November 23, 2011

Cymbre Apartments

Cymbre Apartments, 1533 Ash Street

A couple of months ago I moved out of the Bechstein House on Wabash Street and into an apartment building in North Corktown. This three-story, brick building was constructed during World War I and originally contained fifteen apartments. A name plate over the front entrance reads "Cymbre".

Butterfield & Butterfield

The building was designed by the architecture firm Butterfield & Butterfield, whose offices were located in suite 1113 of the David Whitney Building. The firm consisted of Wells D. Butterfield and his daughter, Emily H. Butterfield--the first woman to be a licensed architect in the state of Michigan.

Image courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Wells D. Butterfield was born on June 10, 1859 in Algonac, Michigan. On August 4, 1881 he married Helen Hossie, a native of Sarnia, Ontario. Together they had three children: Emily, Clayton, and Duane. Wells Butterfield is perhaps most famous for designing the Highland Park High School, although he ultimately specialized in churches--especially of the Methodist denomination--having designed over sixty in his lifetime. After retiring from architecture, Butterfield became the first mayor of Farmington, Michigan, after it incorporated as a city in 1926. Wells Butterfield died on July 15, 1936.

Emily Helen Butterfield

Emily Butterfield was born just outside of Algonac, Michigan on August 4, 1884. She graduated from the Detroit Central High School in 1903 and went on to study architecture at Syracuse University. The following year, she and ten other students founded a fraternity for women, Alpha Gamma Delta, whose membership has exceeded 160,000 since its founding. Miss Butterfield wrote the fraternity's Purpose, served as editor of its newsletter for seven years, and designed its coat-of-arms--Miss Butterfield was an expert on college fraternity heraldry and would later write a book on the subject. After graduating from Syracuse in 1907, she returned to Detroit to join her father in business. In May of 1912, she was among the founding members of the Detroit Business Woman's Club--the first professional women's club in the nation--and served as its first president. In addition to her career as an architect, Miss Butterfield was also an accomplished artist and contributor to home and garden magazines. Miss Butterfield passed away in Algonac, Michigan on March 22, 1958.

Buildings designed by Butterfield & Butterfield include the Highland Park High School, already mentioned; the Methodist Episcopal Church in Farmington (1922), and various homes in "The Oaklands" (1925-1927), a planned suburban community in Farmington Hills intended to resemble small "estates", but never completed due to the Great Depression.

Albert S. Pratt

The builder and first owner of these apartments was Albert Samuel Pratt, born in Detroit on September 26, 1881.

Albert Samuel Pratt, Sr.
Image courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Albert's father, William Pratt, was a builder, and died from pneumonia when Albert was just five years old. Albert Pratt learned carpentry like his father and ultimately became a successful contractor.

On March 12, 1917, the City of Detroit issued building permit number 13008 to Albert Pratt for the construction of this apartment building. The estimated cost of construction was $23,000.00.

The building permit issued by the city to construct Cymbre Apartments.

At the time, Pratt lived at 515 (later 3145) Trumbull, just at the end of the street. He did not marry until the year after building the apartments, at the age of 36. The following marriage announcement was printed in the Detroit Free Press on May 12 1918:
The marriage of Miss elda May Evo and Mr. Albert S. Pratt was quietly solemnized Wednesday morning [May 8]. Rev. Edwin D. Dimond, of Simpson Tabernacle Methodist church, officiating. After an extended motor trip through the east Mr. and Mrs. Pratt will be at home at 515 Trumbull avenue.
The one detail of the building that always seemed somewhat enigmatic to me was the name "Cymbre" displayed above the front entrance. I've learned that it turns out to be a tribute to a specific individual.

Cymbre Anne (Fox) Pratt was the mother of Albert Pratt. She was born in Wroxton, England on July 8, 1850 and came to the United States at age two. She married William Pratt in Waukesha, Wisconsin on January 21, 1874 and moved to Detroit. They had four sons, including Albert Pratt. Cymbre Ann Pratt died on May 11, 1925.

Albert and Elda Pratt had two children, Albert Samuel Jr. and Cymbre Ann. They are 92 and 88, respectively, and live outside of Michigan. Cymbre Ann (now Mrs. Ferguson) told me she also has a daughter named Cymbre Ann.

Albert Pratt was a well-known Methodist layman in his lifetime and very active in charity work. He chaired the building committee of the Methodist Children's Home Society for neglected and homeless children. The buildings of "Children's Village" were completed in 1929 near Six Mile Road in Redford. "Throughout the years," wrote a contemporary newspaper, "the Pratts have opened their home to several young people after they were released from Methodist Children's Home. In many instances, Mr. Pratt helped these young people to find jobs. Since the end of World War II, the Pratts have also sponsored many displaced European families and aided them to reconstruct their lives here in this country." Mr. Pratt was elected to the Methodist Hall of Fame in Philanthropy in 1956 for his work. He passed away in Detroit on November 30, 1964.

First Occupants

1533 Ash Street--originally numbered 65 Ash--first appeared in the city directories in 1918. Unfortunately, individual apartment numbers were not listed in the directories until the 1920s.

The residents of Cymbre Apartments in 1918.

The first people listed at this address were for the most part a combination of skilled laborers and white-collar workers. Details on these individuals are as follows:
  • Jennie (Thomas) Barbour, registered nurse. Born 1870, Illinois. Mother of four children, only one of whom survived: her daughter Ella May Barbour, a teacher at the Clippert School. Ella May went on to marry Clarence W. Fisher in 1923.
  • William Aloysious Forster, machinist at the American Car and Foundry Company, a manufacturer of railroad rolling stock. Born 1877, England--immigrated 1886. In 1911, married Mary Corrigan, born about 1883, Canada--immigrated 1886. Their son, William, was born around 1908.
  • William Smith, janitor. He may have been the building's maintenance man.
  • Albert Russell, machinist.
  • Chester Charles Conn, insurance agent. Born 1895, Michigan. In 1915, married Agnes E. Scully, born about 1896, Michigan. Their daughter, Shirley, was born about 1917.
  • John Joseph O'Hagan, traveling candy salesman (!) for E. J. Brach & Sons of Chicago. Born 1889, Ontario--immigrated 1895. In 1908, married Angela Breece, born 1890, Michigan. Their son, John Jr., was born in 1912.
  • Martha (Officer) Piper, born 1842, Ohio. Widow of Abraham Piper (1824-1897). They had no children. Mrs. Piper lived in this building until her death on October 17, 1920.
  • Walter Harold Gubb, salesman. Born 1891, Ontario--immigrated 1906. In 1915 married Anne M. Lowry, born 1888 Canada--immigrated 1891. Their son, George L., was born in 1917. Later, they had another son, Alan K.
  • Merrill Ray Edelblute, bench hand at the Lincoln Motor Company. Born 1886, Kansas. In 1918, married Maude Taylor, born about 1892, Arkansas. They had no children.
  • Charles Albrecht Reuter, ordnance inspector at American Car & Foundry. Born 1882, Kentucky. In 1913, married Mabel Henry, born 1894, Michigan. They had two sons at the time: Charles L. (b. 1916) and John H. (b. 1918).
  • Francis Joseph Gleason, plumber for the Drake-Avery Co. Born 1892, New York. Never married.
  • Andrew Charles Fasbender, bookkeeper at the Regent Stove Co. in Wyandotte. Born 1885, Michigan. On January 30, 1918, married Gladys L. (Dickerson) Elliot, born 1890, Michigan. (Fasbender was previously married to Nettie R. Kramp. They had a child, Walter, who died in 1909 at one month old. The couple later divorced.)
  • Louis Benjamin Brooks, mail carrier. Born 1878, Michigan. In 1904, married Sadie T. Horrigan, born about 1882, Michigan. Their son, Willis J., was born in 1905.
Below is the Sanborn Map from 1921 of the area around Cymbre Apartments. Roll your cursor over the image to see a recent satellite image of the same area. Rollover Image The building is currently owned by Thomas Cieszkowski, a lifelong Detroiter and 20-year resident of North Corktown. Currently, only six of the building's original fifteen apartments are inhabited. Cieszkowski plans on renovating the remaining units when demand for housing in the area increases sufficiently.

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