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Looking Back: Birmingham’s first Peabody-owned business

Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 26, 2019

BIRMINGHAM — Birmingham has had a lot of businesses carrying the Peabody family name throughout its history. Many still mourn the closure of Peabody’s Restaurant, which grew out of Peabody’s Market, which in turn grew out of a family-run fruit stand.

There’s been a variety of businesses that have operated at the Ford-Peabody Mansion, 325 S. Old Woodward Ave., since the 1970s. But not everyone knows the first business in Birmingham to carry the Peabody family name.

Brothers Lyman and James Peabody came to Birmingham in the late 19th century. While James bought a farm, Lyman decided to open L.B. Peabody and Son General Store at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Maple Road.

In 1888, his store caused a sensation in the village when he imported tea directly from Japan, and residents came to marvel at the Japanese writing on the packages and the displayed invoices, as well as to purchase the tea. In 1901, Lyman retired and sold his store and property to John Hanna for $4,500 cash — that’s well over $100,000 in today’s currency.

What became of the “and Son” of the store’s name? In 1893, Bert Peabody married Alta Ford, and they moved into a mansion her father had built on Woodward Avenue, lending his name to the Ford-Peabody Mansion. Lyman’s brother, James, and his son Stanley purchased an old building in town to sell their farm’s produce, founding Peabody’s Market. The market would eventually become a restaurant run by Stanley’s son Jim and then Jim’s three daughters  — Nancy, Susan and Barbara — before closing in 2015.

To further explore the Peabody family’s impact on Birmingham, check out the museum’s latest exhibit: “Birmingham Before and After.”

— Caitlin Donnelly, museum assistant at the Birmingham Museum