Photo provided by the Troy Historic Village


Looking Back: Why is it Called Big Beaver Road?

Troy Times | Published December 23, 2019

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TROY — While the name of Troy’s corporate corridor doesn’t exactly fit the image, it is a terrific link to the community’s rural past. As recently as the early 1960s, dairy cows strolled across Big Beaver Road twice each day as they went from the Brooks Farm milking parlor to their pasture and back.

Walter Cornelius recalled that he timed his departure for the General Motors Technical Center each morning so he wouldn’t have to stop and wait for the cows.

Today, the Holsteins are gone, but the gracious stone home and weathered outbuildings remain. The Brooks Home is now the headquarters of the Kresge Foundation, and the restored buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The name Big Beaver can be traced back to the pioneer era. The village of Big Beaver, settled in 1825, was located at the intersection of the Paint Creek Trail, today known as Rochester Road, and an east-west two-track that became Big Beaver Road. According to the 1877 History of Oakland County, “The place derives its name from a large dam, erected by a colony of beavers, across a little brook near the place.”

The stream, nearly gone in 1877, was better described as a seasonal creek. The industrious rodents probably disappeared before or when pioneer Ira Smith and his neighbors established their homes in the area. Taverns, blacksmith shops, a number of stores, and an inn replaced the wildlife.

Big Beaver did not grow beyond the intersection for many years.

Economic development in Big Beaver and at Troy Corners, located at the intersection of Square Lake and Livernois roads, stopped when the Grand Trunk Railroad was routed from Detroit through Royal Oak and Pontiac, bypassing the area.

For many years, only prosperous farms dominated the landscape. Change came after World War II, when industrialists abandoned cramped factories in Detroit and moved to areas like Troy Township, where they could build large single-story facilities equipped with more efficient manufacturing technologies developed during the war.

For more information about the community’s history, visit the Troy Historic Village at 60 W. Wattles Road and learn about upcoming programs and events at troyhistoricvilage.org.

— Loraine Campbell, executive director of the Troy Historic Village

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