The Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan History Center and the Eastern Market Partnership have agreed to relocate the Detroit home of Julia and Lt. Ulysses S. Grant from the former state fairgrounds to the corner of Orleans and Wilkins streets. There, after renovation, it will become a new resource for residents, schoolchildren and visitors.
The new location, which is part of the Eastern Market garden project, will include gardens and a small orchard. The setting will complement the house, whose major attraction – according to a letter Ulysses sent to Julia – was “a garden filled with the best kind of fruit … a long arbour grown over with vines that will bear fine grapes in abundance for us and to give away … currents [sic] and plum & peach trees.”
This summer, the Michigan History Center will host a series of community meetings with educators, Eastern Market residents and business owners, historians and others interested in generating ideas for the home’s use.
“This will not be a traditional house museum,” said Michigan History Center Director Sandra Clark. “Our hope is to make it place to explore Grant’s life and the impact he made on Detroit while living here and in his later actions as a Civil War general and U.S. president.”
Grant’s Detroit connection
When the Grants moved into the house in 1849, it was located at 253 Fort St. East, between Rivard and Russell. They lived in the home for a little over a year, and their first son, Frederick, was born while they lived there. Detroiters kept the house’s association with Grant alive, decorating it in mourning upon his death on July 23, 1885.
When the house was slated for demolition in 1936, the Michigan Mutual Company purchased it and moved it to the state fairgrounds at Woodward and 8 Mile Road, where it was opened to the public for tours for many decades.
The fairgrounds hosted its last Michigan State Fair in 2008, and the state of Michigan sold the property in 2018. Plans to move the home from the fairgrounds have been in development for years.
“The new location of the Grant House is exciting, as it is closer to its original location,” said Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Partnership, the nonprofit that manages Eastern Market on behalf of the city of Detroit. “We are happy to have the home and the stories it can tell about Detroit in the mid-19th century become a part of the fabric of Eastern Market.”
The move and renovation
Grant Home at State Fairgrounds, 2018Moving, securing and renovating the house for public use are expected to take one to two years. The Michigan State Housing and Development Authority, seeing the potential for the house to contribute to the community around Eastern Market, provided a grant to support the move.
Work on preparing the home for the move, including the removal of lead-based exterior paint, will begin in later this month.
The move itself is still being planned and is expected to take place before the end of August.
“We are grateful to MSHDA for providing funding to make the move possible,” said Clark. “Our next step will be raising funds to fully renovate the home and determining how it can best serve the Eastern Market and Detroit communities.”
Heritage Michigan, the private foundation that supports the Michigan History Center, is developing a campaign to fund the renovation and programming for the house, which it plans to announce later this summer.
For more information about the Grant House or the move to Eastern Market, contact Sandra Clark at 517-335-2712 or ClarkSS@Michigan.gov.