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319 E. Commerce Street – Johns/Maher
By Joyce M. Clark

This fine, 1896 Queen Anne style home was built by Enos St. John of Highland for George B. Johns, an evangelist and auctioneer.  George purchased the property from Dr. Johnston who lived next door.  George raised his daughter Florence in this home after his wife Etta Babcock Johns, who lived in the home less than a year, passed away. According to a Milford Times Article on April 10, 1897, Etta’s health was never robust, but her short sickness and death was a shock to all family members.

George was an evangelist until 1905 at which time he became an undertaker in Grand Ledge, where he moved with his daughter and second wife Ida W. Crawford who was a gospel singer.  George sold the house to H. R. Sharpe for $1000 in 1905.  After undertaking, George and family moved to Detroit where George was an auctioneer.

The home changed hands over the years with William Finningsdorf purchasing it around 1920.  One of his daughters, Myrtle (born in 1905), attended a one-room school house in West Highland across from the cemetery.  When it was time for Myrtle to attend high school, William bought her a buggy complete with green plush seats and lamps on the outside.  

When Myrtle was in tenth grade, a sister joined her in high school causing William to worry about his two girls traveling the long roads to school.  William then purchased this home so his girls would be closer to school.  About this time, William became a well-known horse dealer.  He would take the train into Detroit, purchase a horse, and then ride and walk it back to Milford.  William had riding horses as well as teams.  

For Myrtle, this fine home was more like a dream come true for a sixteen year old.  In a Milford Times newspaper article from the late 1970s, Myrtle remembered how thrilled she and her sister were to have an inside bathroom and electric lights.  Myrtle laughed as she recounted the blow her father felt when he received that first electric bill.

Myrtle was married twice.  She married her first husband, Tunis Strick, in 1927 but he died in an automobile accident in February 1928 on Grand River Avenue three months before Myrtle gave birth to twin girls.  Only one of the twins survived, and Myrtle and her daughter lived with her in-laws during those tough times.  Five years later, in 1932, Myrtle attended a school reunion and met up with Bob Rowe, a neighbor boy from her grade school days.  

Bob’s dad owned and operated the Milford Times Newspaper, so when Bob and Myrtle married, she too became involved in putting out the paper and balancing the books.  Three generations of Rowe’s owned and operated the paper until it was sold to W.H. Gharrity in 1948.

Current owners Elisa and Steve Maher often traveled to Milford from their Commerce home to visit Elisa’s Mom and Steve’s parents who all lived in Milford.  As they drove through town, they would pass this home and remark that they would love to buy it if it ever became available.

Late last year the Mahers saw a for-sale sign on the lawn but before they could react, the sign came down and their hopes were dashed.  But a few days after Christmas 2018, Steve stopped by the home, knocked on the door and asked if the house really sold.  It had not, so the conversation continued between previous owners Steve and Katie Digsby and the Mahers.  By April of this year, the Mahers closed on the home and quickly placed their belongings into this move-in ready home.

The Digsbys performed most of the renovations, gutting every room to bring it back to its Queen Anne style charm.  They gave the Mahers a couple of the treasures found behind the walls during their renovations: a picture of a dog, and a picture of a young girl sitting in the dining room blowing out her birthday candles.

The Mahers are thrilled with the home but hope to enlarge the kitchen in the future.  They also need to build a garage as the leaning carriage house was taken down for safety reasons.  Elisa and Steve have saved the doors and windows from the carriage house and are incorporating them into their home as part of their décor, or will use them in their new garage.

532 West Huron Street – Seaman/Ziembroski
By Joyce M. Clark

This two-story, Greek Revival style home was built by Abraham Seaman for his family in 1844.  He purchased the property in 1843 for $80 ($30 for a portion of lot 7and $50 for a portion of lot 6).  Abraham, his wife Martha Phillips, daughter Maria (4-years old) and son William (2-years old) lived in this house one year before moving to Hartland.

Back in the 1840s this property encompassed far more space than it does today as the river was not as wide (no damn).  To look at it today, it is rather difficult to believe that this property included both a home and tannery building, and eventually became part of Milford’s first industrial park.  

Abraham was a tanner and shoemaker, and used a small building he built closer to the river to tan the leather he would use to make shoes for residents in the area.

The tanning process Abraham followed began with animal skins that were treated as soon as they left the animal so the skin would not decompose.  Locating the tannery near a river would be a plus since the tanning process required washing and soaking of the skins.  The process also involved a lot of scraping, stretching, and the use of a very pungent oil.  You would never want to live in the same building the tanning process is applied.  By the way, today’s chemical process does not remove or improve on the pungent smells.

In 1845 the property was sold to Robert Pearson, a blacksmith who also ran the tannery, and his wife Jane.  They raised three children in the home for eight years.  In 1853, Jacob Peters purchased the property and tied it to several other abutting lots that became Milford’s first Industrial Park and housed a Woolen Mill, Tannery, Grist Mill and Cooper Shop.  A cooper is a person who creates barrels, casks, drums, and kitchen items such as butter churns and firkins for storing flour, corn meal, and other staples.

A kitchen and bedroom were added in 1907, and the rear family room was added in 1978 by builder Michael Kirk when he also updated the kitchen.

Brenda and Mike Ziembroski purchased this home from former owner Archie Noon in 2016, flying home from Atlanta from a visit with their daughter to quickly seal the deal.  The Ziembroski’s lived in a home on Atlantic Street for 20+ years which was on the home tour in 2016.  They were ready to downsize when this home became available, and they felt that living on the Huron River would be a real plus.

Mike and Brenda spent about a year renovating the entire home including adding a bedroom on the west side and a living area on the river side.  Throughout the renovations and additions, their goal was to maintain the integrity of the home’s era.  

One of the items Ziembroskis added was a staircase leading to a small bedroom upstairs.  When they moved in, they noticed ship stairs or a ship’s ladder leading to the upstairs bedroom.  A ship's ladder is a stairway used on ships. Since ships have limited deck space, ship builders designed stairs with unusually steep slopes.  The ship’s ladder in this home was flushed against the back wall.

While working in the yard in prep for the additions, Mike found over 100-year old horseshoes, a horse collar, a hay cutter, farming tools, and a wagon wheel.  In their Michigan basement in the crawl space, Mike also found two precious items of Archie Noon.  

One was a photo of Archie crossing the finish line in an East coast marathon circa 1970s, and a top hat purchased in the 1950s from the popular hat shop Louis the Hatter located in downtown Detroit.  Inside the hat was the inscription, “this is not your hat, it belongs to Archie Noon.” The Ziembroskis were happy to return these items to Archie when his 100th birthday was celebrated at St. Mary’s Church.  His eyes lit up when he saw them.

804 Atlantic Street – Wilson/Schulz
By Joyce M. Clark

This attractive house was built in 1872 for the Reverend George Wilson and his wife, who raised their four daughters here.  Reverend Wilson was born in England but once in America, married a Milford girl, Eliza Bourns.  He served as a Methodist clergyman for a few years, but left the ministry in 1868 due to poor health, returning to Milford at that time.  He died in 1881 and his widow remained in the house until 1905 when she sold it to Ralph Buno.

A few years later, the home became a rental and was occupied for a time by Mary Laughry Stephens, her son Nicholas, her granddaughter, Mary Jackson and grandson, Ronald Earl Jackson. Mary Jackson was an accomplished actress and was one of the delightful Baldwin sisters who cooked up the popular recipe on the 1970’s television show, The Waltons.  

Mary Jackson was born and raised in Milford, graduated from Milford High School (class of 1927) and then Western Michigan University earning a teaching degree.  After success on stage and television, Mary returned to her home town in the 1970s, splitting her time between California and Milford.  Mary purchased the home she was born in on Canal Street, which has been on the home tour in the past.

Mary loved her home town of Milford and could be found shopping in local antique shops.  In 1977 she attended her 50th class reunion.  While in town she also gave the commencement address at the graduation ceremony for Milford High School’s class of 1977.  Mary is buried in Milford’s Oak Grove Cemetery.

While living in 804 Atlantic, Mary, along with her life-long friend Ruth Dawson Wolf who lived next door, played together.  Mary had a love of music and her grandmother once owned a beautiful, large music box (approximately 18” x 10” x10”)  As a child, Mary and Ruth would run into the house and crank the music box (which they were not supposed to touch), listened to the music for a few minutes while dancing around, and then quickly ran back outside.

Current owner John Shulz grew up in Detroit and lived most recently in West Bloomfield, and he, like original owner Reverend George Wilson, married a local Milford girl, Connie.  Together they lived in a condo in town, but a little over two years ago decided to sell it and buy a house.  They never really thought about purchasing an historical home, but the realtor suggested they look at 804 Atlantic.

John and Connie fell in love with the home even though they knew it needed some work (i.e., a new roof and bathroom).  As a labor of love, they refinished the original hardwood floors while Connie has scraped almost 50 layers of paint off of the staircase.

The Schulz’ are decorating the home in line with the late 1800’s era by using a color palette familiar in the day.  They even chose their green roof shingles to reflect the late 1800s era.  Once moved in, Connie was thrilled to see that two wall sconces that once seemed out of place, perfectly flank each side of her family’s antique organ which is from the mid to late 1800s.

As you walk upstairs, you will see that the hallway flooring maintains a lot of historical character, with small dips and grooves that would prevent a marble from rolling in a straight line.  Don’t forget to peek in the bathroom which contains the original claw-foot bathtub.  

Back down two flights you will find a traditional Michigan basement.  A Michigan basement is a term used in and around Michigan for the stone foundation that supports the house.  The height of the Michigan basement is not a full room height, and back in the day was used for the cool storage of perishables in the summer and kept items from freezing in the winter.

804 East Liberty Street – Smith/Gumpper
By Joyce M. Clark

Built by Jim Smith and his wife Barbara Lovejoy Smith, this house was completed in 1953.  Jim was his own contractor while family and friends helped with the build.  The Smiths lived here until 1963 when they traded the house for a larger home on Garner road.  The Smith family grew to six, adding four children before moving to their new home.

Jim was a landscape architect for the Metroparks of Michigan stationed in Kensington while Barbara Lovejoy Smith owned and operated the Wee Knit Shop on Main Street.  The Lovejoy name may remind many long-time residents of the strong influence the Lovejoy family made in Milford’s early retail industry.  In fact, this influence continues today over 2200 miles west of Milford.

In 1871 Matthew Lovejoy established a grocery store on Main Street serving the local community.  His son Charles Earl (C.E.) Lovejoy carried on the family’s successful grocery business until he retired in 1910 at which time Matthew’s grandson W. Scott Lovejoy owned and operated C.E. Lovejoy’s until 1946.  

But retirement for Charles Earl Lovejoy from the grocery business did not mean he would sit still.  According to a January 1910 Milford Times article, Charles Earl opened an office near the barbershop “where he will devote his attention to his real estate, insurance, legal and probate business, which together with his duties as a justice of the peace, will keep him quite busy.”

From 1946 to 1971, W. Scott Lovejoy’s wife and daughter continued operating the grocery store in Milford.  Today the fifth and sixth generations of the Lovejoy family bring to their hometown of Bend, Oregon, the same traditions that Matthew and his son Charles Earl first began in Milford back in 1871.  Their shop is called C.E. Lovejoy’s Market and their Oregon signage states that they were established in 1871.

Current owner Susan Gumpper rented this home in 1980 while working in the Huron Valley School system as a teacher and then a principal.  Sue fell in love with the home and decided to purchase it in 1981.  

Sue remodeled the kitchen in 1996 and added an addition to the front of the house in 2002.  In 2011 the master bedroom was built along with two new bathrooms, one located in the master suite.  Sue loves cherry and walnut furniture, and you will find many antiques throughout the house.  Two of Sue’s more precious antiques are a chair and footstool once owned by her grandmother.  

As you walk through this home, you will learn more about Sue’s love of learning and cherished memories as you view her numerous collections displayed throughout the rooms.  Beach glass, books by Michigan authors, watercolor paintings, family memorabilia, small mementos in type drawers, and vintage holiday decorations are just a few collections you will happen upon.  

Sue always decorates the house for the four seasons, and today’s décor reflects both the Fall season and the Halloween holiday.

904 Atlantic Street – Peters/Peters
By Joyce M. Clark

Elizur Ruggles and his brother Stanley are recognized as the founders of Milford Village.  They bought land here in 1831, settling and building a saw mill in 1832.  Elizur’s grandson, Ben Phillips, built several houses along Atlantic and Mont Eagle Streets including this charming brick veneer Tudor in 1928 which he sold to Brooke Peters.

Brooke, along with his wife Doris, became rather popular in Milford towards the end of the 1940s when they opened Frosty’s Restaurant and Drive-In near the south-west corner of GM and Milford roads.  The Peters purchased 4.5 acres (out in the middle of nowhere) in the early 1940’s for $900.  At first the family sold Evergreen trees and sweetcorn on the corner, but Doris thought it would be a good idea to add a pop stand so customers could enjoy a refreshing drink.

Around 1949 Brooke ordered a pile of lumber, and along with his friend Hersh Krebs, they built a full-fledged drive-in.  Opening day for Frosty’s was quite an event for which the Peters had not prepared.  Both Kensington Metropark and Camp Dearborn were just getting started and neither had concession stands.  Frosty’s was swamped that first day with customers purchasing hot dogs and pop, and the drive in remained very popular for the next 20 years.

At first Frosty’s was only open on weekends during the summer, but the Peters soon added a dining room and then Frosty’s stayed open throughout the year.  The root beer barrel became a focus of the business featuring Richardson’s Root Beer.  A fryer, grill, and ice cream were added to help round out the menu.

Many town folks ate at Frosty’s.  When workers were filming new cars at the GM Proving Grounds, they placed large Frosty’s take-out orders.  High school girls hired in as waitresses with Brooke doing most of the cooking, which included his home-made chili.  

Linda Dagenhardt of the Milford Historical Society was one of the carhops back in the day and recalls a humorous interaction with her father.  One day Linda’s father noticed that she was pedaling a new bicycle and treating her friends to the movies.  Her father asked how much money she was paid as a waitress at Frosty’s, and she said she earns 25 cents an hour plus tips.  

“Just how much are you making in tips,” Linda’s father inquired.  When Linda responded, her father was rather speechless. Linda’s weekend job at Frosty’s brought in more money than her father earned during the week after taxes.  Once Linda’s father recovered from the discussion, he announced that 50% of Linda’s tips were to be deposited into her savings account.

The Peters sold Frosty’s in 1969, with other folks making a go of it for a few years but eventually other commercial ventures took over the land including the current McDonalds.

Current owners Bob and Gail Peters are no relation to the previous owners, but they love this home just the same.  A job at the GM Proving Ground brought the Peters to Milford back in the 1980s. After living on Atlantic Street for about 11 years and some careful consideration, they decided to purchase this home about 20 years ago from their friends who were moving to New York.  

Since moving in, Bob and Gail have put in a lot of hard work to restore this home to the original Tudor style.  The Peters added traditional niches (a shallow wall recess, often used to display a statue or other ornament) and are rebuilting the staircase.  The staircase especially reflects a lot of hard work, sweat, and long hours put in by both Bob and his father.  All the windows, and all but two doors have been replaced as well, including the beautiful moldings that surround them.

In the Living room, bead board was removed and an entire wall of cabinetry and bookcases was built and installed by Bob and his father.  Beautiful antique French doors lead you from the Living room into the Dining room.  Throughout the home, drapes and furniture patterns selected by Gail enhance the Tudor style atmosphere.

The 2019 Home Tour Homes