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This used to be our home

They tore my house down. Again. This time, it was the house where I lived between the ages of 12 and 28 (with time off for college). I drove by there on a whim yesterday, killing time on the way to Mom's for dinner. I guess it had been torn down long enough ago that they'd managed to finish any grading work, which might mean it has been gone for a couple of months already. It was our farm where we "escaped" from the city out in the northern reaches of Chesterfield Township. (georgelicious, if you ever took Gratiot to your family's place instead of I-94, you would probably have seen it.)

House on Gratiot
House on Gratiot
Charlie at the house where I lived from 1974 through 1989 (parents moved in 1993). Photo taken in late spring 2004. House demolished winter 2006.

Oh sure, it doesn't look like much in the photo, but ... well, I guess it never really did look like much. Of course, the gutters weren't broken and the windows weren't boarded up while we lived there, and the weeds weren't three feet high, but what you see is pretty much what you get. Still, it was a really cool place for me. We grew some crops, mostly just to feed ourselves. I didn't take part too much in the gardens, but I spent a lot of time kicking around in the weeds looking for birds and being alone. Inside, the house was all nice old woodwork with noisy steam heat that couldn't quite keep up in the winter. That's how I came to be used to a cold house. There was also a barn, which was in pretty poor shape and had to be torn down in the early 1990s. We even had a well instead of being tied to the city water system.

The developers are chewing up the land in the north end of Chesterfield these days. I'm sure the next time I drive by there, I'll see at least the start of yet another condo development or something. The road is being widened from two lanes to five already, with water and sewer lines being laid if they aren't already there. On an intellectual level, I'm unhappy that yet more development is taking place to further urban sprawl. But mostly, I'm kind of sad that this bit of my life is disappearing.

P.S.: The house in Detroit where we lived from 1963 to 1974 was torn down several years ago. Perhaps I seem to have an effect on places.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 27th, 2006 06:19 pm (UTC)
Eep. Not nice, and yes, I'm sure it will be more sprawl. Hopefully not a McDonalds, though.

I've resisted the urge to look at the house I lived in until I was age 10. It was in Melvindale, in an older development dating back perhaps to the late 30s or early 40s. Conceivably, it's gone too, if the whole block was replaced by yuppie townhouses or something. The one I lived in from age 10 to age 18, in Dearborn Heights, is probably still there and pretty much unchanged though.

I thought it was real interesting when I talked to a cousin at my Mom's funeral in 1999. He said our grandparents' house (the one they had in the 50s that we all have fond memories of) was up for sale the previous year and he went to look at it. "Unchanged." He said it even still had the same ugly wallpaper and other oddities. That one is probably worth a fortune now, not for the house but for the location. It's on the north shore of Cooley Lake, near the town of Union Lake in Oakland County, and has a couple of acres of gardens and trees.
Feb. 28th, 2006 05:52 am (UTC)
The McDonald's was built about 3/4 of a mile north. Which doesn't mean it can't be a Burger King or a Taco Bell, I guess.

I don't know what's been happening as far as development goes in Melvindale and Dearborn Heights. It seems a lot of the development is happening in further-out places. So there's a chance both of your old houses are still there, though I couldn't promise that.

Geez, a house on Cooley Lake would be worth a mint, especially with a couple of acres. I bet in 1999, selling your grandparents' house would've been only slightly less of a windfall. I hope that new owners didn't tear it down so they could put up a monster house (y'know, to impress their friends, I guess).
Feb. 28th, 2006 12:05 pm (UTC)
I remember Tom saying they were asking too much, but I've forgotten the figure. Yeah, I'm sure the value of the property doubled or more in the last five years, and the 1999 sellers may well have known what was to come. There was a huge (well it seemed huge to me as an 8 year old) house on the next property to the west, and the next two places to the east were much tinier. Whoever owns it now may have made "improvements" but the house had some features that any discerning buyer would have wanted to save, like the dining room with huge plate glass windows on three sides that gave an all season view of the lake and environs. Gods, I wish I had that room here. It was only a two bedroom house, though, and the upstairs bedroom was essentially unheated. Given unlimited funds (as some people seem to have today, though I think it is more often just stretchy credit) I'd have replaced the fake fireplace with a real one and improved the plumbing and heating systems, but not done much else to it. The atmosphere was that of a hunting lodge or cottage, which suited my grandparents perfectly, and also fit the setting.

I wonder if the stone barbecue my grandmother built is still there. She made it of round stones from the lake, and the bottom part was very well fitted and mortared, but by the time she got to the chimney we all figured she'd had one beer too many. It worked, though.
Feb. 28th, 2006 10:30 pm (UTC)
oh will you stop, its what happened after you left that had the effect. especially the house in detroit.
Feb. 28th, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
I am Destructo! Mangler of neighborhoods! More fearsome than Urban Renewal on a bad day!

Well, yes, of course you're right. The house in Detroit was on a block that declined severely after the 1967 riots. There were already a few vacant lots when we moved in 1974. Now there are about as many houses left as there were vacant lots 30 years ago. And it's like that for quite a few blocks in all directions in that neighborhood.

The house in Chesterfield was owned by an elderly couple who rented it out to us. They rented it to other people after us for maybe seven or eight years. Those tenants left, and I have no idea whether the landlords are still alive, now. We were under the impression that the zoning of the land was due to change from farm to commercial or something when it was sold. So it's likely that the ownership has changed and so has the zoning.

The whole stretch of Gratiot Ave. from Mt. Clemens to New Haven has become a hotspot for development. No farmers need apply, I guess, but if you have a couple hundred G's you can have a condo as spiffy as any in Sterling Heights or Southfield or Troy or Livonia or any other cookie-cutter suburb. In Chesterfield, of course, they have to widen roads and put in sewers and water lines ... which already exist thirty miles to the south where all the vacant lots in my first neighborhood are.

Idiots, they are. EEdiots.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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