Journey through history on a homes tour

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 12, 2014

 History says that the Baker family didn’t trust the banks, so they would stash money in furniture and books, and under doilies in this home, located at 2485 Pine Lake Ave.

History says that the Baker family didn’t trust the banks, so they would stash money in furniture and books, and under doilies in this home, located at 2485 Pine Lake Ave.

Photo courtesy of the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society

WEST BLOOMFIELD — While traveling through the greater West Bloomfield area, one may notice a series of modern structures. But entrenched among the contemporary architecture are relics that house the area’s deep history. 

Situated across from St. Mary’s Preparatory of Orchard Lake stands a farmhouse built in 1901 that was used as the former Michigan Military Academy, also known as “the West Point of the West.”  Cadets at the academy were trained in three levels: infantry, artillery and cavalry. During that time, Quartermaster of the Academy J.C.F. Hollister occupied the home with his family, but now the home belongs to Angela Cini, event chair for the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society’s Living with History: Historic Homes Tour of Greater West Bloomfield.

Travel 1 1/2 miles to Pontiac Trail and take a trip back to 1831, when William Gilmour arrived in the area and built a house containing two secret rooms. The house is believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad and is also known as the Emmendorfer House, according to the text on the Michigan Historical Marker.

These two gems and four other private homes will be opened to the public during a self-guided homes tour honoring local history and the GWBHS’s 40th anniversary from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. June 21.

This is the first such homes tour in 27 years, and Gina Gregory, president of the GWBHS, said that they believe the 40th anniversary year is a good year to showcase that people live among local history every day.

“Every home has historical elements to it that they’ve preserved, and some (homeowners) are really passionate about preserving that history,” Gregory said.

Walking into the parlor of the Hollister house, tourists will be surrounded by dated wallpaper, stained glass and original lead-glass windows. The original white oak flooring lays throughout the home, and in the foyer stands an ornate wooden staircase with a statue of a woman that lights up on the newel, according to background provided by Gregory.

The tour consists of six private homes. It begins at Schulak Farm and ends at Orchard Lake Museum, which is the site of the former Orchard Lake Hotel. Besides the Emmendorfer and Hollister houses, the tour includes the German House, DeConick Farm, Oliver Farm and the Baker Home. Tourists will receive a 30-page brochure before the tour that will include the background of each location and directions to the homes.

“Living with History is not only a homes tour — it is a gathering for those passionate about history,” Cini said in a press release. “It has been 27 years since our last homes tour, and many volunteers have jumped in to bring this tour back to life.”

Living with History: Historic Homes Tour of Greater West Bloomfield is presented by the GWBHS in conjunction with the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission, the city of Orchard Lake and the Friendshop of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library.

Tickets can be purchased at Orchard Lake City Hall and The Friendshop of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library. The cost to attend is $15 in advanced and $20 on the day of the event. For more information and online ticket sales, visit www.gwbhs.org/homestour.