Finding a home reflects values and lifestyle
Posted on 01/12/2023
Marianne Barry and family dog Jake sit on the steps of their house on High St.Most homeowners in this series who looked for a home in Northville bought here for the proximity to Downtown Northville, the tree-lined streets and the allure of owning an historic home in friendly neighborhoods. The house itself provides a respite – a place to cocoon from life’s stresses – yet also lends itself to being a place for social gatherings with all the intriguing rooms and views. So many of Northville’s historic homes are bursting with character and charm. Homeowners don’t seem to mind expending tender loving care to maintain the structure inside and out, or paying remodelers and the skilled trades to get things done.

Cady Street
Kathy Spillane and her husband, Tom, moved from a large house in Northville Township to 487 Cady in 2016. When their kids moved out, the couple decided to downsize. They wanted to be able to walk into a downtown area and found that in Northville.

“It took two years to find a house,” Kathy said. “Totally renovating a historic home is both exciting, and an enormous burden for homeowners. You need a big heart, courage and the funds to go through all that. During our search, the ones for sale required a lot of exterior renovation, but we wanted a move-in ready house. We bought this house in three hours. It was the right location and it had been renovated.”

After moving in, they expanded the kitchen, adding several chunky pillars that complement the wood pillars in the front rooms of their arts and crafts-style home. Their home is updated in a traditional style – true to its roots – with modern touches that honor the past.

Kathy finds that living in a historic home is much different than living in a new home. “It’s about compromise,” she said. “In a new home, you can have tall ceilings, spacious rooms and ample storage. Historic homes have some limitations and you just need to work with them. You find that certain things weren’t as important as you thought they were.”

One example she cites is a few storage spaces with four-foot tall doors. "We call them the troll closets, because we have to crawl in to reach the items stored inside," Kathy said.

Not having huge closet space is inconvenient but a fair trade-off for the Craftsman-style features of a historic home, such as built-in cabinets in the dining room and a beautiful fireplace in the front room – their family room.

Dubuar Street
Pat Stein didn’t want to move, but to appease her husband, Bruce, the couple bought the house at 419 Dubuar in 1986. Bruce wanted to live closer to his mother, who was in a nursing home on Main Street. Two of his sisters also lived on Dubuar. The move was a family reunion of sorts.

“I looked at the house and said, ‘You have to be kidding me,’” Pat said. Her husband persuaded her to move from their large Farmington Hills home into the tiny historic home by promising they would remodel it.

“I had to compromise and make it work,” Pat said. “Nothing had ever been touched in the house.” They paid $59,000 for it.

The house was only 900 to 1,000 ft2 but the couple tripled its size to 2,950 ft2, with a two-story addition added to the back that isn’t noticeable from the front. The house appears to have been built before 1900 from the hand-forged nails that were found on the property.

The couple did not make major changes to the exterior but enhanced it by placing a second window between the first window and the front door, adding a small front porch and recladding the mint green tiles on the front of the house.

Pat has long since become settled in her home and has no plans to move. Sadly, her husband passed away in 2001. She is content living in Northville and likes visiting her favorite places in Downtown Northville.

High Street
Marianne and Thom have lived in Northville since 1973 and bought the 239 High St. home in 1985. They were intrigued by the home’s historic charm, Farmhouse style, and large yard. They knew it needed a great deal of ‘tender loving care’ and were able to provide it.

“We have touched every square inch of the house from top to bottom by restoring, cleaning or renovating both interior and exterior,” Marianne noted.

They are pleased with the fruits of their efforts (time, money and planning) that have resulted in an upscale home interior with a nod to the past. “We definitely don’t live in a museum but we have our share of antiques,” she said.

There’s a lot of historic charm that comes from blending old with new. Done right, it enables the home to maintain a timeless elegance while offering comfort and functionality.

West Street
Mike and Sarah Weyburne, of 226 West, moved to their home as newlyweds in 2000. Their 1887 home, considered to be a farmhouse style, lured them in.

Mike grew up in Northville but never thought he would return as a homeowner. He worked for four years in England where he met his wife. Their 1,800 ft2 home turned out to be the ideal place to raise their two children, Hannah, 17, and William, 15. Both attend Northville High School, which is also Mike’s alma mater (albeit at Hillside).

“We’ve improved it to make it modern, livable,” he said. “I don’t want to live in a house where everything I’m touching is 100 years old.”

S. Rogers Street
Ray Bailey and AnnaMaryLee found their house at 116 S. Rogers with the help of real estate agent Shawn Riley. Bailey had lived in the Orchard Heights neighborhood and had his eye on purchasing a home in the Historic District. He bought the home in Fall 2019 while dating AnnaMaryLee Vollick and the couple knew they would expand it to have enough room for their blended family of two boys, Jude, 11, and Dax, 10, and two daughters Hazel and Wren, both 7 years old.

The Victorian farmhouse has 1,450 ft2 and they are using a contractor and skilled trade workers to add a two-story addition to the back of the house for an expanded kitchen and family room. The new second floor will have two bedrooms, a bathroom and a master bedroom/bathroom. If all goes well, it will be completed by Spring 2023 and make their home 2,250 ft2.

“We're waiting for the renovation to be completed because we really want to incorporate our ‘updated’ historic home into our wedding day and downtown Northville wedding,” Ray noted.

AnnaMaryLee has always lived in historic homes and Ray likes the feeling of continuing a historic journey that comes with owning one. Of the home’s original construction, Ray said, “It’s sturdy and I trust it.”

West Main Street
Liz and John Carter’s home at 536 W. Main was built between 1880 and 1890. They lived there for three years. They previously lived across the street at 537 W. Main but decided they needed more space for their family of three children, Ainslie, 13; Declan, 10; and Georgia, 7 years old, and two dogs.

When the former owner, Carol Wheatley, told Liz that she was planning on selling their big house, Liz jumped at the chance to purchase it. The Carters have admired the house since moving to Northville in 2012.

It’s a Homestead-style house, a true farmhouse with an addition added in 1996. The 3,200 fthome has a carriage house that’s 700 to 800 ft2 and was refinished in 1990s. A segment of the basement had also been renovated.

The couple has kept the inside of the home true to its roots with traditional yet elegant updates that blend new with old. The kitchen counters are soapstone, which reflect the type of material used back in the late 1800s.

It’s the Carter’s third historic home. Before moving to Northville, they lived in Chicago.

“There’s something about old homes,” Liz said. “Everything has a warmer feeling. It’s the quirkiness of an old home that you just can’t get in a new home.”

Linden Street
Three decades ago, Leanie Bayly and her husband, Robert Sochacki, were relocating to the area with their young family. Leanie grew up on the east coast and relocated to the west coast for her husband’s career, and they have lived in several regions in between. While staying in a local hotel for two weeks, Leanie worked with three real estate agents who took her on tours of historic homes for sale in Dexter, Monroe, Chelsea, Plymouth and Northville but nothing met their criteria.

On their last day in town, she was driving through the Historic District with only her young kids in the car and saw a homeowner plant a “for sale” sign on his lawn. She took down the information and made an appointment for the next day. When they toured 223 Linden, she said, “We opened the door and it was like, ‘You’re home.’

She describes the house as a Japanese bungalow, similar to a Craftsman-style, with trim and a roof with reverse gables over the porch.

“People refer to their homes as an extension of themselves,” Leanie said. “There’s nothing more personal and expensive in life than your home.”

Dunlap Street
“When we first came to Northville, (at a friend’s suggestion), we drove down Dunlap and we were blown away,” said Stephen Calkins. His wife, Joan Wadsworth, said, “We weren’t planning to move when we first saw Northville.” They had been renting a house in Grosse Pointe Farms but the landlord said he was selling the place so they had to move. They began to look intently for a house and came back to Northville and the beautiful street they remembered.

They wanted a house near a downtown area. “It was more for the neighborhood and ability to walk to downtown than wanting to live in an old house,” Steve said.

They bought a house of Italianate design at 317 W. Dunlap in 1985. It was built in 1882, the year is engraved on one of the bricks. There are a few other Italianate homes on the street, evidenced by a brick exterior (the couple’s home is painted yellow), with decorative arches over tall, narrow windows.

Inside the home, there’s abundant woodwork in cherry, walnut and oak. “It’s not perfect,” Steve said. “They didn’t waste a piece of wood.” The home is just under 3,000 ft2 with four bedrooms, two living rooms, dining room, study, and kitchen. One of the bedrooms is on the first floor – it was originally a summer kitchen. They moved the laundry upstairs and upgraded the bathrooms, but otherwise, left things as they were.

They liked the “genuineness” of the old house. Joan said, “I love the charm and beauty of an old house. So many of the houses (in the Historic District) are attractive.” Her husband concurred, “It’s nice to have lovely old houses on the street as we walk around.”

Randolph Street
The house at 132 Randolph is a farmhouse-style, built around 1870. The 1-1/2 story house has a one-story addition to the rear of the original house. A one-story porch with a shed roof spans the façade of the side-gabled ell (L-shape), according to the Historic District Survey. The house was appealing to Gail and Gerald LeVan, who moved there from an 1850-era farmhouse in Northville. They raised their kids there and they, too, appreciate historic homes.

“Old houses are precious to a community,” Gail said. “They demonstrate stability and love and appreciation of what our ancestors worked and preserved for us to have roots and appreciation for their sacrifices.”