This page is dedicated to telling the history and cool facts about historical structures and homes in Plymouth, Michigan. Greetings and welcome to our Plymouth Discoveries. My family and I moved to Plymouth because of the richness of history, the great schools, and the great people. After a visit to the Plymouth Historical Museum, we became very interested in the homes and structures around town and the history behind them. In the spring of 2012 we started a facebook page documenting our discoveries. In partnership with the Plymouth Historical Museum, we have now evolved to the creation of this page. Our goal is to raise awareness of the rich history of Plymouth and to showcase to the world the great community we live in. Our posts only scratch the surface of the extensive stories behind each structure and we can only hope it will encourage the community to share their memories and encourage others to learn more! If you own a historical Plymouth home and would like to share, PLEASE contact us. We hope that this will encourage the public to pay a visit to our wonderful community and to stop by the Plymouth Historical Museum located at 155 S. Main Street, Plymouth, MI 48170 Phone Number: (734) 455-8940
Home of America’s first official Sniper. 45800 W. Ann Arbor Trail was built by John Berdan circa 1833. John was a farmer that owned 160 acres and this home literally sat in the middle of his property right on the Native American trail (now known as Ann Arbor Trail) that ran through the center of his property. Now the most significant thing about this house is that this was the childhood home of John’s son: Hiram Berdan who played a significant role in American History. Hiram was born in New York in 1824 and lived there until his family moved to Plymouth in 1830. Hiram grew up practicing his rifle shooting skills here in Plymouth and eventually became America’s First Sharpshooter. In 1861 (during the Civil war) Hiram was given permission by President Lincoln to form the first regiment of sharpshooters or “sniper” regiment as we would call it today. General Berdan was a World renowned marksman. Hiram was also an inventor who actually developed the first gold amalgamation machine to separate gold from ore, he invented the Berdan rifle and much more. Although published information may vary and no one seems to discuss his time in Plymouth, we have verified through Census records and title research that YES Hiram did grow up here and yes this was his childhood home. Hiram Berdan was brevetted as Brigadier General by President Andrew Johnson. After he passed away he was buried with full honors at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.
Photos of Hiram Berdan:
Just in time for Halloween, we took our first attempt at creating a video for your enjoyment. Although this was an unscripted video, the historical facts about each location are quite true. Just click below to watch the video:
1087 N Mill Street. Built in 1852 as a Toll House for the Plymouth Plank Road. In 1850 a group came together and commissioned the construction of the Plymouth Plank road to connect this area directly to Detroit. The location here in Plymouth was Toll Gate #4. The Toll gate keeper actually lived in this home with his family. The original structure was a square and the addition to the left was added years later. In 1872 it was voted to “close down” the Plank Road and it simply became what we know today as Plymouth Road. This toll house originally stood at the corner of Plymouth Rd and Mill Street. In 1951 this home was purchased by the Clinansmith family who relocated it just North to 1087 N Mill Street near Wilcox Rd. Today this home is still inhabited by a member of the Clinansmith family who is proud of its unique history.
Plymouth’s historic Roundhouse Remains. Built in 1921 by the Pere Marquette Railroad. Plymouth is one of the few communities that actually has both a North/South and East/West set of Railroad lines running through it. In the late 1800s and early 1900s Plymouth was a very busy Railroad community not only with the Train traffic but also many local residents worked for the Railroad. There have been 2 prior roundhouses built before 1921 that were razed several years ago. The location where the tracks intersect with each other is referred to by many as a Diamond. In 1921 the Pere Marquette Railroad built a 15 stall roundhouse at the North East quadrant of the diamond (where Pearl Street in Old Village comes to an end). The prior roundhouse once sat at the South West quadrant of the diamond (where Junction Street comes to an end). In 1990 it was reported that the 15 stall roundhouse had been demolished and many people in our community have thought it was completely gone forever. We have discovered that a piece of that 15 stall roundhouse still stands. Please keep in mind that this structure is NOT on public property therefore is punishable with a fine up to $5000 by CSX Railroad if you are caught on the property where this building stands.
Below (left) is a photo of the Pere Marquette 15 stall roundhouse. The smaller photo on the right is of the older Roundhouse that once stood at the South West quadrant of the RR intersection.
46227 Ann Arbor Rd, Built in 1928 by George Smith. This home has a unique story unlike any other when it comes to the building materials used to build this brick colonial style home. Interestingly enough, there are bricks that were repurposed from the World famous Garrick Theatre in Detroit. The Garrick theatre is where Harry Houdini performed for the last time before passing away on October 31st, 1926. In 1928 the theatre located on Griswold was razed and George Smith acquired bricks from the old theatre to help build his dream home. When completed, this home was equipped with some the most modern amenities at the time. World renowned magician David Copperfield also has a brick from this home on display at the International Museum & Library of the Conjuring Arts in Las Vegas. Through the years, this home has been maintained and virtually kept in its original condition. The current owners have continued to keep this great Plymouth landmark in excellent shape and are proud of its mystifying building material history. Considering its location on Ann Arbor Road, there are literally thousands of cars that drive by this home not having a clue of its phenomenal creation. Now that you know, you can share this story and be proud of another great piece of Plymouth history.
Below is a historic photo of the Garrick Theatre and an ad for Houdini’s performance
1071 N Holbrook. Built in 1898. This home is one of just a handful of houses in Plymouth’s Old Village that was built of all brick. This home was built by one of the very first successful business owners in this part of town. Andrew Jackson Lapham owned a substantial portion of the block bordered by Holbrook, Wilcox, Pearl and N Mill Streets and at one time had two store structures and two homes on his land. This home had replaced the wooden house that Andrew built in 1873. Lapham’s General store was very popular in the late 1800’s because of its close proximity to the Plymouth Mill, the Phoenix Mill and Gunsolly Mill. Growers would trade in their raw materials at the mills and head to Lapham’s to purchase all types of needed goods. Lapham’s also had an Ice house on the property where they would store ice that formed in Wilcox Lake in the winter and sell it through the year. In 1929 this home was deeded to Andrew’s Daughter Helen Shackleton and was kept in the family for many years. Although it’s showing signs of its age being well over a century old, this home still stands strong and maintains a great deal of history within the walls of this structure. Today the old stores no longer stand on this property but other homes built by the Lapham & Shackleton family still exist in this part of town and descendants of Andrew still live here in town and surrounding areas.
Historic photo of this home, Lapham’s General Store and of Andrew Lapham provided by the Andrew’s Great Grand Daughter: Janet Millross Renwick. Photo below is Lapham’s General Store that was located on Holbrook right next to Andrew’s home. Look closely at the historic photo of the house and you can see the brick wall of the store.
412 Starkweather St. Built Circa 1880. This home was built by George Starkweather and was then sold to Mary Davis. In earlier years, Mary was active in the underground railroad and was one of the founding members of the Plymouth WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union). Mary was the Foster Mother of Amelia Heywood who eventually married George Starkweather. After the passing of Mary Davis, the home was deeded to Amelia Starkweather. In 1973 this home was purchased by Robert (Bob) Puckett who kept this home well preserved and today is still the home of Puckett Plumbing, Heating & Cooling.
Historic Photo of Mary Davis from the Daniel Sabo Collection