Welcome to Plymouth MI Discoveries!

4 Jul

Jim, Andrea, Ava, Alicia, & Aaron

This page is committed to sharing the history and facts of historical structures and homes in Plymouth, Michigan. This page is dedicated to the past and present residents of Plymouth. As a Plymouth resident, my family is Proud of the richness of history, the great schools, and the great people of this wonderful community. 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 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 learn more and appreciate Plymouth history. We also hope that our page helps encourage the preservation of structures that hold much of the great history of Plymouth. We invite the public abroad 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.

To contact the author of this page, simply enter your info below:

Author of Plymouth Discoveries

44525 Gov. Bradford Rd

19 Mar


44525 Gov. Bradford Rd. Built in 1956 was the home of Former Michigan Governor John Swainson (D).  This home was originally designed to easily accommodate a wheel chair. Read more and learn why…

John Burley Swainson was born in Windsor, Ontario Canada in 1925 and came to Michigan with his family when he was two years old. He fought with the 95th Infantry Division of the United States Army during World War II, losing both his legs to a land mine explosion in France in 1944. He was awarded France’s Croix de Guerre, the Presidential Unit Citation with two battle stars, and the Purple Heart, all before his twentieth birthday. After earning his law degree in 1951, Swainson was elected as a Democrat to the state senate and served there from 1954 to 1958, as Lieutenant Governor from 1958 and 1961, and as Governor from 1961 to 1963 after his election in 1960. As Governor, Swainson appointed the first African American to sit on the Michigan Supreme Court. He was defeated in the 1962 election by Republican candidate George Romney (father of future Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney).

He later served as a Wayne County circuit judge, was elected to the state Supreme Court in 1970 and came to be seen as a prospective candidate for the United States Senate. Unfortunately his political career ended in 1975 after he was convicted, in Federal District Court in Detroit, of lying to a Federal grand jury in connection with accusations that he had accepted a bribe in 1972 to help a convicted burglar gain a review of his case. He was acquitted of conspiracy and served 60 days in a halfway house in Detroit. Some say that he was framed.

Swainson later became the president of the Michigan Historical Commission, a title which he held until his death of a heart attack in 1994. John passed away at his Manchester, MI home. Two years later, the Commission established the Governor John B. Swainson Award to recognize “State, County, or Municipal employees who have contributed to the preservation of Michigan history even though such activities are not part of their primary job responsibility.”

In 2010 Author Lawrence Glazer wrote an award-winning book about Swainson titled: “Wounded Warrior: The Rise and Fall of Michigan Governor John Swainson”.

You can also find a display commemorating Swainson’s Army service at the Michigan Military & Space Heroes Museum in Frankenmuth, MI

Below see a photo of John Swainson, photo of Swainson with Martin Luther King Jr in June 1963 on the day that MLK first gave his “I have a dream” speech in Detroit. Photo of Swainson with John F. Kennedy. Last image is the book cover of the book written about John Swainson.


Gov. John Swainson (D)

SwainsonMLK SwainsonJFKSwainsonBook

689 N. Mill Street

4 Mar


689 N. Mill Street at the South West corner of Mill & Liberty was built by Carl Heide in 1911. Carl Heide was born in 1868 and immigrated from Germany in 1883. Carl quickly became a significant thread of Plymouth’s History as a Floral entrepreneur.  Carl became personal friends with the well-known and prominent George Starkweather. The South East corner of Liberty and N Mill have been most known for being Heide’s Greenhouses but they were originally built and owned by George Starkweather  and were leased by Carl Heide. Having a successful floral business, Mr. Heide decided to build his home directly across the street from the greenhouses which he later purchased from Starkweather. At one time Heide’s Flowers was known for being Plymouth’s oldest continuously running business.  Carl Heide passed away in 1941 and was laid to rest in Plymouth’s Riverside Cemetery. In 1944 this home, the Greenhouses and Floral business were purchased by Reinhold Ruehr who continued running Heide’s Flowers.

Below is a photo of the Heide (Starkweather) Greenhouse built circa 1889. This Greenhouse was located across the street from where the house stands today. Carl Heide and George Starkweather are featured in the photo. Photo courtesy of Dan Sabo:


584 Starkweather St

5 Feb


584 Starkweather Street was built circa 1882 and has been serving Lower Town Plymouth as a marketplace for over 125 years. This 2 story commercial flat was originally designed to serve as a market on the first level while the 2nd level was designed to house the shop keeper/owner. From 1909-1981 records show that this building was owned by Henry Fisher (Fisher Estate).  This location was most known as Bill’s market for several years and most recently Old Village Market and Plymouth Fish Seafood Market. Today this building has been renovated and now serves as the Honey Hole Diner. Whether dining in or ordering from the carry-out menu, this place offers some great food and a great selection of beverages and fresh baked items on the “coffee shop” side. Restaurant web site: www.HoneyHoleDiner.com

When this building was renovated in 2017, the owners of the diner decided to have the North & South exterior walls painted with some very distinctive Art work (murals) which some people love and some don’t. We are simply pleased with seeing that this part of Plymouth history is being preserved and well cared for.


217 N Main Street

2 Apr


Built circa 1883 by Elmer W. Chaffee. Chaffee was a Plymouth merchant who became one of the earliest investors and was actively involved with the operation of the Markham Air Rifle Company. The Markham Company was the first company in the world to invent and commercially manufacturer Air Rifles and it all started right here in Plymouth, Michigan. Elmer had this home built within a short walking distance of the Markham Air rifle Company which was located at 304 N. Main Street (still standing today). Born here in 1851 Elmer had literally been a lifetime Plymouth resident who passed away in 1899 and is buried at Plymouth’s Riverside cemetery he is buried along the side of his wife Ella (1854-1946). After Elmer’s death, Ella moved to 815 Church Street and this home at 217 Main Street ironically became a funeral home which serviced the Plymouth community under a couple of different names in the 1900s. First known as the Edward F. Wilkie funeral home then the Karl J. Sonderegger funeral home it is still used for commercial purposes today. As seen in the photo, the home is still very much in tact but now has a commercial facade.

Below is the front page obituary from the Plymouth Mail Newspaper from June 1899:


Elmer W. Chaffee Died at His Late Home on Tuesday, June 6th.

Seldom in the history of Plymouth has the dark pall of the shadow if death fallen so heavily upon the community as that caused by the death of Mr. Elmer W. Chaffee which occurred at his residence on Main street, Tuesday afternoon, June 6th, 1899.

Although Mr. Chaffee had not been in good health for several years, he felt so much better during the winter and spring that his family and friends thought he would overcome his predisposition to pneumonia and lung trouble and cheer them with his presence for many years, but on Monday, May 29th, he had a severe attack of pleurisy followed by typhoid fever and though receiving the very best of medical treatment and nursing, he passed peacefully away in quiet sleep after a week’s illness.

Elmer Wadsworth Chaffee was born in Plymouth Township, April 19, 1851. His father, Elmer W. Chaffee, who died in 1853, owned a farm on the town line between Plymouth and Canton, just south of the farm now owned by Chas. Bradner in the south eastern part of Plymouth.

On this farm, under the careful training of his excellent widowed mother, supplemented by a liberal education received at the Plymouth high school then under the superintendency of Charles A. Frisbee, Mr. Chaffee early imbibed those high ideals of rectitude, those strict principles of honesty and integrity, and those generous and kindly impulses, which, all through the forty-eight years of his life made him the genial companion, the trusted friend, the ideal business man, and the generous and lovable neighbor.

In 1876, at the age of 25, Mr. Chaffee left the farm to take the position of clerk in the drug and grocery house of John L. Gale with whom he remained until 1880 when he formed a partnership with Cyrus A. Pinckney and purchased the store of the late A. B. Coleman, who at that time retired from business.

In 1877 he became associated with W. F. Markham in the manufacture of air rifles and continued in this business until his death. He was also at the head of the drug and grocery firm of Chaffee & Hunter from 1888 to 1893 and of Chaffee, Hunter & Lauffer from 1893 to 1895, although he gave but little of his time and attention to the affairs of the firm.

In politics, Mr. Chaffee was a republican and though in no sense a politician, he held several positions of trust in the village and township, with honor to himself and credit to the community. At the time of his death he was a member of the School Board, Vice-President of the First National Exchange Bank of Plymouth and Treasurer of the Plymouth Fair Association.

In 1890 Mr. Chaffee was united in marriage to Miss Ella C. Smith, of Novi, who survives him. He also leaves a mother, to whom he was devotedly attached and who is now in her eighty-sixth year, also three brothers, Albert W. who resides at Wayne, Alfred W., a citizen of Plymouth and Theodore W., of Pontiac.

All business places in the village were closed during the funeral services, which were held Thursday afternoon from his late residence, conducted by the Rev. J. H. Herbener, of the Presbyterian church, assisted by Rev. J. B. Oliver, of the M. E. church. Dr. Edward B. Spalding, of Detroit, sang without accompaniment the beautiful solos, “Lead Kindly Light” and “There Is a Calm for those who Weep”.

The remains were interred in Riverside cemetery and placed in the last resting place by Messrs. W. F. Markham, Frank Polley, C. A. Pinckney. W. O. Allen, Jno. L. Gale and O. A. Fraser, who acted as pallbearers, attended by nearly seventy-five workmen from the air rifle shops, who in a body paid their last tribute of respect to their late employer for whom they sincerely mourned.

Plymouth has lost many good men in the past, but none with more friends and fewer enemies than had Elmer W. Chaffee.

~ The Plymouth Mail – Plymouth, Michigan – Friday, 9 June 1899

Below is a photo of 217 N Main Street in the 1950s:


Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum.

1165 W Ann Arbor Trail

5 Mar


1165 W Ann Arbor Trail built circa 1869. This home was most known for being the home of Romeo and Dora Wood who also set up the Wood’s Photography Studio in this home. “Romey” and Dora had been childhood schoolmates that were married in 1911. After settling in Plymouth, Romey had started his photo studio in a shop on Main Street. Romey had spent time working for the Hamilton Rifle company which was located on Depot Street (today’s Hamilton Street). In 1918 the Woods purchased this/their dream home at a cost of $2,250 and filled it with many antiques and furniture which had been passed down from their families and of course also decided to set up a studio in the house. For several years many members of our community and surrounding areas had their photos done here at this studio where Romey was known to still use bellows type cameras. In 1975 Romey passed away at the age of 90 and wife Dora continued to live here until the home was sold in 1987. Dora Wood passed away at the age of 104 in 1991. Both are at rest in Plymouth’s Riverside cemetery. Prior to her passing, Mrs. Dora Wood had donated many articles to the Plymouth Historical Museum. Today you can see a display dedicated to Wood studio located on the lower level of the museum. This home still contributes to the wonderfully historic character of Plymouth and we are glad to see that the current owners keep this home in excellent condition.

Below is a photo of Romeo and Dora Wood as well as an old photo of their home and a family photo that was taken in front of their home.

615 N. Mill St

20 Feb


615 N Mill St Built circa 1878. In 1873 John Christian Peterhans (Chris) purchased a plot of land from George Starkweather and built this home. This home was owned by his descendants until 1975. Below is the obituary from The Plymouth Mail (newspaper) that was published in November of 1915:

“The death of J.C. Peterhans, which occurred last Friday morning at the family home just northeast of the village, Plymouth, loses one of her well-known and most highly esteemed citizens, and another veteran of the Civil War has answered the last roll call. Mr. Peterhans was a man who was honest and upright in all his dealing and had a host of friends. The funeral was held from his late home, Monday afternoon at two o’clock, Rev Joseph Dutton conducting the services. There was a large attendance of neighbors and friends. The members of Eddy Post No. 231 attended the services in a body.

The floral offerings were many and beautiful. A large American flag was draped at the head of the casket, which was the regimental headquarters flag of the 16th Michigan Infantry, to which Mr Peterhans belonged. The flag was not a regimental flag that was carried on the march or on the field of battle, but a flag that floated over the commanding officer’s tent, when they were in camp. It is more than 50 years old and has been under fire on several occasions. At the close of the war the flag was presented to Lieutenant Charles Salter, who saved the flag from being captured at Gaines’ Mills, June 27, 1862. In 1892, Lieutenant Salter died and it was given to Major JW Jacklin for safe keeping. October 6, 1906, it was left with the late George C. Peterhans and since his death JC Peterhans has been its custodian.

The internment took place in Riverside Cemetery, G.A.R. taking part in the committal service at the grave.

John C. Peterhans was born in Plymouth, Michigan, February 9, 1840, and departed this life November 5, 1915. He was a twin brother of the late George C. Peterhans, who died March 17, 1911. Mr Peterhans had been in failing health for nearly two years, having been confined to his home for the past two months. He bore his suffering very patiently. He was a member of Eddy Post, No. 231, G.A.R. and during his sickness spoke very much of his comrades. At the age of nine years, Mr Peterhans moved with his parents to Cincinnati, Ohio, remaining there about one year. He then returned to Plymouth, where he lived most of his life, with the exceptions of a few years spent near Caro, Tuscola County. On September 8, 1861, he enlisted in Co. F, 16th Michigan Infantry for three years. On October 25, 1862, he was discharged on surgeon’s certificate disability, at Antietam, Maryland. On July 2, 1863, he married Hester A. Smith of Plymouth. To this union were born five children, two sons, George and William having died in infancy. He leaves to mourn their loss, besides his widow and three daughters, three brothers, Henry and Emanuel of Caro, and Charles E. of Mt Pleasant; two sisters Mrs. Christina Ingersoll of Caro, and Amelia Peterhans of Cleveland, Ohio, also several other relatives and a host of friends. “

~ Today we are happy to still be graced with the presence of his former home adding to the historic beauty of Plymouth’s Old Village. Although the home has a large, modern addition on the backside, the original structure is still very much intact and is also used for commercial purposes.


John Christian Peterhans


View of Mill Street (near Liberty St) looking South circa 1905

994 Penniman Ave

18 Jan


994 Penniman Ave. Built in 1925. This home was built by Elizabeth “Bessie” Rattenbury and was the childhood home of the well-known Plymouth business woman and beloved philanthropist Margaret Dunning (daughter of Bessie). This home was constructed by Gottschalk Home builders which built many homes in Plymouth. Margaret lived in this home for more than 90 years; she was nearly 105 years old when she died in May of 2015. Being a car enthusiast, this 2,337 square foot home also has a heated six-car garage that housed some of her most prized, award-winning vehicles, some of which can now be found at the Gilmore Car Museum.

Margaret was a graduate of Plymouth High School in 1929 she also attended the University of Michigan and Hamilton Business School. In the early 1930’s she worked at the Ford Phoenix Mill plant here in Plymouth located on Northville Rd. From 1935 to 1940 she was a bank teller and assistant cashier for the First National Bank of Plymouth after that she worked for the Plymouth United Savings Bank. During WWII Margaret volunteered driving a truck for the American Red Cross motor pool. After the war in 1947 Margaret and her mother purchased an apparel store on Main Street and renamed it Dunning’s. In 1950 she moved Dunning’s department store to Forest Ave in downtown Plymouth. Dunning served on the board of Community Federal Credit Union in Plymouth from 1962 to 1984 and was president of the board for 19 of those years. Through the years she served on different boards, volunteered and benefitted a number of causes.

As a philanthropist, Margaret helped many causes that benefited our community and beyond. Both the Plymouth Historical Museum and the Plymouth District Library bear the Dunning name. As benefactor of the Plymouth Historical Museum, Margaret was very active with the museum; in addition to being a financial contributor she was an advocate for preserving Plymouth history.

At the time of this post the home is property of the Margaret Dunning Foundation and is currently on the real estate market for sale. We can only hope that this uniquely historic home finds a new owner that will appreciate and preserve its elegance. Acquiring this home is about the closest a person could get to owning the home of “Plymouth Royalty.” This home has graced Plymouth’s Penniman Avenue for some 92 years and we look forward to having it continue to be a part of our community for years to come.

Below is a photo of Margaret Dunning during WWII as a Red Cross driver (left) photo of Margaret in 1965 as President of the Credit Union (center) photo of Margaret in 2014 with the author of this page Jim Salamay (right) and photo of Margaret with her prized 1930 Packard 740 (bottom) (from American Road Magazine)


For sale information of this home contact (734) 453-8080

Here’s the Zillow listing:  http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/994-Penniman-Ave-Plymouth-MI-48170/88559914_zpid/ 

On a personal note: Margaret offered her support of our “Plymouth Discoveries” and encouraged us to continue to keep up our efforts and offered her personal memories and to help however she could. Her admiration of our page and her personal support had been one of the motivations for us to continue our research and to share the great history we have here in our wonderful town. Plymouth has been blessed to have such a wonderful member of our community. God bless Margaret and may she rest in peace.