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West Canfield Historic District

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Michigan, USA 48202
Current Use: Private Homes
Vacancy: Occupied
Historic Significance: The first historic district designated by the City of Detroit. Various mid to late 19th century styles.
Architect Builder Engineer: ALmon C. Varney John Scott & Company Samuel C. Falkinburg

When the French government granted rights to land in the Detroit area in the first one-third of the 18th Century, they created ribbon farms. These were narrow farms that had a short frontage along the Detroit River and then extended for a long distance inland; that is, they resembled ribbons. In the late 18th Century, the Macomb family acquired the farm that contains what is now the Cass Corridor. Lewis Cass was appointed territorial governor after 1805, and in 1818, he purchased the Macomb Farm. This area is still known to some Detroit historians as the Cass Farm area. Lewis Cass, after serving as territorial governor, was appointed Secretary of War by President Jackson. He died in 1866 and three years later, his two daughters divided the farm. Mary Cass Canfield named a street for her late husband.

In 1871, prosperous Detroit attorneys, physicians, dentists and architects began building elaborate homes in this area, primarily in the Queen Anne and High Victorian style. This Historic District illustrates very clearly the housing tastes of those Detroit families who became prosperous in the first decade of the city’s industrial history. This is, I believe, the only still intact block in Detroit of homes from the 1870s.

This block of Detroit did not survive the city’s economic and demographic changes very well, and by 1967, many of the homes were dilapidated. In 1969, the Canfield-West Wayne Preservation Association was organized to foster the restoration of these beautiful homes. In 1970, this became Detroit’s first historic district, and in 1971, it was listed on the National Register. In 1997, the West Canfield Historic District was expanded to include two Victorian commercial buildings and one Queen Anne style residence on West Third.


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