Prior to the Civil War, Lt. Ulysses S. Grant and his family lived in a simple white clapboard house on Fort Street for a little more than a year. The house, which has been on the State Fairgrounds site since 1936, soon will move to Eastern Market.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan History Center, and the Eastern Market Partnership are working together to relocate the historic building to the corner of Orleans and Wilkins streets where it will become a new resource for residents, schoolchildren, and visitors.
“The new location of the Grant House is exciting, as it is closer to its original location,” says Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Partnership, the nonprofit organization that manages Eastern Market on behalf of the city of Detroit. “We are happy to have the home and the stories it can tell about Detroit in the mid-19th century become a part of the fabric of Eastern Market.”
The new location is part of the Eastern Market garden project and will include gardens and a small orchard.
“This will not be a traditional house museum,” says Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan History Center. “Our hope is to make it place to explore Grant’s life and the impact he made on Detroit while living here and in his later actions as a Civil War general and U.S. president.”
When the Grants moved into the house in 1849, it was located at 253 Fort St. East, between Rivard and Russell. Their first son, Frederick, was born while they lived there. Detroiters kept the house’s association with Grant alive, decorating it in mourning upon his death on July 23, 1885.
When the house was slated for demolition in 1936, the Michigan Mutual Co. purchased it and moved it to the fairgrounds, where it was opened to the public for tours for many decades.
Moving, securing, and renovating the house for public use are expected to take one to two years. The Michigan State Housing and Development Authority, seeing the potential for the house to contribute to the community around Eastern Market, provided a grant to support the move.
Work on preparing the home for the move, including the removal of lead-based exterior paint, will begin in later this month. The move itself is expected to take place before the end of August.
“We are grateful to MSHDA for providing funding to make the move possible,” says Clark. “Our next step will be raising funds to fully renovate the home and determining how it can best serve the Eastern Market and Detroit communities.”
Heritage Michigan, the private foundation that supports the Michigan History Center, is developing a campaign to fund the renovation and programming for the house, which it plans to announce later this summer.