South Milford Village Historic District

Oakland County, Michigan


The agriculture and mill settlement of Milford developed on the western edge of Oakland County during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The historic core of the village is located on both sides of a bend of the Huron River at the point where Pettibone Creek flows into the Huron.  The Huron River originates in a series of lakes in Commerce Township, east of Milford Township, runs, at its entrance into the township, in a northwesterly direction, thence at the village westerly, and thence south and southwesterly through Kent Lake, and eventually through Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and into Lake Erie. Pettibone Creek originates in a series of lakes north of Milford in Highland Township and enters the Huron River approximately in the center of Milford Village.  Both the Huron River and Pettibone Creek furnished water power to the early settlers, with three water powers on the Huron and five on Pettibone Creek. The Village is situated in a valley surrounded by hills covered with oak in early days. The land surrounding the Village was primarily farmland, but has now been developed into large residential lots and subdivisions, with one-third of the township outside the village being parkland or the General Motors Proving Ground.

 The primary approaches to the Village of Milford are South Milford Road running north from the I-96 Interstate and North Milford Road running south from M-39.  Milford Road runs through the center of North Milford Village as part of Main Street.  Early routes through the Village were Old Plank Road, a stagecoach road running northwest from Grand River Road in Lyon Township, south of Milford Township, and Commerce Road, then a stagecoach road from Pontiac to Howell, Michigan. The earliest street in South Milford Village connected the first two mills and was then called Main Street, now called Huron Street.  Present Main Street was then called Grand River Street.  

           The South Milford Village Historic District consists of the south part of the historic commercial district and the early residential development of South Milford, Michigan.  The district includes the historic commercial area along one block of South Main Street,  residential areas along four east-west streets and one north-south street south of the Huron River, the historic mill ponds and mill sites along the Huron River and the original Public Square.  The district is comprised of structures, of which most are contributing and some are non-contributing, and five mill sites, which have been identified with metal historical markers.  The commercial area developed in the early nineteenth century, but some of the early wood frame structures have been replaced with late nineteenth and early twentieth century brick and stone Italianate structures.  Two early commercial structures remain at 204 and 210 S. Main Street.  The residential district is made up of wood frame, brick and stone Greek Revival, Italianate, Victorian Gothic, Late Victorian, , Queen Anne, Stick, Tudor Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival and Bungalow/Craftsman houses. The overall architectural integrity is high. Alterations consist of remodeled store front entries and removal of some cornices in the commercial district and additions, enclosed porches, window replacement, removal of wood trim, as well as the overlay of aluminum and vinyl siding in the residential district.

           The commercial buildings are found on two blocks of South Main Street and on Huron Street and are representative of Milford's first era of settlement and second era of prosperity sparked by the arrival of the railroad in 1872.. South of the Huron River are two two-story Italianate buildings, a stone blacksmith shop and a brick Art Deco building.

          The historical residential area of the Village is found on the southern part of South Main Street, on two east-west streets crossing South Main Street (Huron Street and Washington Street), and two east-west streets, one running southwest from Huron Street (General Motors Road) and one running east from South Main Street (Oakland). Along these principal streets, Milford's merchants, mill owners and retired farmers erected primarily wood frame houses in styles that were popular during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many of the late nineteenth century houses exhibit detailed woodwork and expert workmanship. Interspersed in the residential district are a few carriage houses and barns. Mature shade trees line a number of these streets, but many have been lost to disease in recent years and have been replaced with young trees.

          Running south from the Huron River along South Main Street is a block of commercial structures, followed by four blocks of wood frame and stone Greek Revival, Italianate, Victorian Gothic and Bungalow style houses and one brick school building, now a home. Five of these buildings are individually eligible for the National Register on their own merit. The district terminates just south of Second Street on the east side of South Main Street, including the brick school on Second Street, and a half block south of Washington Street on the west side of South Main Street.

          Starting at the Huron River on the east and running west along Huron Street are five blocks containing commercial buildings and wood frame and brick Greek Revival, Italianate, Victorian Gothic and Bungalow style houses. One of these buildings is on the National Register and another is eligible for the National Register on its own merit. The district ends at the Huron River on the west at the site of the Fuller gristmill and woolen mill. Three houses on General Motors Road, branching off from West Huron Street, are included. On the south side of West Huron Street the district ends at Mill Street.

          Washington Street, running east and west from South Main Street is a residential street of wood frame Greek Revival and Victorian Gothic houses. The district ends at the railroad track on the east and at Mill Street on the west and includes the site of the first cemetery in Milford.

          Oakland Street runs east from South Main Street, terminating half a block east of South Main Street. It includes three Victorian Gothic houses.

          Haner-Dever Blacksmith Shop (210 S. Main St.). Albert Haner built this stone blacksmith shop in 1859 on the site of an earlier wooden blacksmith shop built in the 1840's by Charles Soulby. Haner sold the shop to William Dever in 1872. It remained in the Dever family until 1916.

The building remains in essentially original condition.  It is a gable-ended one-story structure constructed of fieldstone, with wooden gable moldings.  It has eight original six-over-six windows with wooden lintels above.  A large wooden double door

remains, with wrought iron hinges and latch, and a smaller similar door on the rear.

North Bridgeman Store (218 S. Main St.). Richard Bridgeman, a local grocer, built this two-story brick store in 1880 adjoining the brick store just south of it, which he had built in 1878. The Italianate building boasts bracketed and dentilled wood cornices above both stories. There are three arched two-over-two windows in the second story, but the glory of the building is its intact lower story, one of only two in the village which can make such a claim. The lower story has a recessed entrance with the original ornate double entry doors with transom lights above. The two original show windows with four large panes each are on each side of the entry. An outside access door to the second story can still be seen on the north side of the building, but the stairway no longer exists.

South Bridgeman Store (222 S. Main St.). Richard Bridgeman, a local grocer, built this two-story brick store in 1878, replacing a wood frame building he had used for some time as a grocery. Interestingly enough, the wood building had served originally as the Mead & Arms store, the first store in Milford.  It had been moved twice from its first location on the south side of West Huron and the east side of the Public Square.  Both

moves were occasioned by the construction of new buildings, a hotel in 1874 and this building in 1878.

NPS Form 10-900-a       OMB Approval No. 1024-0018


United States Department of the Interior

National Park Service

National Register of Historic Places

Continuation Sheet

Section number   7    page   5 of 68   


South Milford Village Historic District

Oakland County, Michigan

The building is similar to its neighbor on the north, built two years later by the same man. It is somewhat narrower than the later building, but has the same bracketed and dentilled wood cornices above both stories, the same three arched two-over-two windows. The lower front also has its original recessed entry with ornate double doors and transom light above. The original show-windows on either side of

the entry in this narrower storefront have only two panes each. This is one of only two original storefronts in Milford.

Mr. Bridgeman's store is 22' x 65' with a double cellar. He was his own architect.  The building cost $2000 to $3000 in 1878.

Holmes-Mowry House (324 S. Main St.). Charles Holmes built this unusual Greek Revival-style house in 1849. Holmes soon sold it to the Button family who apparently rented it out at times. In 1862 it became the home of Dr. Zebina Mowry, one of Milford's earliest

physicians, and was known for many years as the Mowry house, though Mowry's first house was on East Liberty Street in North Milford. The building is a two-story cobblestone cube with a hipped roof and a one-story wing on each side. Oddly enough, on the south side of the south wing, and on the north side of the north wing, are found small areas of cobbles-in-courses. Entablatures run beneath the eaves of the two-story wing and there are eyebrow windows, deeper than the usual, let into the entablature on the front. Though the house is not a true one-story-with-second-story monitor Greek Revival, it resembles this type and it is of the same period as some of the more typical such houses in other communities (reference Concord, Michigan). The front porch is of a typical Greek Revival style with massive overhang and until recently had its original square pillars with Asher Benjamin style trim. The doorway is of a typical Greek Revival style with side and transom lights.A one-story wood frame kitchen wing off the rear of the house was moved away from the house many years ago and now serves as a garage. This building has return eaves.

Ward School (104 Second St.). Palmer & Coe built the Ward School in 1881 to serve the children of South Milford. Harry Wheeler was the first teacher in this building. An earlier southside school was located on Washington Street. An attempt was made to close the Ward School in 1898 because of low enrollment, but South Milford would not hear of giving up its school and sending its children across the river to the Union School on North Hickory Street, fearing that they would never get it back. There was much rivalry between North and South Milford at that time, so the school remained open until 1916.  Mr. Drake bought it in 1926 and turned it into a home, which it has been ever since. The building is a story-and-a-half gable-ended structure of brick construction with a projecting brick entryway. There are paired four-over-four windows on each side and a restored cupola with an antique school bell on the roof. A brick fireplace has been

Huron Street (east to west)

          Dr. Foote House (213 W. Huron St.).  This glorious Greek Revival house was built in 1858 on the same lot on which Dr. Henry Foote, Milford's first physician had built a small three-room wood frame house in 1837. While his first house faced the Public Square, looking across to the Ansley Arms House, the first frame house in Milford (still standing), this one faced West Huron Street. Dr. Foote seems to have completed only the two-story upright before he left in 1862 to enlist as a Second Lieutenant in the Fifth Regiment, Michigan Volunteer Cavalry. He died of pneumonia in 1863 while serving in the Union army. It appears that the story-and-a-half east wing and the one-story south wing were added by his wife, Minerva, after his death because his will left to her "……….materials for finishing off my dwelling house." Also, an outside cellar window in the east side of the upright was covered when the east wing was added.The house consists of a two-story brick upright with a story-and-a-half brick wing on the east and a one-story brick wing on the south side of the east wing. There is a square-pillared porch in the ell formed by the upright and the east wing. From the porch two doors lead into the wing, one into the dining room and one into the doctor's office. Steps lead up to the dining room door and there is evidence that another set of steps led up to the office door. The main entry door on the two-story upright has a typical Greek Revival doorway with side and transom lights and a stone lintel above. All the windows in the house have original six-over-six panes and woodwork and are all capped with stone lintels. A porch across the front of the two-story upright has been removed, two porches on either side of the rear one-story wing have been repaired or restored, and the house has been returned to its 1860's appearance. A remarkable ornate wood attic ventilator remains All wings exhibit typical Greek Revival gable moldings, entablatures and return eaves. The interior of the house is remarkably intact, with original floors, woodwork, staircases and hardware to be found throughout the house. The Foote House has been placed on both the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. It is now owned by Dr. Frederick Foote, a direct descendant of Dr. Henry K. Foote, the original owner.

          Lingham House (335 W. Huron St.).  Henry Lingham and his partner, Osborn, proprietors of an elevator on the south side of the river, dealt in wool, grain and produce In 1874 Lingham selected as the site for his new house the spot where Milford's first store once stood. Ansley S. Arms came to Milford in 1836 representing his soon-to-be-father-in-law, Amos Mead, in the establishment of a store. Arms selected a site on the west side of  the Public Square in Mead's Addition to Milford and contracted with Henry Ruggles to build

him a house and a store. The house, the first frame house in Milford, still stands on the west side of the Public Square, but the store, called Mead & Arms for Ansley and his brother-in-law, Jabesh Mead, was moved at least twice before 1874. Ansley's brother, William, joined him in the business and the store became known as Arms Brothers. The business still exists on North Main Street, the oldest men's store in the state of Michigan, though it is no longer owned by the Arms family. Lingham chose the store's site to build his stunning Italianate house. The two-story house in constructed in a cruciform style, in red brick with quoins and window caps of yellow Milwaukee brick. The windows, some of which are paired, are tall and narrow with segmental arches and three of the four gables display small arched windows. There are decorative wooden brackets beneath the eaves of these three gables. The bracketed and pedimented doorway has a double-leafed door surmounted by a transom light.H.A. Lowell did the carpenter work, Allen Stephens the painting and graining, and Thomas Casterton the plastering.A one-story wood frame addition has been added to the back of the house.

          Crawford House, (414 W. Huron St.). Henderson Crawford came to Milford in 1845. He conducted a private school for Milford youth for 15 years and served as Justice of the Peace and as a member of the State Legislature. During the 1865 session of that body. Mr. Crawford succeeded in procuring an enabling act which brought the Holly, Wayne and Monroe Railway to Milford. He was elected chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the subscription of stock for the building of that road. Although he probably considered this act his greatest achievement, it is probable that his most precious gift to the town was his diligent effort to save Milford's history by interviewing the original pioneers and by gathering data which would someday prove an invaluable resource to the community. Mr. Crawford is believed responsible for the information contained in Milford's entry in the History of Oakland County, Michigan: 1817-1877, published by the Everts Company of Philadelphia and written by Samuel Durant. Crawford also dealt in insurance and real estate during his time in Milford. Mr. Crawford bought this lot in 1867 and had this house constructed on it in 1871. The house is a story-and-a-half wood frame, wood-sided Victorian Gothic with a front-gabled upright and story-and-a-half wing on the west. There is a cross gable above the porch in the ell. This porch was originally open but has been enclosed and based with cobblestones. A small enclosed porch has been added on the southeast corner which serves as an entry for one of the duplex apartments. This porch is also based with cobblestones. The house retains its four-over-four windows with scrolled wood trim above, and the three-windowed projecting bracketed bay on the south side of the upright. There is an original story-and-a-half wing on the rear. The house shares a circa 1930's garage with the house on its west and has a small early wood frame garage on the northeast.

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