March 26, 2011

The Buchanan House Part IV: 1924-2007 -- The Saliba and Kibler Families

The Saliba Family

During World War I, the Mediterranean island nation of Malta served as an important site for the manufacture of ships. When the war ended and the number of manufacturing jobs diminished significantly, thousands of Maltese desperate for work left the country. By 1920, more Maltese had immigrated to Detroit than any other city in the United States--as many as 7,000, according to a Detroit Free Press article from December 12, 1920. They settled primarily in Corktown, near Michigan Avenue and 5th Street.

Among Corktown's Maltese immigrants were Charles and Benvenuta Saliba. Charles had worked as a mounted policeman back in Malta. The couple came to the U.S. in 1920 with their three young children, Agata, Lena, and Emmanuel. The family first lived on 2nd Street, but by 1921 had moved to 24 Baker (which changed to 1250 Baker when Detroit's address system was reformed in 1921). Mr. and Mrs. Saliba purchased the Buchanan house from the heirs of Susan Buchanan on March 27, 1924. They agreed to assume the $5,100 balance on a mortgage on the home as well as any unpaid taxes levied since the previous June.

Charles and Benvenuta Saliba went on to have three more children--Joseph, Anthony, and Paul--all born in the Buchanan house. Charles Saliba ultimately became a foreman at the Ford Motor Company. The family rented every available space in the house to borders for just $3.00 per week. Most of them were also Maltese, and employees of Ford.

Detail from the 1930 Census listing all residents of 1242 Baker.
Eight boarders lived with the Salibas, including six Maltese immigrants.

In late 1930, Baker Street changed its name to Bagley. The address was finally 1242 Bagley, which the house bears today.

Tragically, Charles Saliba passed away on the night before Thanksgiving on November 22, 1939. His wife was not feeling well, and he was helping prepare food for dinner the following day. He passed away inside the home.

Downtown Detroit, July 18, 1957. Inset: The Buchanan House,
from the rear, is on the left. 1250 Bagley, now demolished,
is on the right. Image courtesy of Wayne State University.

The Lodge Freeway (the building of which destroyed much of
Corktown) around the mid-1960s. Inset: Rear of 1242-1250
Bagley. Image courtesy of Wayne State University

Benvenuta Saliba quit-claimed the house to her son Emmanuel on February 25, 1974. Mrs. Saliba, by then eighty-two years old, passed away just one month later, on March 28. Emmanuel Saliba then passed away less than two years later, on December 23, 1975, at the age of 57.

The Buchanan house in 1976. Image courtesy of the
Michigan State Historic Preservation Office.

The Kibler Family

The surviving children of Benvenuta Saliba sold the Buchanan house in 1976 through a land contract with Arthur W. and Emma Alice Kibler, a married couple in their fifties. They put $1,000 down and paid off the $6,000 balance in installments. Mr. Kibler died two years later, on March 16, 1978, at the age of 54.

Headstone of Arthur W. Kibler at Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit

The land contract was paid off and the property ownership was legally transferred to Emma Kibler on October 24, 1984. The following photos of the house were taken around that time.

Photo provided by Danielle Lewon of the Detroit Historical Commission

Photo provided by Danielle Lewon of the Detroit Historical Commission

Mrs. Kibler shared her home with many renters over the twenty years she lived there until her death on June 17, 1996. The house became the property of her son, Arthur Richard Kibler. He ultimately tore off the circa-1940s faux-brick siding and restored the original wood clapboards. Less inspired was the decision to add stockade fencing around the adjacent courtyard.

Circa 2004 photo found on the Internet by Allan Machielse

The home was later painted bright yellow.

The Buchanan House in the winter of 2007/2008.

Arthur Kibler continued to share the home with boarders. He mortgaged the property in January of 2005, which fell into foreclosure and was repossessed by the bank in May of 2007.

Next week: The Buchanan House Part V: 2008-Present -- Renovation in Progress

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