April 23, 2011

The Kingston House Part III: 1900-Present

Nancy Eliza Kingston lived with her father at 132 Baker Street as early as 1896. She had technically owned the residence since 1890 on the condition that her father be allowed to spend the rest of his life there. When he died in 1899, she was free to do with the house what she pleased.

Miss Kingston's birth date is unknown, but according to church records she was baptized in Mariners' Protestant Episcopal Church on May 7, 1854. After the death of her mother, she was raised by her maternal grandparents in Bertie Township, Ontario, just west of Buffalo, New York. Miss Kingston's name occasionally appeared in the "society pages" of the Detroit Free Press after she moved into the home on Baker Street. On November 30, 1902, it was noted:
Mrs. [sic] E. N. Kingston gave a dinner Thursday in honor of Miss Stokes, of Erie, Pa. The decorations were American Beauty roses and smilax.
She is also mentioned on November 16, 1902:
Mrs. E. N. Kingston, No. 132 Baker street, entertained at cards on Tuesday evening a number of guests from Delray.
Perhaps those guests included Delray resident Charles Elza Rhodes, her future husband. The couple married on December 24, 1903 by Reverend O. J. Blackford, Pastor of Tabernacle Methodist Episcopal Church.

Charles & Nancy Rhodes were probably married at Tabernacle M. E. Church.
The congregation left the 1874 building in 1915, which burned three years later.
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Charles Elza Rhodes was born in Mercer County, Ohio in December of 1865 to farmers Isaac S. and Catherine (Barton) Rhodes. He was living in Ohio as late as 1900, then appeared in the 1903 directory as living in Delray, which was still an independent suburb at the time. After marrying Nancy Kingston, Rhodes moved into the Kingston house, where the couple spent the rest of their lives.

Rhodes was a carpenter by trade. He worked from a shop on his property, as indicated on the 1921 Sanborn map:

Also note the addition of the wraparound porch by this date.

As of January 1, 1921, following the reformation of Detroit's street address system, the Kingston house became 1560 Baker. The street's name changed in late 1930, giving the house the address it bears today--1560 Bagley.

Detail from 1930 Census showing the residents of 1560 Baker.

Nancy Eliza Kingston Rhodes died on March 7, 1935 at the age of 81. Charles Rhodes remarried soon after. His new wife was a widow named Mary Amanda Lucker, whose maiden name was Sutter. She was born in Michigan in 1879. In 1902 she married a German immigrant named Gustave Adam Lucker, and the couple had four children. Gustave Lucker died in 1929. Charles Rhodes and Mary Lucker were married some time between 1935 and 1941. Charles Rhodes died on October 28, 1947, followed by his wife just two months later, on December 24.


On June 9, 1948, Gerald Kent, executor of the estate of Mary Rhodes, sold the Kingston House to Mark and Betty Howard for $4,100. They in turn sold it for $8,000 on a ten-year land contract on September 1, 1949 to Ida Key Glover. Her last name changed to Jones by the time house was paid for. She evidently owned the house as a rental property. The city directories indicate that Freda McCreary lived in the house from 1949 to 1950. The only record of renters in the house--the city directories--are incomplete after this point.

Bagley Street between Trumbull and 10th Street in the 1960s.
Note the Kingston House on the left.
(Wayne State University)

James T. and Alma Slater were in the house by 1958 and rented it until at least 1973. It was vacant again by 1977. The house does not appear in the city directories again until the mid 1990s, and it was very likely vacant all that time.

The Kingston House at it appeared in 1976.
Courtesy of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office

The house fell into tax foreclosure in the early 1980s. On December 12, 1984, Peter J. and Barbara Ann Benz purchased the property from the State of Michigan. Barbara Benz passed away in 2000. Mr. Benz still lives in Detroit, but did not reply to emails. Is it weird that I email complete strangers about investment property they haven't owned for over twenty years?

The Joseph Kingston House as it appeared in 1985.
Photo courtesy of the Detroit Historical Commission, obtained by Scott Robichaud

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Historical Commission, obtained by Scott Robichaud

Mr. and Mrs. Benz sold the home to Ann Rose Clowney on November 20, 1990 for $6,000. She in turn sold it on September 21, 2005 at the height of the housing bubble for $155,000. That buyer's mortgage with Countrywide Home Loans fell into foreclosure in April of 2006. By 2007, the home was boarded up and for sale once more.

The Kingston house in 2007. Photo courtesy of Scott Robichaud.

The home's current owner, Scott Robichaud, found the home when looking to move to Detroit in early 2007. He put an offer on the house on February 21, 2007, but the purchase was not finalized until April 30. He has spent the last four years renovating the home and documenting the progress on his blog
Redemption in Corktown.

There had been some repairs to the home before Scott bought it, including the removal of the Insul-brick siding. However, many of the alterations were sub-standard--for example, five layers of shingles were piled on top of the roof. The house was in such a state that it was necessary to gut it completely.

Photo courtesy of Scott Robichaud

All changes to the exterior were made with the approval of the Detroit Historical Commission, including a major alteration to the rear of the second floor.

Photos courtesy of Scott Robichaud

Scott now lives in the Joseph Kingston house with his wife, Becky, whom he married in 2010. I could have posted dozens of photos of the renovation, but instead you should see the end result for yourself on the Corktown Historical Home & Garden Tour on Sunday, June 5th. Be sure to attend, and you too can walk in the very home in which Mrs. Kingston smashed a pitcher over her husbands head more than a century ago!

Corktown Historical
Home & Garden Tour

Sunday, June 5, 2011
Noon Until 5:00 pm

$12.00 advance purchase
$15.00 day of the tour
Please call (313) 961-9193 for details


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