The historical Mary Thompson House, located off of Evergreen Road, is in the midst of a restoration project headed by BTS Construction of Shelby Township. Southfield officials hope to have the project done by the end of March.

The historical Mary Thompson House, located off of Evergreen Road, is in the midst of a restoration project headed by BTS Construction of Shelby Township. Southfield officials hope to have the project done by the end of March.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Southfield to renovate historical Mary Thompson House

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published February 26, 2021

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SOUTHFIELD — Mary Thompson was born in Southfield in 1871 and died in Southfield at age 96 in 1967.

In between, she led a remarkable life full of teaching and placing the city before herself. Thompson received degrees from Columbia University and New York University. She also had a stint as the assistant superintendent of schools in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Women of her era didn’t get that kind of an education,” said Southfield Mayor Ken Siver. “Especially coming from a rural farm family. She was really an exceptional woman.”

The Thompson House was built in 1840, and it was purchased by the Thompson family in 1874. In the city’s infancy, Southfield was operating out of the town hall located on Berg Road. The city was experiencing many changes, with the new Northland Center and the many freeways coming through. Developers bought large tracts of land in the city, and it became clear Southfield needed a new government center that would prove to be very costly.

Instead of trying to fight the change, Thompson embraced it. She sold 166 acres of her farm so the city was able to construct the Civic Center at below market value. When Thompson died, she left a sum of money for the city to preserve the property. That fund is paying for the renovations to the house. No tax dollars are being used to preserve the farmhouse and farm.

These factors and many more compelled the city to protect its history.

“Really what we’re trying to do is preserve that building,” said Southfield Community Development Block Grant Operations Specialist Rick Lampi. “We’re installing a siding called HardiePlank siding. It’s more of a maintenance type product, more fire resistant.”

Lampi said the city considered two options when it came to fixing up the farmhouse — either paint it, or do something more permanent. In October 2020, the city posted bids for the project and awarded BTS Construction in Shelby Township the contract to repair the house at a total cost of $38,482.50.

The project renovations include exterior wall coverings, gutter system removal and the installation of HardiePlank refinished lap siding. To make the house look more historically authentic, the shutters on the windows will be removed and a porch roof will be installed, flanked by two pillars.

HardiePlank is a type of fiber-cement siding composed of cellulose fibers and cementlike components. The siding is not fireproof, but it is far less combustible than wood or vinyl siding.

This restoration project is not the first to be done on the house. Southfield Historical Society President Darla VanHoey noted a project done by Lawrence Technological University in the mid-1970s. She said they redid the interior to a large extent.

“If you don’t keep up with your normal everyday maintenance on your house you’re going to lose it,” VanHoey said. “Historic properties tell a story. They tell how people used to live. We have important artifacts in the Mary Thompson House that tell about how life used to be.”

The city hopes to complete the project by the end of March.

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