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Save the Caboose in Plymouth!

2 Nov

We have a match challenge! Don Soenen, president of the Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex, will match the first $10,000 we receive in donations for the Save the Caboose campaign. So, please dig deep and donate here so we will be able to get the $10,000 match from Don! Thank you so much, Don Soenen, for your continuing generosity to the Plymouth community!

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The Plymouth Historical Museum is in the process of getting a caboose to place on the east end of the Museum (outside). The City of Plymouth has approved the variance needed, now we need to raise funds to move the caboose from the Main Street crossing to the Museum. We also will need funds to restore the caboose once it’s on our property. We appreciate your support!
Click the link below to help!

1419 Sheridan St

20 Oct

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1419 Sheridan Street was built in 1927. This was the home of Ralph Lorenz who was once known to some as “Father Plymouth” and “Mr Thanksgiving” because of the colonial theme he promoted at the Mayflower and downtown Plymouth. Ralph G. Lorenz was born in Austria in 1910 and moved to Plymouth as a child in 1921. His father had come to America 4 yrs prior and made his way to Plymouth and secured a job working for the Daisy Air Rifle Company. Ralph made his way into the US through Ellis Island with his Mother and siblings, they were quarantined for 2 weeks, then traveled to their new home in Plymouth. Ralph’s first language was German and starting school here without knowing English was tough but made friends quickly after beating up the town bully who stole his hat and tore it up. Ralph graduated from Plymouth High School (now PARC @ 650 Church St) in 1930. He attended college at EMU (and has an honorary degree from Schoolcraft College).

In 1939 Ralph was hired as the Manager of Plymouth’s Mayflower Hotel. At the time, the hotel was bankrupt and in dept. Ralph was able to secure funds to rescue the hotel and the rest is history! Well yes, there is much history when it comes to the beloved Mayflower and the positive impact that Lorenz had on our community. Ralph was also instrumental in the reopening of the First National Bank of Plymouth during the depression. In 1943 Ralph actually resigned as the manager of the Mayflower so that he could join the Navy and served as an officer during WWII and came back home after the war. Lorenz had purchased the Mayflower from the City Stockholders who actually built the Hotel. There were 3 things that Lorenz felt that was instrumental (at the time) was a recipe for a thriving community were: A good bank, a good newspaper, and a good Hotel or Inn. Lorenz was once quoted as saying: ” Plymouth to me is the greatest place on earth, I grew up with the trees out there in the (Kellogg) park. I think everything I’m obligate to is experience of living here (in Plymouth). I’ve received more here than I’ve given”.

In 1986 Ralph sold the Mayflower to his sons Scott & Randy and family friend & associate Creon Smith. In 2000 the Hotel was razed and was replaced by the Mayflower Centre. See more about the Mayflower site here on our page (Mayflower Hotel Site).

Ralph Lorenz passed away in 1992 and was laid to rest at the Riverside Cemetery here in Plymouth.

Below are a photos of Ralph Lorenz (left from 1943 newspaper, right from later in life):

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Below is a photo of Ralph Lorenz and the Mayflower Hotel staff when he became Manager in 1939:

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Historic photos courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum.

Halloween 2018

19 Oct

We put this video together for your entertainment. Happy Halloween season 2018. 🎃👻

1156 W. Ann Arbor Trail

30 Sep

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1156 W Ann Arbor trail was built in 1914 and was the residence of John J. McLaren not to be mistaken with his Father or his Son who both shared the name: John D. McLaren.  In 1901 J.D. McLaren purchased the Hough Grain Elevator business (315 N Main Street) from Lewis C. Hough whose family was doing well putting all their efforts into the Daisy Air Rifle Company. J.D. McLaren died prematurely in 1915. After his death the McLaren Firm was run by John J. who was born on the family farm 3 miles West of Plymouth. John J. a graduate of the University of Michigan had run a Ford agency at 331 N Main Street which was virtually on the same property of the Grain Elevator Co. Above the Ford Agency John J. also ran a fishing lure and frog spear company. After the death of his father, he closed the spear factory and sold the (Bonafide) Ford Agency to William J. Beyer.

For the remainder of his life John J. ran the family business which gradually changed from one of handling grains to one of selling coal, lumber, and building supplies. The six elevators the McLaren’s had acquired in 1901 had expanded to 15. In addition to the headquarter location in Plymouth, there were McLaren elevators in Romulus, Wixom, Salem, Olivet, South Lyon, Charlotte, Ionia, Clare, Novi, New Hudson, Oxford, Watrousville, Collins & Colling. During John J’s time, the firm also established a transit mix company on Junction St, later sold to Gene Glynn.

John J. served on the Plymouth board of Review and was a member of the Plymouth School Board. When he died in 1968 (at age 81) he had been President of the McLaren Company for 53 years. He was succeeded in the business by his Son, John D. who was born in 1916. In 1977 J.D. decided to start liquidating the company so he could retire and in 1983 the building which once housed the elevator company located on Main Street caught on fire and burned down. In 2018 the land still sits vacant.

Today the J.J. McLaren Family home is another example of a beautifully maintained piece of Plymouth history. On a side-note: Fishing lures made by McLaren (Bonafide) company are highly collectible and some are known to fetch thousands of dollars for some of the most rare lures.

Below is an early 1900s photo of the J.D. McLaren Company located on the North Side of train tracks on Main Street:

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Photo below is an image of this home while under construction:

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217 N Main Street

2 Apr

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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:

PLYMOUTH MOURNS THE LOSS OF AN ESTEEMED CITIZEN AND EXEMPLARY BUSINESS MAN.

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:

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Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum.

1165 W Ann Arbor Trail

5 Mar

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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.

9460 McClumpha Rd

7 Jan

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9460 McClumpha Rd. Built circa 1858 was the home of Thomas McClumpha. Thomas was born in New York in 1816 to William & Betsey McClumpha. Thomas and Wife Margaret moved to Michigan in November of 1838 and eventually settled in Plymouth around 1857. This home was where Thomas & Margaret raised their kids: Elizabeth, Sarah, Ida Belle, and William. Not only was Thomas a farmer but he also served as an elected official here in Plymouth and was dedicated to serving our community well. This road carries the family’s namesake.

The years took its toll on this old farmhouse and in the early 70’s this home was in rough shape. This house was saved and restored by David and Janet Sibbold where they resided from 1975-1988. The Sibbold’s were also in collaboration with the Hulce family in building the New England Corners condominiums where this home sits as the cornerstone of that development. Today this home blends in so well with the surrounding homes that it’s difficult to tell that there is a 160 year old historic home with many stories to tell quietly sitting in this developed corner of Plymouth.

Below is the street view of the South East corner of McClumpha and Ann Arbor Rd where this home sits (at New England Corners).

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