to Spicer House

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published September 10, 2019


FARMINGTON HILLS — Farmington Hills’ Historic District Commission and Historical Commission, along with the nonprofit Preservation Farmington, have partnered with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network to host a historical preservation workshop for residents.

The workshop will take place at the Spicer House, 24915 Farmington Road, 6:30-8 p.m. Sept. 17. It is a continuation of the educational programming that’s required to be provided through the city’s certified local government designation, which was established in 1991.

In 2018, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network hosted a presentation about how to weatherize an old home as part of the same educational programming requirements.

This upcoming workshop will focus on the history of the preservation movement; the three levels of historical designations — federal, state and local; and the different pathways to receiving each designation and what each means for the future of the property. People will have the opportunity to ask questions and clear up misconceptions.

“I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation about what preservation does and what it is,” said Mallory Bower, the southeast region field representative for the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. “Teaching people and having a forum where people can come in and speak to those who’ve studied preservation and those who work on preservation in their community, it helps dispel some of that misinformation.”

Bower said that sometimes people think historical preservation means refurbishing a property back to its previous architecture or strictly limiting what owners can do with their property, but that’s not the case.

Historical district commissions in Michigan do follow national standards when working with property owners so historical features stay intact, but the commission will never tell a property owner they have to remodel outright.

“It’s not freezing a property in place. It’s asking for thoughtful planning for its future,” Bower said.

The presentation will be question-and-answer style, rather than lecture based, with the goal of getting through all of the information slated for the presentation, but Bower said the Michigan Historic Preservation Network is happy to explore tangents and to answer questions as they arise to meet the needs of the participants.

Bowers said the presentation will also cover “the many benefits” and incentives for a community that come with historical preservation, including sustainability efforts, creating a sense of place for residents and economic incentives.

In 2008, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network conducted a study of property values between homes within a historical district and homes just outside of one. The study results showed homes within a district had higher property values that stayed more consistent than homes outside of the designation zone.

With approximately 74 historically designated homes and buildings in the city, Angeline Lawrence, the staff liaison to the Historic District Commission and the Historical Commission, said the city’s “rich history” provides a good backdrop for talking about historical preservation in the area.

“To have an area that has a substantial number of historic properties, it should be celebrated and displayed,” Lawrence said.

The city includes notable homes like one built by Emily Butterfield, 31805 Bond St., and the Philbrick Tavern, 26007 Power Road. Butterfield was the first licensed female architect in Michigan, and the Philbrick Tavern was a stop along the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escape to freedom in Canada.

Lawrence said there was a push to talk about historical preservation in the ‘80s after the city formed the commissions and created its first such districts in 1982, and to this day she still sees “people taking an interest in history and preserving homes,” which is why the city continues to put on workshops.

Overall, she said she hopes this workshop will provide residents some education “about where the community started and where we are now.”

“There’s so much rich history that may get lost as people and the past move on,” she said. “When we have these historic homes, it’s one way to keep our history and celebrate our past. It helps bring a better perspective as well.”

Registration, which is required, closes at 5 p.m. Sept. 16. Tickets can on the “Why Preservation?: Farmington Hills Presentation” page at For more information, contact Mallory Bower at (313) 649-7453.