May 16, 2011

The Joseph Buchanan House -- 1778 (214) Wabash Street

Note: This blog will no longer be updated weekly. Posts will now be made whenever I have research to share--hopefully at least once per month.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Joseph Buchanan House, formerly 214 Wabash Street

214 Wabash first appeared in city directories in 1883. Although the city was issuing building permits by then, I failed to locate this home in the index to building permits. (A document profiling several Corktown homes incorrectly states that 214 Wabash was built in 1893, but the permit referred to there was in fact for 212 Wabash, immediately to the south, now demolished.)

The house was built on lot 66 of outlot 1 of the Lafferty Farm, platted in 1867. In 1883, property was owned by Clement Lafferty, a grandson of the farm's original French settler, Louis Vessiere dit Laferte.

The first known renter of 214 Wabash was a livestock agent named Martin Lamb, born in Michigan on March 23, 1854 to Martin M. and Mary Jane (Guthrie) Lamb. On May 30, 1881 Martin Lamb married Matilda B. Harvey, born November 22, 1828 to Thomas and Ellen (Delaney) Harvey in Toronto. Martin and Matilda Lamb moved to 214 Wabash around 1883.

Martin Lamb is listed at 214 Wabash in 1883, the
first time the address appears in the city directories.

James F. Buchanan

On June 14, 1884, Clement Lafferty sold the house to contractor James Buchanan. It's possible that Buchanan originally built the house for Lafferty (which would explain why he chose to move into the home a few years later), but there is no direct evidence of this.

On January 22, 1884, renters Mr. and Mrs. Lamb had their first child, Hazel. They would later have two more daughters, Irene and Ruth Ellen.

"218" is a typo--the directories list the family at 214 Wabash.

Other renters evidently stayed with the Lamb family in this house. The 1883 directory lists a William J. Marshall at the address, and the 1886 edition indicates that a Miss Mina Humphries lived there.

214 Wabash and vicinity as it appeared in 1885. (M Library Digital Collections)

The last year the Lamb family was listed at this address was 1886. They moved to an address on 19th Street, and later to the Boston-Edison Neighborhood. Matilda Lamb died March 3, 1906. Martin remarried in 1906 and died April 6, 1919.

Three years after purchasing 214 Wabash, James F. Buchanan moved into the home with his family. Buchanan was born on September 19, 1858 in Drumquinn, County Tyrone, Ireland to Patrick and Mary (McCormick) Buchanan. He came from a family of textile manufacturers, and as a teenager he was sent to Belfast to study mechanical engineering. In 1875 he moved to Detroit, briefly living on the east side before relocating to Corktown. Buchanan married Mary Ann Ferry, also an Irish immigrant, in 1879, and they had three children before moving to 214 Wabash. While living at 214 Wabash, they had two additional children: Margaret, born January 1887; and Thomas, born January 4, 1891.

214 Wabash Street in the 1889 Sanborn Maps. Note that the house did not yet
have a covered porch. It and other architectural details were added later.

On August 2, 1897, James Buchanan's wife Mary Ann died from a pelvic abscess at the age of 43.

The house and vicinity, 1897. A carpenter shop was added at the rear of the property.
Also note that the covered porch on the front of the house was built by this time.
The Frederick Bechstein House, at 195 Wabash, is at the bottom left.

After his wife's death, Mr. Buchanan decided to sell his house. This ad appeared in the Detroit Free Press on December 4, 1898:


Ten days after that ad ran, a notice of a more personal nature was printed in the same paper under "Local Brevities":

John P. Buchanan did return--the 1900 Census shows him living with his father.

On August 12, 1899, James Buchanan remarried in Essex, Ontario. His second wife was Jane Tyre, born in Brownstown in 1878. Buchanan finally sold 214 Wabash on February 1, 1900 to Pauline C. Ball for $8,000.

James Buchanan went on to create many more homes as well as commercial and public buildings, including many of the structures that once comprised the Eloise Asylum in Westland. Among them was the hospital for female mental patients, completed in 1903.

Pauline C. Ball

Pauline C. (Kroehl) Ball owned the house very briefly, and only as a rental property. The home was occupied by Canadian immigrants Amasa and Sarah Jane (Martin) Beebe and their three sons, Robert, Earl, and Wilfred. When Beebe moved to 214 Wabash in 1900, he was the Secretary Treasurer of the Freeman B. Dickerson Company, a publisher located at 67-71 Michigan Avenue. The company's owner, Freeman Dickerson, was once a board member of the Eloise Asylum and former Postmaster of Detroit. When it was necessary to build a post office at what was then the Wayne County Poor House, he elected to name it Eloise, after his four-year-old daughter. The name eventually became synonymous with the entire institution.

The building on the far left housed the offices of the F. B. Dickerson Company, employ-
er of Amasa Beebe. Photo courtesy of the Shorpy Historic Photo Archive

Samuel and Clarissa Kingsley

Pauline Ball sold 214 Wabash to Samuel R. Kingsley Jr. and his wife, Clarissa A. (Norris) Kingsley on April 12, 1901. Mr. Kingsley was the Wayne County Register of Deeds at the time and a veteran of the Civil War. Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley lived in Romulus and continued to rent out the property on Wabash Street.

By 1907, Amasa Beebe and his family moved to a home on Forest Avenue, and then later to Los Angeles, where Mr. Beebe died in 1939. The Beebes were followed by the family of Oscar A. Prunner, a lantern maker at the Buhl Stamping Company. Prunner was born in Canada around 1863 and married Nancy Crowley in 1883. They immigrated to the U.S. and had two sons, Oscar Allen Jr. and George Wesley.

The Detroit Free Press on July 20, 1909 reported an accident on the Baker Street bridge involving Mrs. Prunner:


A later article stated that she sued the city for $10,000, but it is not known how the case turned out. (By which I mean I couldn't find out how to get the information for free on the internet.)

The 1910 Census shows that a seventeen-year-old servant named
Tracy Burner lived with the Prunner family at the time.

James and Mary Taylor

The home's owner, Samuel Kingley, died on December 1, 1917. On September 27, 1919, his widow, Clarissa, sold the property to James R. and Mary Ellen (Miller) Taylor for $6,000. Samuel Kingsley and James Taylor were former business partners and and lived on the same street in Romulus, Michigan. At the time, Mr. Taylor was on the board of directors of the Romulus State Bank and continued to use 214 Wabash strictly as a source of rental income.

The following year, the home received a new set of tenants:
  • Charles Ferris, 29, born in New York. Occupation: steam fitter.
  • Alice Ferris, 24, born in Canada. Wife of Charles Ferris.
  • Charles Ferris Jr., 2, son of Charles and Alice Ferris.
  • August J. Samstag, 25, born in New York. Occupation: city fireman.
  • Laura E. (Scott) Samstag, 20, born in Michigan. Wife of August Samstag.
  • Nellie B. McNurney, 30, born in Michigan. Occupation: telegraph operator.

This Sanborn Map of the area was published in 1921,
the same year the address changed from 214 to 1778.

Nellie B. McNurney

On April 20, 1922, James and Mary Taylor sold the house to one of the renters, Miss McNurney. The home was owner-occupied for the first time in over twenty years. Living with Nellie McNurney was her mother, Mary (Gillick) McNurney, born in Connecticut in 1850. She married Patrick McNurney in the late 1860s and the couple settled in Corktown in the early 1870s. Mary claimed to be "widowed" as early as the 1900 census, but in fact her husband was alive and living at the Eloise Asylum, where he also worked as a janitor. He died there in 1914.

Nellie McNurney's brother, Francis Patrick McNurney, also moved in after his wife committed suicide in 1926. He worked as a clerk in an auto factory. Their sister, Isabelle (who never married) moved to 1778 Wabash around 1930.

Detail from 1930 Census listing the residents of 1778 Wabash.
Mary (Gillick) McNurney had passed away by this time.


Some of the historical records obtained contain gaps after 1940. The McNurney family was listed at the home in 1941, but the next available deed on the house shows that it was sold by Nick Horsft and Lillian M. Kahl to Apolonio Renteria on August 25, 1945. No city directories were printed during World War II, so it is not known when the McNurneys moved out. Apolonio Renteria was a construction worker and Mexican immigrant who lived on the east side who again used 1778 Wabash as a rental property.

After Renteria's death, the house was sold by Lucy Madden, the administrator of his estate, to Melesio and Beatriz S. Morales on December 15, 1964. Melesio was born in Texas, and Beatriz in Mexico. They continued to rent out the home. The city directories are incomplete, but from as early as 1956 to at least 1968, the home was rented by Santos and Juanita Benavides. Mr. Benavides worked for the Delray Connecting Railroad. In 1973, a Soloman Benavides is listed at the address.

1778 Wabash in 1976.

Finally, on March 4, 1980, Melesio and Beatriz Morales sold the house to its current owner, Martha H. Delgado, who lives in the home with her husband Louis. This garden of this beautifully restored home will be on the 2011 Corktown Historical Home and Garden Tour, just three weeks away!

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

1 comment:

  1. Hi Paul, Thanks for info regarding James F. Buchanan. I am doing research for James Buchanan whose grandfather built the house. Contact if you want more details.