April 1, 2015

Moving On

I became a Corktown resident ten years ago today. My first address in the neighborhood was a large Victorian house that had been divided into apartments. Since then I have had three other Corktown addresses--on Wabash St., Ash St., and Bagley Ave. Most of the years of my adult life have been spent here.

1368 Pine Street, my first Corktown residence.

Today I am sad to announce that I will be moving away. No, this isn't world's lamest history-blog-related April Fool's Day prank. Although I've never had a reason to discuss personal information here, I think I do owe an explanation for my leaving. It has nothing to do with Detroit's infamous quality of life issues (crime, insurance costs, or worse). I think I came well equipped to handle those.

My problem is that I'm extremely sensitive to noise, especially low frequencies. Corktown is not only an urban neighborhood at the center of a major metropolitan region, but it's a nighttime entertainment district. Noises don't necessarily have to be at a high decibel level in order to cause severe discomfort for me. Sometimes when I am disturbed by a band playing in a bar close to my house, my girlfriend will barely be able to hear the music at all. I've discussed noise with my neighbors, but they see it as just an inconvenience and not a cause of extreme discomfort or psychological stress. Now, the last thing the internet needs is another blogger diagnosing himself with some sort of medical issue via Google--but having said that--there is an unmistakable overlap between my experience and the symptoms of conditions like hyperacusis, misophonia, and selective sound sensitivity syndrome.

So, Corktown, "it's not you, it's me." I don't want to be the prude who goes around the neighborhood wagging his finger at people and telling them to turn their music down. I think it will be wisest for me to peacefully bow out.

It will be a few more weeks until the actual move, but in a lot of ways I'm regretting it already. I've never lived anywhere else where I knew as many of my neighbors as I do here. I've never carved out a niche for myself or felt more productive and useful as I do when practicing my abilities as a researcher of the history of Detroit's oldest neighborhood. And it goes without saying that Corktown's architecture and walkability will be very sorely missed.

After carefully considering other communities in southeast Michigan, my girlfriend and I ultimately chose a place in Farmington. As my neighbor Jon asked, "Farmington?!? Why!?!" Our basic criteria were that the new house had to 1.) be old (pre-WWII), 2.) be affordable, and 3.) located in a city with a walkable downtown, but 4.) not in an area that is a major nighttime party destination. We found a cottage built in 1935 on a wooded acre in Farmington Hills just one mile from downtown Farmington. There is one neighbor on the north side, a daycare to the south, and undeveloped forest to the east. We got a good deal because the house needed a total rehab--the asbestos-wrapped ducts needed to be removed, and it needed a new roof, furnace, plumbing and electrical systems. The kitchen and bathroom have been gutted completely, and I've been working at the house every weekend for five months--plus using up all of my vacation time at work--to get the job done on time. As I write this, the rough building, plumbing and electrical work has been approved and the drywall is just barely up (and scheduled to be finished this weekend). The bathroom and kitchen should be functional just in the nick of time for our scheduled move-in. In the summer I will remove the aluminum siding and repaint the original cedar lap siding beneath.

The Harold and Adaline Jamieson Cottage, built in 1935.
Farmington Hills, Michigan.

In addition to the house itself being a good find, there is a lot to like about Farmington/Farmington Hills. They appear to have a very active local history community and take a lot of pride in their historic architecture. The City of Farmington's Vision Plan is right-on as far as urbanism and walkability are concerned. And Farmington is where architects Wells D. Butterfield and his daughter, Emily Helen Butterfield--the designers of a previous home of mine settled and continued to work when they left Detroit.

This isn't the final entry for this blog--I have a few more research ideas that I'd like to work out. There is no need for me to start a blog about Farmington's history, which is already well-researched--but I do have a vague idea for a new website that combines history, maps, and architecture. The concept still needs some work.

One final note--sometimes a few local blogs will highlight anecdotes of Detroit city residents expressing hostility to newcomers. Maybe that happens occasionally. But my own experience of moving into the city after only having spent a small part of my childhood here has been overwhelmingly positive. The lifelong Detroiters I've met in Corktown and elsewhere are especially tolerant, friendly, and agreeable people. If you move here, I believe you will feel very welcome.