January 29, 2011

The Bechstein House Part V: 1935-Present

William Sharkofsky

After the Eiden family moved out of the Bechstein house, it was rented to a 49-year-old railroad engineer named William Sharkofsky. He was born on May 21, 1886 in Hamtramck, Michigan to Russian immigrants John Sharkofsky and Minnie Salmonkat Sharkofsky. He was employed by the Michigan Central Railroad around 1907. The 1910 Census noted that he worked as a fireman, which was the term once used for the engineers who controlled the fires in steam engines. He later rose to the position of conductor.

Michigan Central Rail Road yard, circa 1940. William Sharkofsky
was a conductor for MCRR when this photo was taken.

William Sharkofsky and his second wife, Lillian Persian Ruggles Sharkofsky, lived in the Bechstein house from 1935 until at least 1941, when both of their names were still listed in the city directory. They moved out at some point before the Eidens sold the house in 1948. It’s not known whether they or other renters lived there from 1942 to 1947 because city directories were not printed during World War II.

Sharkofsky retired from the railroad in 1952, having served for over forty-five years.* He died the following year, on May 19, 1953, at the age of 56. Lillian passed away October 22, 1958 at 62. They had no children.

* New York Central System. "Monthly Roll Shows Recent NYC Retirements." Headlight 13.8 (1952): 15. Web. 6 Jan 2011. .

Arthur Woodham

Siblings Willard and Elizabeth Eiden sold the Bechstein house to Arthur Levern Woodham on March 24, 1948. Mr. Woodham was born in Ontario Township, New York on June 26, 1899 to Edward J. Woodham and Ella Izora House Woodham. As a young man he worked as a tool maker and a shoe maker.

It’s not known at what point prior to buying the house Woodham came to Detroit. The 1956 directory indicates that he lived at 1733 Wabash with his wife, Rose Marie, and brother, Lewis Elmer Woodham. It was also noted that Arthur worked at Timken Axle, a factory located on Clark Street south of Fort Street.

In May of 1953, Arthur Woodham used the Bechstein house as collateral for a court appearance bond for Joe Valdez Gonzales. Gonzales was charged with failing to submit to induction into the armed forces. He became a Jehovah’s Witness close to the time he registered for the draft and fought to be classified as a conscientious objector on religious grounds. The local draft board, however, classified him as available for military service. He was ordered to appear for induction in February of 1953. He showed up at the designated location but refused to be inducted and was then arrested. His defense team included attorney Hayden C. Covington, himself a Jehovah’s Witness who successfully defended many of his fellow adherents against draft evasion charges. (Later in life Covington would defend boxer Muhammad Ali against similar charges.) Gonzales was found guilty as charged in a federal district court in Detroit on September 22, 1953*. He appealed the case but lost in 1954**. Covington finally argued the case before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1955 and won***.

The 1958 Detroit city directory listed Rose Marie Woodham as the operator of Woodham’s Gift Shop at 1955 Bagley. It would have been on the south side of the road, between 12th Street and Vermont. This information was presumably collected for the directory in the previous year, as the couple divorced in late 1957. The next available directory (1964) indicated that Arthur had retired. There is no listing for Woodham’s Gift Shop in that volume.

Aerial view of 1700 block of Wabash Street in 1968.
The red X marks the roof of the Bechstein house.
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Rose Marie Woodham, who kept her ex-husband’s name and still lived in southwest Detroit, passed away on March 20, 1974 at the age of 65. Arthur’s brother Lewis passed away on June 18 of the same year at the age of 88. He still lived in the Bechstein house at the time of his death.

This photograph of the Bechstien house was taken in 1976 as part
of the Detroit/Urban Conservation Project. The home to the right,
also lived in by the Bechstein family, was demolished in 1977.

Arthur Woodham sold the house to Juan Jose and Delia C. Benavides for $1,400 on April 16, 1982. Just six days later, on April 22, Arthur died of cardiac arrhythmia. He was 82. On May 5 he was buried in Woodmere Cemetery, in the Ferndale section, block 30, space 40. His grave has no marker.

*United States v. Gonzales, 120 F. Supp. 730 (U.S.D.C. E.D. Mich.)
**Gonzales v. United States, 212 F. 2d 71 (6th Cir.)
***Gonzales v. United States, 348 U.S. 407 (1955)

Juan Jose & Delia C. Benavides

Mr. and Mrs. Benavides were a young couple who rented out the Bechstein home for the brief time they owned it. They still live in southwest Detroit, but they did not reply to a letter seeking information.

Steven C. Flum

Corktown residents fought successfully to save their neighborhood from total destruction in the name of urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the area started to gain wider appreciation for its architectural and historic value. The segment of the neighborhood between Sixth Street and Rosa Parks Boulevard was designated a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 1978. There followed a wave of home rehabilitations by both longtime residents and newcomers attracted to the unique character of the neighborhood.

In 1985, one Corktown newcomer interested in historic preservation was 24-year-old Steven C. Flum, who had obtained his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan the previous year. On July 12, 1985, he purchased the Bechstein house from Juan Jose and Delia Benavides for $2,800. The home was in serious need of renovation. The roof, plumbing, heating, and electrical system all needed replacement. There were cosmetic problems as well--artificial wood paneling covered the walls and a drop ceiling had been installed. The brick chimney was beyond repair and had to be demolished. Flum spent the next several years bringing to house up to code.

The Bechstein house as it appeared in 1985.
Photo courtesy of Steven C. Flum

Looking into a bedroom from what was the kitchen in the original 1864 cottage.
Photo courtesy of Steven C. Flum

View inside "new" kitchen in the 1897 addition looking toward the back door.
Click here to see the same room as it appears today.
Photo courtesy of Steven C. Flum

In 1987, Flum purchased the vacant lot to the north, at 1739 Wabash. This was the other half of the original lot first purchased by Frederick Bechstein and sold by his heirs in 1904. Consuelo Villa and her daughters Ella and Irene sold the lot to Flum for $1,000 on November 21, 1987. Both halves of the lot were united under a single owner for the first time in almost 100 years.

Flum built a garage behind the house in the late 1980s that matches the roofline of the house. Measuring 18’ by 22’, it is only six feet shorter than the original cottage. A driveway was constructed on the former site of 1739 Wabash as the alley was impassable at the time.

Construction of the garage, circa 1988.
Photo courtesy of Steven C. Flum

The Bechstein house was featured on the second annual Historic Corktown Homes Tour on May 15, 1988.

The Bechstein house, lovingly restored, on the 1988 Historic Corktown Homes Tour.
Photo courtesy of Steven C. Flum

Photo courtesy of Steven C. Flum

Flum lived in the Bechstein house for nearly twenty years. In that time, he started his own architecture firm and designed several single- and multiple-family homes for Corktown with sensitivity to their architectural context. Examples include Homes at St. Anne (e.g., 1759 Wabash); Corktown Townhouses I, on the corner of Labrosse and Broolyn Streets, and Corktown Townhouses II, on Bagley between Brooklyn and 8th Streets, where he now resides. Flum has received many awards and recognitions for his work, including the distinction of Young Architect of the Year in 1998 by the Michigan chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Mary C. Greenia

Maria Greenia purchased the home from Steve Flum on January 21, 2004. She needed to sell it only two years later, and I purchased it on July 25, 2006. There will be more about her in a future post.

Paul Szewczyk

I have made some improvements to the house since I bought it, but it is now apparent that the house needs a full renovation. The house is leaning backwards slightly, and the floor is warped and uneven. One of the beams has been damaged by termites and is sistered by additional joists, but this and many other repairs made to the foundation are not permanent solutions. Some day the house will be jacked up and resettled on steel I-beams and concrete piers. Such repairs often cause plaster to crack severely or fall off all together. It may be best to gut the house completely, but preserve the molding, interior doors, and other valuable details. The house has stood for nearly 150 years so far, and there is no reason it can't stand for 150 more if properly repaired.

January 22, 2011

The Bechstein House Part IV: 1897-1934--Lena Eiden

1897 • On March 30, Henry Eiden applied for a permit to build a 22-foot wide by 12-foot deep addition onto the rear of 195 Wabash. The actual measurements of the addition turned out to be (approximately) 21 feet wide by 13 deep. The result was a new 13' by 14' kitchen, a 4' by 7' pantry, and a 7' by 10' room that is now a bathroom, although it hasn't been determined whether that was the room's original purpose. The baseboard trim in this room matches that of the house's original four rooms, perhaps indicating that the entire house was renovated. After existing as a rental home for over twenty years, such a makeover was probably necessary.

This Sanborn map from 1897 shows the addition made to the house.
Also shown on the property is a two-story barn adjacent to the alley.

Lena Eiden moved into 195 Wabash with her father, her husband, and their three children early enough that the address was listed as their residence in the 1897 city directory. It’s possible they moved in before work on the addition had even begun. Frederick Bechstein still owned 197 Wabash and began to rent it out.

Detail of 1900 Census showing the Eiden household at 195 Wabash Street. Occupations are
listed in the right hand column. It's indicated that Bechstein fathered 9 children, of whom
5 were living. Two of his children have not yet been identified and likely died in infancy.

Tuesday, December 22nd, 1903 • Two important events coincided on this day. At about 10:30 a.m., Frederick Bechstein passed away at home at the age of 78. His death certificate lists the cause of death as “sudden suspected complication of heart”. Also on this day, Lena gave birth to her fourth child, Elizabeth Ruth Eiden. Frederick Bechstein was laid to rest on Christmas Eve at Woodmere Cemetery in Section E, Lot B1, space 119. Like his wife, there is no marker on his grave.

Death certificate of Frederick Bechstein.

Frederick Bechstein left 197 Wabash to his children. They sold it to an Irish neighbor named Johanna Lamey for $900.00 the following April.

1907 • Lena gave birth to twins, Charlotte Henrietta and Willard Charles, on May 29.

c. 1910 • A second addition to the home was built around this time. Other changes have been made to the floor plan over the years, including the removal of the wall between the two front rooms to create a large living room at an unknown date.

Detail of 1910 Census.

1913 • Lena’s three youngest children—Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Willard—were baptized on November 27 at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church on 17th Street.

1915 • Dorothy, now 24 and working as a telephone operator, married Emil Albert Ritter on November 6. Emil was a 23-year-old patternmaker born in Ohio to German immigrant parents. A few years later they had one daughter who currently lives in a Detroit suburb. She and her family are not interested in the research on their ancestors’ home.

1916 • Henry Jr., 23, married Selma Sobieck, a 19-year-old daughter of German immigrants, on June 17. Henry worked as a patternmaker in an auto plant. Selma moved in with Henry’s family before moving to Inglis Street at some point before 1919. They had one son who moved to California and passed away in 1980. None of his descendants (if any) have been identified.

Detail of 1920 Census.

1922 • A city directory lists Elizabeth, 19, as a clerk at the Detroit Public Library, one year after it opened at its current location at 5201 Woodward Avenue. A 1965 directory indicated that she still worked there. She never married.

The glass negative of this photo of Willard C. Eiden is kept in
the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library.
Perhaps it was donated by his sister, a library employee.
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

c. 1926 • Rose, 30, married Harry B. Dillman, a 26-year-old postal clerk from Iowa. Rose worked as a stenographer at The Detroit News before their marriage. They lived at 1733 Wabash briefly before moving to an apartment building on Fort Street. They had no children.

Detail from 1930 Census.

1932 • Charlotte passed away at age 24 on January 17. She was unmarried and still lived at home.

Headstone of Charlotte Henrietta Eiden at
Glen Eden Lutheran Memorial Park in Livonia, Michigan.

1934 • On July 25, Lena passed away at age 69. The family moved out of the house soon afterward. Henry moved in with his daughter Rose and her husband. Elizabeth moved in with her sister Dorothy's family. Willard, who never married, moved into an apartment on East Grand Boulevard. The probate court declared Lena Eiden’s home to to be the property of her children on May 23, 1938. Henry, Dorothy and Rose quitclaimed the house to Elizabeth and Willard, perhaps because they were the only unmarried siblings. They rented out the home until selling it in 1948.

Headstone of Magdalena Bechstein Eiden at
Glen Eden Lutheran Memorial Park in Livonia, Michigan.

Next Week:
The Bechstein House Part V: 1935-Present

January 15, 2011

The Bechstein House Part III: 1876-1896 -- The Renters of 195 13½ Street

In the twenty-year period that the Bechstein house was rented, fourteen different heads of the household were listed at the address. These individuals give us an excellent cross-section of the working-class residents of Corktown in the late 19th century.  They include native-born Americans as well as immigrants from Canada, Ireland, England and Germany. Below are the names, approximate ages, and occupations of the men, women and children who lived in the Bechstein house during this period. The information has been collected from city directories, the U.S. Federal Censuses, and other genealogical records.


Head:Cornelius Jesse Wain, 27, marine engineer, son of English immigrants
Wife:Ellen Louise McGuire Wain, 23, Canadian immigrant
Son:George Jesse Wain, 2
Son:Henry Samuel Wain, born June 11, 1876

Henry Wain is one of three children born to different renters in the year which their parents are listed at this address. It's possible they were born in the Bechstein house, but this hasn't been confirmed.


Head:Henry Jones, hoopmaker (presumably for the manufacture of barrels)

Nothing else about this man is known.


No information is known--the home was possibly vacant.


Head:Henry Ernst Bartz, 32, baker, German immigrant
Wife:Elizabeth Maria Dambeek Bartz, 34, German immigrant
Daughter:Ida Amalie Bartz, 5
Son:Willie Bartz, 3
Daughter:Hedwig Bartz, born May 11, 1879

Henry Bartz was employed by Frank Wittelsberger’s bakery, located at 317 Michigan Avenue, on the south side of the road between 5th and 6th Streets. The building, pictured below, was erected in 1876.

Bakery of Frank Wittelsberger, employer of Henry Bartz (Source)


Head:Thomas J. Wilson, 26, cooper (barrel maker)
Wife:Mary E. Wilson, 26, Canadian immigrant
Son:Harry D. Wilson, 2

The records of the Wilsons’ child are inconsistent. The 1880 Census lists a son, Harry D. Wilson, age 2 (born approximately 1878). But there is also a birth record of a girl, Ada Wilson, born November 7, 1878 to Thomas and Mary Wilson. This second birth record indicates that the father was a blacksmith (as this Thomas Wilson was before) and that the mother was born in Canada (as this Mary Wilson was). The apparent contradiction has not yet been reconciled.

Detail from the 1880 Census shows the Bechsteins living at 197 13½
Street and the Wilsons living at 195. Members of the Calnon family,
at 191, would rent the Bechstein house for two years in the 1890s.

Thomas Wilson worked at J. F. Hasty & Sons, a barrel manufacturer located near 21st Street and the Michigan Central Rail Road tracks.

Advertisement for J. F. Hasty & Son from the 1887 Detroit City Directory


Head:James D. Gritman, 30, clerk
Wife:Mary E. Gleason Gritman, 29
Daughter:Leila Gritman, 8
Daughter:Alice Gritman, 6
Daughter:Mamie Gritman, 4

At the time, James Gritman worked at H. P. Baldwin 2d & Co., a boot and shoe factory and wholesale store. It was located at 41-43 Woodward Avenue, within what is now Hart Plaza.

H. P. Baldwin & Co., employer of George Gritman
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library


Head:Julian A. Phelps, 35, driver for the Detroit City Railway
Wife:Lenora Huntington Phelps, 21
Son:Jesse M. Phelps, 3

Julian and Lenora Phelps were both from Vermont, where they married in 1881. They moved to Minnesota after living in Detroit for a few years.

The vicinity of the Bechstein house as shown in an 1885 atlas of the city (Source)


Head:Lyman W. Huntington, 55
Wife:Mary Ann Hathorn Huntington, 58
Son:George L. Huntington, 24, laborer
Son:Henry Edward Huntington, 18, laborer
Daughter:Laura Malinda Huntington, 12

Lyman and Mary Ann Huntington were the parents of Lenora Phelps, the woman who rented the home with her husband in 1885. Although the city directory does not list an occupation for Lyman Huntington, the 1880 census indicated that he was an upholsterer.


Head:Isaac Johnson, 42, laborer, Canadian immigrant
Wife:Mary Johnson, 43, Canadian immigrant


The city directory lists two men at this address: John Reetz and Peter N. Myrand, a carpenter. No further details about these men are known.


The directory indicates that the home was vacant.


Head:John Gasco, 25, switchman
Wife:Susan Higins Gasco, 24, Canadian immigrant
Son:John Gasco Jr., born July 11, 1891


Head:George F. Duff, 30, shipping clerk, Canadian immigrant
Wife:Nellie E. Sidebottom Duff, 29, nurse, English immigrant
Son:George F. Duff Jr., 6
Daughter:Gracey D. Duff, 5
Son:Richard Duff, 4

The 1900 Census indicated that Nellie was a nurse, and her 1914 death certificate indicated that she was a clerk in a department store. George F. Duff Sr. was employed by James Walker & Son, a manufacturer of plumbing supplies.

James Walker & Son, employer or George F. Duff (Source)


Head:Joseph Samuel Greer, 37, bricklayer
Wife:Mary Jane Haney Greer, 33
Son:Stanley Collis Greer, 9
Son:Earl M. Greer, 6
Daughter:Luella Greer, 5
Daughter:Elvia Greer, 2

The entire Greer family had emigrated from Canada earlier that same year.

CORRECTION: I had the wrong family for this year, as explained in this entry.


Head:Bridget A. O'Day Calnon, 50, Irish immigrant
Son:Joseph A. Calnon, 21, plumber
Son:Daniel L. Calnon, 18, plumber

Bridget's husband Giles passed away in 1887. The Calnon family lived next door to the Bechstein house at 191 (1729) Wabash for 24 years, from 1868 to 1892. After that, they moved frequently but always stayed within the neighborhood.


Head:Rose Hall Parkins, 39
Daughter:Maud Parkins, 18
Daughter:Stella Parkins, 3
Brother:George W. Hall, 43, painter

Rose Parkins’ husband George died sometime around 1894. Her brothers--George, James and Frank--comprised Hall Brothers, a painting and interior decorating company located on Beech Street.

Next week:
The Bechstein House Part IV: 1897-1934--Lena Eiden

January 8, 2011

The Bechstein House Part II: 1865-1875 -- Frederick Bechstein

The advertisement above announces an auction of building lots which were once part of the Godfroy Farm. The auction was held at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street, which was then called Godfroy Avenue. The first owner of my house, Frederick Bechstein, attended the auction, where he purchased lot number 92 (where the house now stands) for $190.00. The following is a sketch of his life up until the time he moved out of the home.

Frederick Bechstein was born on February 6, 1825 to Friedrich Bechstein and Mary Gottlob in the village of Pfaffenhofen in Württemberg, a kingdom that is now part of Germany. Germans had already been coming to the United States in large numbers by the time he was born, and the wave of immigrants further increased after the failed European political revolutions of 1848. Revolutionaries in the German states desired a liberal, democratic government and the unification of one German nation. Although we can't be certain if Bechstein left his homeland as a direct result of the unsuccessful revolution, we do know that in 1849 he applied for permission to leave Württemberg, listing New York as his destination. Bechstein is listed among the passengers of the ship Seine, which sailed from Le Havre, France and landed at the port of New York on September 17, 1849. He indicated that he was a farmer and listed Germany as his country of origin.

It appears that Bechstein returned to Württemberg and then applied for permission to emigrate a second time in 1852. He sailed from Le Havre on the ship Splendid and arrived at New York on August 17 of that year. He listed his occupation this time as carpenter, and his country of origin as Württemberg.

Bechstein came to Detroit soon after his second voyage and married Katharina Margaretta Denk on December 19, 1852 at Trinity Lutheran Church. An 1855 city directory lists "Beckslin [sic], Frederick, carp." at 41 Baker (now Bagley). This house would have been on the south side of Baker in Corktown, just west of Brooklyn Street. An 1864 city directory specified that the home was rented, and that at it was located at the rear of 39 Baker, on the alley between Baker and Labrosse. Although German immigrants in Detroit had primarily settled on the east side south of Gratiot Avenue, working-class Germans began to populate Corktown by the 1850s.

The Bechsteins had at least five children who survived infancy when they lived on Baker Street:

  • William, born March 17, 1855
  • Christopher, born c. 1856
  • Elizabeth, born February 10, 1858
  • Frederick Jr., born January 1863
  • Magdalena, born October 26, 1864

Magdalena was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church on December 4, 1864 as Eva Magdalene. She would one day own the Bechstein house and raise her children there.

As mentioned before, Frederick Bechstein purchased a plot of land on the former Godfroy farm measuring 50' by 141.18' on April 11, 1864. A home was built on the south half of the lot in enough time to be listed as Bechstein's residence in the 1865 city directory. Being a carpenter, it's possible he built the house himself. However, since building permits were not required at the time, there is no known record of exactly when and by whom the house was built.

This entry in the 1865 city directory is the
first known reference to the house's existence.

The address of this property would change several times over the years. The road was originally named Peter Street, after Peter Godfroy. Early directories didn’t even list a house number, only the street name. Peter Street changed to 13½ Street on April 25, 1868 (Farmer 950). An 1869 city directory was the first to reference a house number--195. The name of the street would change again to Wabash on July 3, 1882 (ibid.). On January 1, 1921, Detroit adopted an entirely new address numbering system. From that point on the address was 1733 Wabash, and has remained ever since.

The original home was a four-room cottage measuring just 18 feet wide by 28 feet deep. There were two bedrooms measuring about 7 by 14 feet, a living area about 11 by 14 feet, and a kitchen of the same size. The entrance was on the side of the house into the kitchen. There was a chimney at the back of the house which vented smoke from the kitchen stove. No addition was made to the house for over thirty years.

After moving into their new home, Frederick and Margaret Bechstein would give birth to at least two more children:

  • Margaretha Wilhelmine, born September 7, 1866
  • Catherine, born October 1869

Margaretha Wilhelmine--who went by "Mena"--was baptized on September 1, 1867 at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, then located on the east side of Trumbull north of Michigan Avenue. This branch of Trinity Lutheran Church was the first Lutheran congregation in the city west of Woodward Avenue. It grew out of a German Lutheran school district founded in 1863 by parents whose children had to walk over a mile and a half across town to Trinity Lutheran School (Erickson 19). The church itself was dedicated on November 5, 1865, and used until a larger brick structure was built at 17th and Pine Streets in 1873.

The Bechsteins attended Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in the 1860s.
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.

Shortly after the birth of their daughter Catherine, the Bechsteins lost their fourteen-year-old son, William. He died of remittent fever on November 1, 1869, and was buried two days later at Elmwood Cemetery. His death is also documented in the records of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Detail from the 1870 Census showing the Bechstein family living at 195 13½ Street.
Columns indicate name, age, gender, race, occupation, home value, and place of birth.

Around 1876, the Bechstein family moved to a new house built on the north half of their lot, at 197 13½ Street, and rented out their old home. As with the first home, building permits were still not yet required and it's uncertain whether Frederick Bechstein built it himself. The family would live in this new home for 21 years.

While the Bechstein family lived at 197 13½ Street, the following events occurred:

1876 • Elizabeth, 18, died of tuberculosis on March 15.

1883 • Frederick Bechstein's wife, Margaret, died from heart disease on April 4 at the age of 57. She was buried at Woodmere Cemetery two days later in Section A, Lot 174, space number 13. There is no marker on her grave.

1886 • Mina, 19, married Andrew Eiden, 24, a carpenter and a son of German immigrants, on June 6. The directory for the following year indicates that they moved to a home on 17th Street. They went on to have fourteen children, only eight of whom survived infancy.

1888 • On January 12, Frederick Jr., 25, was wed to Esther A. Peacock, a widow of the same age. Esther, whose maiden name was Longley, was born in Canada to English immigrants. The 1888 directory indicated that Frederick was a switchman and that he had moved to 25th Street. They later had a son and adopted two girls. It was noted in the 1880 Census that one of Frederick Jr.'s legs had been amputated.

1889 • Lena, 24, married Henry Eiden, 29, on August 15. Henry was the brother of Andrew Eiden, Mina's husband. Henry worked at various times as a railroad foreman and as a "lather"--one who installed wooden lath boards to which plaster was applied. Henry and Lena did not move to a place of their own but stayed with Mr. Bechstein. While living at this address, they had three children:

  • Dorothy, born December 16, 1890
  • Henry S., born September 19, 1892
  • Rose M., born October 20, 1896

1889 • The city directory lists "Miss Catherine Beckstein" as a domestic servant at 425 16th Street, the home of machine manufacturer George Mead. On September 28, Catherine married August Yach who, like Lena and Mena’s husbands, was a carpenter and the son of German immigrants. Catherine and August moved to Williams Street after marriage. They had at least five children before August died from heart disease in 1901 at the age of 31. Catherine married Andrew Laskowsky, yet another son of German immigrants, the following year. By 1910, Catherine was staying with relatives on Williams Street and Andrew was living at the Wayne County Poor House (also known as the Eloise Asylum), where he died from alcoholism four years later.

1891 • Frederick Bechstein sold 195 Wabash to his daughter Lena for "one dollar and other valuable consideration"--i.e., it wasn't necessary to include the purchase price on the warranty deed, or he simply gave her the house. Lena continued to rent it out until 1896.

Next week:
The Bechstein House Part III: 1876-1896 -- The Renters of 195 13½ Street

•Erickson, Robert. History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Detroit and Vicinity. Detroit: S. N., 1919.
•Farmer, Silas. The History of Detroit and Michigan: Or, The Metropolis Illustrated. Detroit: Silas Farmer and Co., 1884.

January 1, 2011

The Bechstein House Part I: 1750-1864 -- The Cicotte Farm

The Frederick Bechstein House
1733 Wabash Street, Detroit

This is the house I live in. It was built at the end of the Civil War, and two additions have been built since. I've been learning as much as I can about its history since I moved in, and learning how to find this information as I go. The first several posts in this blog will cover pretty much everything I know about it. This week's post covers the history of the land on which it was built.

* * * * *

When Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit in 1701, he was permitted to grant land concessions to other settlers in the name of the King of France. After he was relieved of command of the settlement in 1711, it was not clear whether subsequent commandants had the same authority. King Louis XV settled the matter by a decree dated May 19, 1722 which authorized the Governor General and Intendant of New France to make land concessions at Detroit (Farmer 18). The grantees were required to settle and occupy the land within one year, maintain fences and roads, and pay annual fees based on the amount of land granted to them, among other conditions (Campbell 91).

On April 1, 1750, Governor General Jacques-Pierre de la Jonquière and Intendant François Bigot granted a portion of land to Zacharie Cicotte (Farmer 20). Cicotte was a French Canadian merchant who came to Detroit in 1730 at the age of 22. Six years later he married Marie Angelique Godfroy, who was born in Detroit in 1720. The land granted to him was located on the Detroit River west of the settlement and measured three by forty arpents—about 576 feet wide by 1.5 miles long. It was among the narrow ribbon farms established on the river according to French tradition. The east border of the farm is now Wabash Street, and the west border of the farm coincides with the alley between 14th and 15th Streets. Zacharie and Angelique Cicotte settled on the land and would spend the rest of their lives there (Askin 36).

The original outline of the Cicotte Farm.

After Detroit fell to the British during the French and Indian War, Zacharie Cicotte was among the French Canadian settlers who attended a council with Chief Pontiac on July 2, 1763 in a conspiracy to expel the English. Although Cicotte resented the British, he told Pontiac that he and the others at the council were unable to help them on account of their wives and children, but that there were 300 young men without families at the settlement who would probably join him (Moore 656). Pontiac’s siege of Detroit was ultimately unsuccessful. Zacharie died in 1775, and Angelique in 1791. The farm was later inhabited by one of their sons, Jean Baptiste Cicotte, born 1749. He married Angelique Poupart Lavoise in 1770 (Hamlin 286).

Following the Revolutionary War, Britain surrendered Detroit to the United States according to the provisions of the Jay Treaty in 1796. The U. S. Congress opened a land office in Detroit to legally establish private claims in 1804. Angelique Cicotte (widow of Jean Baptiste) applied for a land patent for the Cicotte Farm, which was confirmed on December 24, 1810 (Farmer 986). The land office designated it Private Claim No. 726.

Private Claim 726 Document

Detail from the U. S. government's original survey of Detroit, c. 1818. (Source)
Private Claim No. 726 is indicated by the X.

On November 5, 1819, Joseph Cicotte—a son of Jean Baptiste and Angelique Cicotte—sold the farm to Peter Godfroy (Burton 1371), his second cousin. Marie Angelique Godfroy, the wife of the original land owner Zacharie Cicotte, was the sister of Peter Godfroy’s grandfather, Jacques Godfroy III.

Peter Godfroy, a fur trader, was born in Detroit in 1797 and married Marianne Navarre Marantette in 1824. Before their marriage, legend has it, Godfroy once crossed the Detroit River in a wheelbarrow in order to visit his young fiancée (Hamlin 302). He served for several terms as supervisor of Springwells Township, where his land was located when Detroit only extended as far as Brooklyn Street. Peter Godfroy lived on his farm until his death in 1848.

Marianne Godfroy
Marianne Marantette Godfroy (Hall 27)

On February 5, 1857, Detroit annexed a portion of Springwells, expanding its western border from Brooklyn Street all the way to 25th Street (Burton 344). As the old farms along the river became incorporated into the city, the booming demand for land and high city taxes all but forced their owners to divide the farms into lots and sell them off (Hall 96). Peter Godfroy's widow, Marianne, began to sell the farm in stages around this time. In 1864, the portion between Porter Street and Michigan Avenue was surveyed into lots, blocks, streets and alleys by civil engineer John F. Munro. (Source)



The 133 lots were sold at public auction on April 11, 1864. Lot number 92 was purchased for $190.00 by a German carpenter named Frederick Bechstein.

Next Week:
The Bechstein House Part II: 1865-1875--Frederick Bechstein


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Farmer, Silas. The History of Detroit and Michigan: Or, The Metropolis Illustrated. Detroit: Silas Farmer & Co., 1884. Print.

Hall, Theodore. Family Records of Theodore Parsons Hall and Alexandrine Louise Godfroy, of "Tonnancour," Grosse Pointe, near Detroit, Michigan. Detroit: Wm. C Heathy Printing Co., 1892. Print.

Hamlin, Marie. Legends of Le Détroit. Second Edition. Detroit: Thorndike Nourse, 1884. Print.

Michigan. Godfroy, Peter Farm, Being Part of P.C. 726 South of Chicago Road, Plat of Subdivision of Part of., 1864. Web. 31 Dec 2010. <http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/platmaps/dt_image.asp?BCC_SUBINDEX=11403>.

Moore, Charles. The Gladwin Manuscripts: With an Introduction and a Sketch of the Conspiracy of Pontiac. Lansing: 
Robert Smith Printing Co., 1897. Print.