Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Barton Hills

From a transparency taken in the late 1940s. This image is inverted as the garage area really is on the opposite side
This is from the 4/30/1965 Ann Arbor News. Every year, there is a home tour in Ann Arbor. That year featured my grandfather's home
My mother on the front porch of this house around 1948 or 1949. Look how thin she is!

Barton Hills in an exclusive area just outside of Ann Arbor. It is a village now. When my father lived there, they needed to pay tuition for him to attend Ann Arbor Schools. The area was owned at one time by Detroit Edison as they had dammed the Huron River to provide power. The resulting lake was known as Barton Pond with the northern shores rising in tall hills (for this area). They platted out the area and sold them to wealthy individuals who were encouraged to hire world class architects to design their homes. My grandmother had her heart set on having a 'plantation house' as she loved the homes she saw in Natchez, Mississippi. She also acquired many antiques from that area which are discussed in the newspaper clipping I obtained from my trip to Canada. My grandfather made a model out of sugar cubes (somewhere I have a picture of this) and hired an architect (Frank Carson) to design the home. These plans were offered to me but when I went to fetch them last week, they were gone! One of Jeannette's nieces was fascinated with the home and wanted them. (But it was MY grandfather's home....). The grounds and many paths, he designed and then made himself. So some of the homes there are quite avant-garde for their times (1935-1950) but this house, which my grandfather referred to as Cromarty Knoll, named after some land in Scotland that our ancestors had, was very traditional, so much so that allegedly (according to a 2004 Ann Arbor Observor article)the other residents referred to it dismissively as Tara. My grandfather did not start med school, UM, until he was 37, quite old for those days though he did not retire until he was 80. He did have a forestery degree from UM. Their project was to plant trees on Edison's property. So the 100 year old weeping willows still there today were planted by him. He was a medic during World War I in France. After the war, he moved to Illinois and taught chemistry meeting my grandmother, a Latin teacher. Even though she held a higher degree than him, he was paid much more. After they were married, he became a foreman at John Deere in Moline to earn more money saving it up for med school. Six months after my dad was born, they moved to Ann Arbor buying a nice, new house in Burns Park (still there on Brooklyn St) and he started med school. He quickly became a successfull doctor and they built their dream home in Barton Hills in the late 30s. In the late 60s (by this time he was married to Jeannette, 30 years younger than him), he sold the house as it was too big.
So the home was filled with antiques, some of which still survive. The place was furnished as a palace with gilted this and that, not my style. I now have a few of the items, who knows what they are worth.

But I understand why the niece was fascinated by the place (many of Jeannette's relatives stayed there with my father referring to all of them, especially Jeannette as the F...ing Frogs. He obviously did not approve of my grandfather's choice), I had dreams of the place as a child with its secret closets and nooks and crannies. It was huge with a spiral staircase in front with several balconies. From the top balcony, one could see all of Barton Pond. When it is late in the year, one can see the house from Huron River Drive. Naomi has shown several of her friends the house,still impressive today: My grandfather once lived here!
Downward mobility, here we come.

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