As part of a scheduled Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society program, residents will have an opportunity to learn about the blue shake roof home on Pine Lake Road.

As part of a scheduled Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society program, residents will have an opportunity to learn about the blue shake roof home on Pine Lake Road.

Photo provided by Gina Gregory

Historical Society programs feature oldest houses in Greater West Bloomfield

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 19, 2023


GREATER WEST BLOOMFIELD — The Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society is scheduled to offer a variety of programming options for residents in upcoming months.

The Historical Society released its programming schedule through April, and it includes open houses, a spring walk, a museum tour and the chance to learn about a unique home that is nearly 100 years old.

The Interurban Trolley Open House is set to take place 1-4 p.m. March 12 at the Orchard Lake Museum.

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the interurban trolley, a light rail system from downtown Detroit to Pontiac from 1875 to 1920.

According to a press release, it “shortened travel time to the ‘up north’ getaway that was West Bloomfield.”

Brian Golden, who is the author of “Farmington Junction, A Trolley History” is set to share presentations at 2 and 3 p.m.

“This was a marvelous mass transit system here over 100 years ago,” the release states.

“We’ll be excited to highlight our history with the interurban, bringing Detroiters out to this area to enjoy the natural features and the natural beauty we have here,” said Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society President Gina Gregory. “This was a resort community in the early 20th century.”

There is no admission to attend.

The Orchard Lake Museum is located at 3951 Orchard Lake Road.

At 2 p.m. March 19, a presentation titled “Restoring 2690 Pine Lake Road” is scheduled to take place in the main meeting room of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library, located at 4600 Walnut Lake Road.

“This memorable blue-shake roof home has an interesting story,” the release states. “Learn about the home’s architecture and first owners.”

The home’s current owner is Paul B. Wilbur, who is the scheduled presenter for the event.

Wilbur bought the Pine Lake Road home in 2005.

“People call it the Cinderella house; they call it the Hansel and Gretel house,” Wilbur said. “I talked to a little girl, and she called it the cupcake frosting house because it looks like the roof has frosting on it.”

Wilbur said the story of the house is a fun one.

“We learn about the original owner and why he wanted to buy on Pine Lake; some of the snob appeal of what Pine Lake offered back in that era,” he said. “Then we learn about the architect, who was a very famous architect in Detroit named William H. Kuni, who self-proclaimed he had built more than 500 houses in Detroit and the Detroit area … by 1925. … What makes this really unusual is the house was actually finalized in 1925, and we have pictures of every room in the house in 1925.”

Wilbur said that the original owner of the home was a state senator named Lawrence Snell.

The house has been restored since Wilbur purchased it.

“The house is back to 1925, with the exception of the kitchen,” he said. “We restored it back to 1925, kind of the glamor era for the auto barons, for the up-and-comers in Detroit. … It’s an 85% photographic tour.”

There is no charge for admission.

The event has a 50-person attendance limit, according to the release.

The “1913 & 1953 Tax Record Books Open House” is set to take place at the Orchard Lake Museum 1-4 p.m. April 2, with no charge to attend.

“Come see 1913 and 1953 West Bloomfield tax record books,” the release states. “To learn more about your property, know your Township section number, property description and, if known, subdivision.”

“People will be able to look up their property,” Gregory said. “By doing so, you can tell if there was a (building) on it, which aids folks in learning the history of their property.”

The Historical Society has scheduled a Birmingham Museum tour program 12:15-3:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 4.

Those interested in taking the tour can board a bus at the West Bloomfield Parks Recreational Activities Center, located at 4640 Walnut Lake Road.

It is set to be a docent-led tour of the Birmingham Museum and features a new exhibit, “A Tapestry of Birmingham,” which “includes early Black settlement, abolitionists, the Underground Railroad. Also, tour the oldest house in Oakland County — the 1822 John West Hunter House.”

Birmingham Museum Director Leslie Pielack explained what visitors can expect to learn about on the tour.

“Our local stories of diversity over the last 200 years, and probably the most important part being the Underground Railroad,” Pielack said. “That’s what most people focus on here, but we have a lot of interesting exhibits, and so it’s really, I think, unexpected. People don’t expect to learn this kind of stuff about Birmingham, Michigan, but it’s very much part of our story.”

Pielack also discussed the John West Hunter House.

“That is the oldest house in Oakland County — one of the oldest houses in lower Michigan,” she said. “We have that preserved, and so we interpret it as a historic house. … That’s on our site as well.”

Gregory also shared some thoughts about the Birmingham Museum tour.

“They’re a community nearby that has history to share, and we’d like to take advantage of the opportunity to see what they have,” she said. “This is our first bus tour since COVID. … It’s always fun to engage with people up-close and personal.”

The cost for the tour is $15 for residents and $20 for nonresidents.

The “Orchard Lake Nature Sanctuary Spring Walk” is set to take place 2-3 p.m. Sunday, April 16, at 4700 Pontiac Trail in Orchard Lake.

“Walk through rolling terrain and explore the breathtaking spring flowers,” the release states.

There is no charge to participate.

Naturalist Carol Fink is set to lead a guided tour.

“My role is to help people learn to not just look but really see what’s going on in the woods and using all of our senses to enjoy the moment of being in the peaceful beauty of nature,” Fink said. “I have some field guides, usually some information, but being in the woods is a great experience for anybody, any age. … One of the many joys of living in Michigan is when spring springs, we are so excited to be outside, so our spring … walks are very popular.”

Gregory said that she looks at 2023 as the first year that “things are, hopefully, returning to normal.”

“We’re excited that we have a five-year contract for the Orchard Lake Museum and appreciate the support of the community,” she said. “We’re looking to increase our membership this year and hope that people will use this year to support our efforts and volunteer with our group. We need new leaders and more volunteers to keep our local history alive for the community.”

For more information, visit or call (248) 757-2451.