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Benedict House Records

 Collection
Identifier: 2020-04

Collection Scope

The collection contains legal documents including the 1967 purchase agreement between John Weiss and the Clara Benedict Estate, and a draft purchase agreement to remove the house to Ferndale, which never materialized. It also contains correspondence and documents relating to the Ad Hoc Committee, and photographs, slides, and film of Benedict House in 1978, including during the demolition process. Of particular note is correspondence with Clara Benedict’s nephew, Robert Brodie, which includes a turn of the century photograph of the house along with Brodie’s own sketches.

Dates

  • 1967 - 1978

Creator

Access

Access to the collection is unrestricted.

Use

Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.

History

The Benedict House, formerly located at 710 N. Woodward in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was built in 1819 on 70 acres deeded to Elijah S. Fish by the U.S. government. IN 1836, Fish added a brick addition. Eri Benedict purchased the property from Fish in 1857, then later deeded it to his son, John Benedict. Sometime between 1905 and 1915, John and his wife Ellen built a second addition fronting Woodward Avenue. The Benedicts had three children, Hattie, Clara and Edward. Clara, who was born in the house in 1881, lived there until 1960, when she allowed Thure Rosene to live in the house as its caretaker.

Original features of the Benedict House included a solid walnut floor two inches thick, walls made of handmade red brick three bricks deep, strong two inch thick boards on the rear rooms to protect from Native American arrows, two inch thick doors inside the house, and a black walnut mantel above a fireplace large enough to fit a whole log. Small brick partitions at each end of the fireplace served as an oven and a cook stove.

Clara died on September 15, 1966 and in May 1967, the property was purchased by John Weiss from Clara Benedict’s estate. In 1962, Weiss had previously entered into an agreement with Benedict to purchase the property with the proviso that a parcel of land would remain as an historic site. The property changed hands a few more times to C. Allan Harlan, and finally in 1977 to attorneys Frances Avadenka and Barry Keller. Thure Rosene, caretaker of the house since 1960, wished to preserve it and prevent its demolition. Avadenka and Keller had Rosene evicted in 1978 but Rosene protested by remaining with his belongings in the back yard.

On June 5th, 1978, the “Ad Hoc Committee to Save the Benedict House, Inc.” was formed by Ronald S. Swanson, Sylvia de P. Swanson, and Michael Cotter. The committee entered into an agreement to dismantle important features of the house including the woodwork, moldings, window casings, and the original hand-made red brick, and place it in storage until the house could be reconstructed elsewhere. The contractor was expected to salvage 19,000 bricks from the house. The Ad Hoc Committee was granted tax free status in order to solicit donations for funding the dismantling and rebuilding project. Benedict House was demolished in September 1978.

Extent

0.4 Linear Feet (1 MS)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Benedict House, formerly located at 710 N. Woodward in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was built in 1819 and later owned by John Benedict. The property changed hands a few more times and was eventually demolished in 1978. The “Ad Hoc Committee to Save the Benedict House, Inc.” was formed by Ronald S. Swanson, Sylvia de P. Swanson, and Michael Cotter to salvage important features of the house including the woodwork, moldings, window casings, and the original hand-made red brick, before its demolitions, and place it in storage until the house could be reconstructed elsewhere. This collection contains legal documents including the 1967 purchase agreement between John Weiss and the Clara Benedict Estate, and a draft purchase agreement to remove the house to Ferndale, which never materialized. It also contains correspondence and documents relating to the Ad Hoc Committee, and photographs, slides, and film of Benedict House in 1978, including during the demolition process. Of particular note is correspondence with Clara Benedict’s nephew, Robert Brodie, which includes a turn of the century photograph of the house along with Brodie’s own sketches.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged alphabetically.

Acquisition

Gift of Ronald Saarinen Swanson.

Processing History

Laura MacNewman, January 2017
Title
Guide to the Benedict House Records
Status
Completed
Author
Laura MacNewman
Date
January 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Edition statement
Resource record created by Laura MacNewman.

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository

Contact:
39221 Woodward Ave.
P.O. Box 801
Bloomfield Hills MI 48303 US