Boston-Edison in the News
It's not only the residents of Boston-Edison who think the neighborhood is a great place to live. The Metro Times calls Boston-Edison "one of the most appealing neighborhoods in Detroit," and "one of Detroit's richest sources of history;" and Detroit Home readers voted Boston-Edison the area's "Best Historic Neighborhood." We agree. In addition to the The Metro Times, both The Detroit News and Model D has profiled Boston-Edison and the surrounding area. City Living Detroit, and National Scenic Byways include the area as a highlight of Detroit. And Experience Detroit includes the neighborhood on its tour of historic neighborhoods.
Excerpts from Articles
A few sentences from a select few articles about the Boston-Edison Historic District.
One Detroit neighbourhood gets the ultimate reno
Nicholas Köhler, Maclean's, July 5, 2012 (Intervoews with residents, and neighborhood initiatives in housing and baeutification)
[The years of the eaerly 20th century] were Detroit’s salad days, and Boston-Edison reflected that glory. Here the Ford home is modest beside many of its neighbours. A district of leafy boulevards, stately mansions and handsome cottages stretched out over 36 city blocks just north of midtown, it was the domain of auto executives, hard-charging industrialists and retail tycoons. Sebastian S. Kresge, founder of what later became K-Mart, Jacob Siegel, head of the American Lady Corset Company, and Walter Briggs, who was, among other things, owner of the Detroit Tigers and Briggs Stadium—they all lived here, and all made sure their homes were stamped with appropriate grandeur....
[In the 21st century] the community has hung on, even shown signs of improvement, and is attracting dozens of newcomers, thanks largely to the ingenious interventions of the neighbourhood’s homeowners.... The people of Boston-Edison, many of them preservationists who withstood the magnetic pull of the suburbs, banded together. "There are a lot of professionals here," says Brian Ceccon, a retired social worker and a former director of the neighbourhood association. "They don’t have to live here—they’re choosing to." The homeowners began a policy of adopting empty houses, mowing the lawns and keeping watch. "We secured funding to purchase locks and secured the homes if there was a break-in, hung curtains, trimmed shrubs—just to make the homes appear occupied," says Pamela Miller Malone, a former neighbourhood association president.
Rust Belt Rising: Learning from the Motor City
Douglas J. Forsyth, American Bungalow, Winter 2011 (Arts and Crafts architecture in Detroit in Boston-Edison)
Boston-Edison is one of the largest residential historic districts in the nation. It constists of over 900 houses, most of them built between 1905 and 1925. From the beginning, it has been one of Detroit's premier residential neighborhoods. Henry Ford (1863-1947) lived here; so did Sebastian S. Kresge, the founder of Kresge Department Stores; James Couzens, vice president and treasurer of Ford Motor Co. and later U.S. Senator and Detroit mayor; Walter O. Briggs, auto-body manufacturer and former owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball team; Clara Clemens, daughter of Mark Twain; heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis; Walter Reuther, the United Auto Workers leader, and Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records. Boston-Edison has one of the oldest neighborhood associations in the country, founded in 1921.
Download the rest of this article in pdf format.
Detroit's Boston-Edison district a mix of history and charm
Greta Guest, Detroit Free Press, December 19, 2010 (A tour of the neighborhood and homes on the 2010 Holiday Home Tour.)
In Detroit's historic Boston-Edison district, where a 3,000-square-foot home is considered small, it takes commitment and cash to keep up the roughly 900 houses in the 36-block area. There are 30 homes for sale in the neighborhood, priced from $12,000 to $1.2 million.
[T]he rewards of living in the neighborhood that was fashioned by Detroit's leaders of the last century are many, residents say. Most of the stately homes and mansions were built between 1905 and 1925 and became the gathering place of Detroit's elite residents of the time including the Fisher Brothers, Fred W. Sanders, Sebastian Kresge, Benjamin Siegel and, more recently, Berry Gordy Jr.
"I would never want to discourage anyone from living in these areas, but when you do a repair or modernization you are talking about huge areas of square feet," [said Cheryl Kachaturoff, a Realtor with Century 21 Curran and Christie]. "A lot of people go in with excitement about fixing up these beautiful mansions, but they don't think about the repairs." That said, Kachaturoff notes that those who do buy in such neighborhoods have the benefit of living near others who share their love for historic homes and are very involved in the community.
"People who are looking now are so lucky," [HBEA vice-president Wanda] McGlown said, noting that the housing slump has made most homes in the district extremely affordable. McGlown said the area has been getting a lot more attention, including being featured recently on an episode of "Detroit 1-8-7." And the area is in a Neighborhood Enterprise Zone, which gives tax breaks to residents. "It's a great, great neighborhood," said McGlown, a Chrysler engineer. "To look at Detroit as an opportunity is what we try to do."
Detroit's Fisher mansion returns to former grace
Greta Guest, Detroit Free Press, September 24, 2010 (Restoring Charles T. Fisher's Boston-Edison mansion.)
The house has 12 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms and a pub. It boasts a private chapel, marble ballroom and a private office that once connected Charles T. Fisher to the former General Motors headquarters in the New Center area. It even has a sitting area for the ladies' English porcelain powder room.
The 18,000-square-foot Fisher Mansion -- the largest in Detroit's historic Boston-Edison district -- is going though its first major renovation in 36 years as its new owner strives to preserve some of the city's rich automotive history.
The mansion was built by architect George Mason for Charles T. Fisher and his wife, Sarah Fisher.
Charles Fisher and his brother Fred and uncle Albert founded the Fisher Body Co. in 1908. By 1914, it had become the world's largest maker of auto bodies that included Cadillac, Ford and Studebaker
In One Home, a Mighty City's Rise and Fall
Michael M. Phillips, The Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2009 (The story of one house in Boston-Edison.)
The brick-and-stucco home at 1626 W. Boston Blvd. has watched almost a century of Detroit's ups and downs, through industrial brilliance and racial discord, economic decline and financial collapse. Its owners have played a part in it all. There was the engineer whose innovation elevated auto makers into kings; the teacher who watched fellow whites flee to the suburbs; the black plumber who broke the color barrier; the cop driven out by crime....
As Ford and Detroit prospered, so did the Averys. Their move from a small house near the Ford plant to their freshly constructed home on West Boston Boulevard was a steep climb up the social ladder. Henry Ford's own starter mansion stood close by.
The Avery home had four bedrooms and a third-floor suite for the German maid. There was a butler's pantry off of the kitchen and a fireplace in the living room. Mrs. Avery set trellises against the front of the house and hung frilled curtains in the upstairs windows. Shortly after moving in, she gave birth to Anabel in a bedroom facing the street....
Preserving the Legacy of Historic Boston-Edison
Lori Ella Miller, LISC Detroit, September 16, 2009
(Preservation and neighborhood in Boston-Edison.)
A neighborhood is more than the houses that line city streets and boulevards. It is an intricate tapestry woven together by history, memories and the hopes and dreams of its residents. Nowhere in Detroit is this more evident than in the community of Historic Boston-Edison....
Preservation is paramount. Several local community organizations, including Detroit LISC, have united for a common cause: to stabilize Boston-Edison and restore it to its former glory. Central Detroit Christian CDC, a community development organization with extensive experience in housing and beautification, and the Boston-Edison Association have joined forces to spearhead the Boston-Edison Housing Preservation Initiative....
Ava Tinsley, lifelong Boston-Edison resident, lives in the three-story brick house that has been in her family for three generations. "Boston-Edison is an historic jewel. My mission is to return it to its former grandeur, like it was when I was a child," says Tinsley.
Top executives, famed architects built neighborhood
John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press, December 13, 2008
(A short history of the Boston-Edison neighborhood.)
By the early 1900s, well-to-do Detroit leaders were moving out of the downtown area to new developments. One of the most upscale and prominent was the Boston-Edison neighborhood, located just west of Woodward Avenue in the city's mid-north area and named for some of the streets involved....
The result was a gracious neighborhood that has retained its elegance over the decades, even long after the original families moved out. Today, the district is home to an eclectic group of people, some of whom have restored the houses to their original splendor.
Grand home for the grandkids
Cassandra Spratling, Detroit Free Press, December 13, 2008
(A wonderful home from the 2008 Holiday Home Tour)
Charles and Gloria McEwen had already put a bid on another house when their real estate agent called. She said they had to see a three-story Italian Renaissance mini-mansion in Detroit's historic Boston-Edison neighborhood that had just gone on the market.
"We're on our way out of town," Gloria McEwen recalls telling the agent.
The agent insisted. So they went by to see what she was so impressed with.
"The moment we walked in, both of us knew this was it," says McEwen, a retired teacher. "We just could see a lot of potential."
The homes on the tour: A preview
Cassandra Spratling, Detroit Free Press, December 13, 2008
(A preview of the 2008 Holiday Home Tour)
[An excerpt of what not to miss for each of the five homes.]
Don't miss [House A]: Pewabic tile that leads from the sidewalk to the commanding entryway; floor-to-ceiling Pewabic tile in the master bath; pantry that the owner himself marvelously updated to show off gorgeous cabinetry.
Don't miss [House B]: Strong Tudor elements include the rather massive parapet of the porch and the label-style limestone lintels above the three double-paneled first-floor windows. The game room on the first floor features a variety of unique artifacts.
Don't miss [House C]: Ornamental wrought-iron balconies and the central second-story ribbon window. A solarium off the foyer of the first floor features a Pewabic tile fountain.
Don't miss [House D]: Two-story, side-gabled with a symmetrical facade, end-placed chimney, and stucco exterior. Also, original medallions on the corners of the doors and windows throughout the house.
Don't miss [House E]: The modernized kitchen updated to suit the needs of the owner, who is a professional chef; The marble top of the kitchen island is from the wall of the downtown J.L. Hudson men's room. The front door surround is of rough-cut limestone in irregular sizes. A similar stone ornamentation is used in the arch of the side porch and at foundation corners.
2008 Best Of The Good Life
Detroit Home Magazine, Winter 2008-2009
(Forty favorites in categories covering the best living and shopping in metro Detroit. )
Best Historic Neighborhood: Boston-Edison
By 1920, Detroit was the fourth-largest city in the nation, and its wealthy residents began building homes in the less-populated parts of town. The Boston-Edison Historic District was one such neighborhood. Largely built between 1900-1920, the neighborhood is a 36-block area with 900 houses in architectural styles such as English Revival, Italian Renaissance, and Prairie. Early residents of Boston-Edison included Henry Ford, four of the Fisher brothers, and later Ty Cobb, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy Jr.
Activist harnesses community service
Desiree Cooper, Detroit Free Press, October 29, 2008
(A profile of Ava Tinsley and community service)
A resident of Detroit's historic Boston-Edison district, Tinsley lives in a house that has been in her family for three generations. She wants the neighborhood to be like it was when she was a kid and used to walk long blocks to Sanders for a Bumpy Cake. Back then, all the neighbors watched out for the kids, and the children had few worries....
Tinsley went through the Department of Corrections to link people sentenced to community service with neighborhood clean-up. The crews started in her neighborhood, but now they work all over the city.
"Now I'm out six days a week with the community service workers," said Tinsley. "I make sure the neighbors support them with water and meals if they work more than four hours."
In September, the Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corp., a neighborhood development nonprofit, recognized Tinsley for her efforts. She belongs to more than a dozen community organizations.
Model D TV: Boston-Edison
Tom Hendrickson, Model D, October 14, 2008
(A video piece on living in Boston-Edison)
Boston-Edison has been getting a lot of attention lately from national media.
The neighbors in this historic neighborhood of grand homes have been working together to keep their district among the premier places to live in the city.
Here's a look at why they love it so from Model D video producer/director Tom Hendrickson.
Henry Ford's Detroit Neighborhood Tries Hard to Keep Up Appearances
James R. Hagerty, The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2008
(Boston-Edison and selling homes)
The foreclosure crisis has come as a sucker punch to thousands of neighborhoods across the U.S., from desolate cul-de-sacs in Las Vegas to thickets of mostly empty condo towers in South Florida. What's unusual about Boston-Edison is that the residents who remain are fighting back.
Organized by an 87-year-old neighborhood association, some do unpaid duty mowing lawns, trimming hedges and picking up litter outside vacant houses. Others park their cars in the driveways of empty houses to make them appear to be lived in. The association's Web site promotes mansions in need of new owners.
Download the rest of this article in pdf format.
Historical group praises mansion's transformation
Cecil Angel, The Detroit Free Press, May 15, 2008
(Cynthia Reaves receives 2008 Governor's Award for Historic Preservation)
The leaky roof, cracked and crumbling plaster and overgrown landscape would have been enough to turn any potential homebuyer away from the 1917 mansion in the Boston-Edison Historic District in Detroit.
But Cynthia Reaves believed she could bring the Nels Michelson House, also known as the Motown Mansion, back to life. Despite being a lawyer with almost no construction skills or money for the restoration, Reaves jumped into the project.
"When I first started, I thought, 'What have I gotten myself into?' " said Reaves, 46. She purchased the 2-acre estate at 918 W. Boston Blvd. in 2001 from Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr.
Today, Reaves will be one of seven recipients of the 2008 Governor's Award for Historic Preservation at a ceremony in the state Capitol rotunda in Lansing. Reaves is the only preservationist being honored from the tri-county area.
Boston-Edison resident helps neighborhood
Sharon Gittleman, The Detroit Free Press, April 6, 2008
(An interview with Pam Miller Malone)
Once upon a time, gentlemen in black tie and tails and ladies in silk gowns and pearls danced across ballrooms in elegant mansions, candlelight reflected in the glow of the homes' crystal chandeliers.
The auto barons who founded the Motor City's claim to fame were sure to spot other members of Detroit's high society as they strolled along the broad, tree-lined streets of their neighborhood -- the Boston-Edison district.
Pamela Miller Malone is doing her best to preserve that elegant ambience.
Unveiling the Past
Greta Guest, The Detroit Free Press, July 22, 2007
(Restoring a 1901 house in Boston-Edison)
In the dozen years before Steven and Tracy Harris purchased their 1901 Dutch colonial revival in Detroit, the home had been stripped of everything of value including the radiators.
Now, a year after they purchased the home on Chicago Boulevard in the historic Boston-Edison neighborhood, they have almost finished restoring its former grandeur....
Steven Harris, 38, an architect for Norr in Detroit, grew up in the city and said he always dreamed of living in one of the big houses in Boston-Edison....
Old Detroit homes seeking new owners
Greta Guest, The Detroit Free Press, June 23, 2007
(Homes for sale in Boston-Edison)
The Boston-Edison neighborhood, home to Detroit's most celebrated residents from Henry Ford to Berry Gordy Jr., has largely been insulated from the city's economic decline....
The neighborhood, bounded by Boston Boulevard, Edison Avenue, Woodward Avenue and Linwood, was built primarily from 1900 to 1925 in an eclectic mix of architectural styles, including Prairie, Neo-Georgian and Tudor. The homes sell from $90,000 to $900,000....
Steven Harris, 38, an architect, just moved to the neighborhood last year, buying a home that had sat vacant for more than a decade. He's been working on it ever since with his wife and three children. The family had been living in Troy, which was hard for his wife to give up, he said.
"I dragged her back to Detroit kicking and screaming, but now she loves it," he said. "There is still some work to do with the social issues up on Woodward. I don't let my kids walk up there alone. The shopping isn't much. But the neighborhood association and block clubs are just great."
(Woodward Avenue: A journey through 200 years)
Michael H. Hodges, The Detroit News, April 9, 2007
As in so many things, Henry Ford was ahead of his time.
Or perhaps we should credit Clara Ford, not her husband, since everyone agrees that Clara was always the one most interested in their homes.
It was 1908 when the Fords and their teenage son, Edsel, became one of the very first families to move into the new "subdivision" we know as the Boston-Edison Historic District, their surprisingly modest 7,500-square-foot "Italian Renaissance Eclectic" house rising up among the empty fields....
Tour will showcase historic homes
Suzette Hackney, The Detroit Free Press, December 16, 2005
Article on Boston Edison's Annual Holiday Home Tour)
It's one of the city's most striking neighborhoods: Historic Boston-Edison. Once home to Detroit's high society - from auto barons to politicians to Motown pioneers - the 900 homes tucked off Woodward Avenue are a sight to see. And for the 30th year, some of the homes will be open to the public for the 2005 BostonEdison Holiday Home Tour.
The walking and bus tour is a great way to admire the breathtaking architecture of the early 1900s. Bordered by Boston Boulevard, Edison Avenue, Woodward and Linwood, houses list for prices in the $100,000s to nearly $1 million....
The Historic Boston-Edison Association was founded in 1921 and is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the family neighborhood it serves. Aside from whatt the association does all year, members sponsor one of the best holiday tours in the region. (I've gone in previous years.)
Experiencing the craftsmanship, architecture and unique features of each home is well worth the cost to get inside the doors.
Homes Mark First 100 Years
Elizabeth Suh, The Detroit Free Press, August 1, 2005
(Article on Boston-Edison's centennial celebration)
Through a century of change, the Boston-Edison Historic District in Detroit has remained a neighborhood with a classy reputation that holds an attraction for the curious.
On Sunday, the Historic Boston-Edison Association celebrated the 100th anniversary of the district's six oldest homes with walking tours and activities at Voigt Park. The centennial homes sit on Longfellow between Third and Woodward, and have occupancy records that date to 1905....
[Neighbors] are proud of the homes' history and look to maintain the beauty, integrity and security of the neighborhood, said James Hamilton, association president.
Emma Holmes-Farris, who moved into her home on Longfellow in 1951, said she sees more prosperity ahead for the neighborhood as Detroit's downtown prospers. The old home takes work to maintain, she said, but it is her "nest." "To me, it's just an oasis in the inner city," she said.
Sarah Klein, The Metro Times, June 5, 2002
(A profile of the neighborhood)
Tucked away near burned factory shells and the fluorescent glare of strip-mall convenience lies one of Detroit's richest sources of history.
The Boston-Edison district is one of the most appealing neighborhoods in Detroit, and remains a sort of residential oasis in a city that is far too often concrete and gray.
Although many Detroiters might have peeked into the neighborhood for a brief glimpse of the striking mansions, many underestimate its expanse. Boston-Edison is an elongated rectangle, a 30-block district containing more than 900 homes, and is bounded by Boston, Edison, Linwood and Woodward. Another well-kept secret? It's the largest residential historic district in the nation....
A picture's worth a thousand words. For views of Boston-Edison through the camera lens, check out the picture tours available from the following sites:
- Urban Planet 1 and Urban Planet2: Two pages of pictures of homes in Boston-Edison.
- DetroitPix1 and DetroitPix2: Two more pages of pictures.
- Model D: A slideshow of Boston-Edison and the surrounding area.
- Detroit Rising: More pictures of the neighborhood.
- National Scenic Byways: Pictures from the US DOT.