History of the 4444 Second Ave Building

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History of the Area

Warren-Prentis Historic District

The Green Garage is located at 4444 Second, which is considered part of the Warren-Prentis Historic District of Detroit. This district is part of a greater area known as Cass Farms which refers to a large parcel of land once owned by Lewis Cass, former governor of the State of Michigan. His property comprised 500 acres and was bounded by present day Cass Avenue and 3rd Street, and stretched from the Detroit River to 3 miles inland (approximately up to Grand Boulevard). Going back to the early days of French dominion, the land that would one day be known as Cass Farms was at that time divided into 3 separate parcels and was deeded by the French king as follows:

  • Jacques Godet, April 1750
  • Jean Baptiste des Butes dit St. Martin, in two deeds, April 1750 and March 1759
  • Francois Barrios, April 1752

At some time before the American Revolution, the parcels came under the ownership of Charles Courtois, Francois Berthelet and Charles Beaubien.

In 1783, all three parcels were purchased by the merchant firm of Macomb-Edgar-Macomb (William and Alexander Macomb, and William Edgar). At some point all of the property became the estate of William Macomb and was then passed to his three sons, David, William and John. It was from the Macomb family that Lewis Cass purchased the entirety of the property in 1816 for $12,000.

From 1830 to 1836, the population of Detroit grew so rapidly (from 2,222 in 1830 to 6,927 in 1836), that the front portion of Cass Farms from Larned Street to the River was needed for wharves, warehouses and hotels to facilitate trade. So in 1835, the Cass Farms Company was formed and purchased the front section from Lewis Cass for $100,000.

As Detroit became a leading manufacturing center in the last 2 decades of the nineteenth century, and the population doubled in size, many professionals and managers were looking for housing that would reflect their increased status. This area was considered a prime location as it was close enough for those who still had to commute by horse and carriage. Leading architects were hired to develop these substantial homes. By the 1920's, this area, particularly along Cass Corridor, was also was home to many of the first automobile dealerships, and this was the first use of the Green Garage.

The area began to decline during the Great Depression, when most families found that they could not maintain such vast residences. Many of these homes were rented to multiple families, who often did not keep them up. During the 1950's and 1960's when the population of the area decreased sharply, the area went into further decline, and in the 1970's and 1980's, the Cass Corridor was known as an area of numerous illegal activities.

The area has seen a resurgence since the 1990's with increased student populations, Cultural Center and medical center activity. The Warren-Prentis district contains 108 historic structures, and is notable because the majority of the pre-1930's building stock remains.

History of the Green Garage building

Polk's Detroit City Directories at the Detroit Public Library

The building was constructed in 1920, during a boom time in Detroit. We examined a number of volumes of Polk's Detroit City Directory (if you'd like to see a sample of one of these directories, Google has digitized an 1855 Detroit directory). We found out that the building has had many owners -- here's what we've learned so far:

Detroit City Directories from 1881-1919

During the period from 1881 to 1919, the property presently occupied by the Green Garage contained three houses with the addresses of 800, 804 and 808 Second Avenue. We were able to find the names of the families who lived in these homes using Polk's Detroit City Directories from the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library. Additional information about these families was found through searches of Ancestry.com, Google Book Search and the Detroit Public Library's online digital collection of photographs, Early Detroit Images. Interestingly, several of the residents of these properties were successful businessmen who had each attained a level of prominence in the city of Detroit. Here are the names of the people who lived in these homes:

800 Second Avenue:

  • 1881 - Vacant
Detroit, Lansing & Northern Railroad Locomotive
  • The Mulliken Family - 1882-1896

Living at this address beginning in 1882 were John B. Mulliken, his wife, Emma A. (Batcheldor), and sons Harry B. and George F. John B. was born in New York in 1837 and his wife was born in Vermont, also in 1837. While living at 800 Second Ave., John B. was the General Manager of the Detroit, Lansing & Northern Railroad, the Chicago & West Michigan Railway, and the Citizens' Street Railway Company. The office of the Detroit, Lansing & Northern Railroad was located at 28 Newberry Building. In 1891, John B. is listed as a commissioner at the Board of Public Works. He was also a Civil War veteran, having served with the Fourth Cavalry from Hillsdale County, Michigan. John B. died on Nov. 23, 1892 at the age of 55. Emma Mulliken remained in the house with son, Harry, a student, until sometime between 1895 and 1896 when she moved to a new address at 91 Farnsworth.

Their son, George F. Mulliken, born in Belvedere, Illinois in 1867, attended the Michigan Military Academy from 1886 to 1888, after which time he enrolled at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1892 with a Bachelor of Arts. He then went to work for Cooper, Wells & Company of St. Joseph (Berrien County), Michigan where he was a major stockholder and Treasurer of the company. Cooper, Wells was a manufacturer of women's and girls' hosiery and one of the largest business concerns in Berrien County.

  • The Ross Family - 1897-1912
    • Susanna T. (Anna) Ross, widow of Edward H. Ross, with son, John L., move into 800 Second Ave. around 1897. US Census records indicate that Susanna was born in Ireland in 1838 and immigrated to the US in 1848.
    • From 1904-1905, also listed at this address is the Eugene Chemical Company.
    • 1912 - Address is listed under John L. Ross. He worked at Ross & Young Machine Co, tel. no. Grand 1115.
  • The Doyle Family - 1913-1916
    • The John D. Doyle family move into 800 Second Ave. in 1913. Family includes wife, Suzanna (Susie), son, Thomas Allen, and boarder, Florence R. Cook.
    • Thomas worked as a chauffeur for the People's State Bank.
    • Florence Cook was a dressmaker.
    • According to US Census records, the Doyle family was originally from New York.
  • Samuel Jacobs - 1917-1918
    • Worked as a machinist.
  • Fred Reissman - 1919
    • Worked as a foreman at the Michigan Shade Cleaning Co.

804 Second Avenue:

808 Second Avenue:

Detroit City Directories 1921-1965

1921-1922:

  • 4442-50 Second Blvd.....DeFord Motor Truck Co
    • Jas M DeFord (pres)
    • E Foster Moreton (vice pres)
    • Jas L Weir (sec-tres)
  • 4445 Second Blvd.....Schad, Phillip G. and Hoffenbacher, Fannie

1922-1923

  • 4442-50 Second Blvd.....Ames-built Sales Corp (bodies for Model T cars)
    • Chas E Walker (pres)
    • Geo A Hans (vice pres)
    • L R Welcome (vice pres)
    • H G Beebe (Jackson, MI) (vice pres)
    • Chas G Nielsen (sec and tres - auto bodies)
  • 4445 Second Blvd.....Schad, Phillip G.

1924-1925 VACANT

1927-1928

  • Wayne Automotive Supply Co

1929-1932

  • Harrison Radiator Corp.
    • Geo VanAlstyne (br manager)

1933-1934 VACANT

1934-1937

  • Harrison Oldsmobile Co
    • David P Harr (pres)
    • Mrs. Eliza C Harr (vice pres)
    • Frank P Kottenstette (sec-tres autos)

1938 VACANT

1939

  • Hartman Motor Sales
    • Earl T. Hartman
    • Abraham Farris

1940

  • ABC Garage
    • Morris Cameron

1941

  • McCray Refrigerator Co. and Dealers Auto Radio

1941-1942

  • Samuel Kanners brought his shoe supply business to the building

1944

  • Bob Zukowski begins work at S. Kanners and Co.

1952

  • Frank Lucente starts work at Kanners and Patrize shoveling coal after school

1956

  • S. Kanners and Co.
    • Samuel Kanners, President

1958

  • Victor Kanners and Samuel Patrize brought their shoe businesses together into the building. Becomes Kanners and Patrize.

1964-1965

  • Kanners and Patrize Co.
    • Victor Kanners
    • Samuel Patrize

1967

  • Detroit riots

1968

  • Annex built
  • Windows bricked up in building on advice of insurance company

1976

  • In 1976, the building was co-owned by 4 people who worked there:
    • Bob Patrize (Samuel Patrize's son) (President) (sales)
    • Bob Zukowski (Vice President) (ran office)
    • Chester Martin (Secretary) (sales)
    • Frank Lucente (Treasurer) (ran warehouse)

1990

  • Bob Zukowski leaves and the business was sold to Frank Lucente's 2 sons, Frank and Douglas Lucente in 1990. The boys owned the business and the father owned the building.

1996

  • Dave Lucente sold out to Doug Lucente in 1996.

1996 or 1997

  • Building is sold to John Linardos of Motor City Brewing Works.

2007

  • John Linardos sells the building to Tom and Peggy Brennan.

Fall 2009

  • Construction on Green Garage starts.

More on the Ames Corp

Ames-built Sales Corp sold replacement bodies for Model T cars from 1916, when the carriage business was forced out by the automobile business, until 1926, when they were no longer needed.

Additional Material

Historic Pictures

The interior of the building in the 1920's
The exterior of the building in 1922
The exterior of the building in the 1960's
The exterior of the building in the 1960's
S. Kanners & Co. Sales Force in 1948
Martin and Bob Zukowski with The Chief circa 1948
Victor Kanners with overseas supplier in 1969
Kanners and Patrize picnic in 1961
Kanners and Patrize picnic in 1992
S Kanners and Co in the 1940's



Current Research

There were houses on the lots that the historic section of the GG sits on. Who owned the houses? Did they have kids? What did they do? Do their ancestors still live in the area? This is especially important since we've found relics of these families.

What was Cass Farms? I think it was the Lewis Cass farm. We're in Block 99...what does that mean?

Progression of property ownership on Cass Farms Property Source: Cass Farm Property Submission from Wikipedia

  • The Cass Farm area is defined as occupying the space between Woodward Avenue on the east, the Lodge Freeway on the west, Warren Avenue on the north, and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the south.
  • After 1805 fire in Detroit, Congress authorized platting of a new village at Detroit. The land consisted of 3 ribbon farms (the Cass Farm, the Jones/Crane Farm, and the Forsyth Farm), as well as a section of the Park Lots between Woodward and Cass.
  • Development of the area didn't start until the 1860's.
  • Cass purchased the ribbon farm between what is now Cass Ave. and Third in 1816 from the Macomb family for $12,000. He began developing the areas closest to the river first, and by the time he died in 1866 he had developed just north of MLK Blvd. His children continued to develop the property after his death.
  • The Cass Farms area remainder relatively rural until 1870, when the population of Detroit reached 80,000. A streetcar line was established in the 1860's to allow residents of the Cass Farm area to get to downtown.
  • The West Canfield Historic District was one of the first subdivisions platted in the area, in 1871. 1880-1895 brought a boom in the construction of elegant single-family and duplex homes in the Cass Farm area. The lots on Woodward were the most expensive and featured the most opulent homes; the lots immediately off the main street were soon filled with the homes of Detroit's upper class.
  • In the late 1890's the demand for more apartment housing led to more small apartment buildings in the area.
  • In the early 1900's the rise of the automobile and congestion along Woodward led to development of more commercial buildings, (showrooms, service stations, and part supply businesses) and apartment housing for auto workers.
  • The Great Depression began the long decline of the Cass Farms area. Many auto workers were out of work and many buildings went through foreclosure. Economic gains from WWII did not penetrate the area.
  • By the 1950's there was widespread demolition of buildings in the Cass Farms area.

A little more on Lewis Cass Source: Detroit's street names honor early leaders - Detroit News

"Like a number of other streets located west of Woodward, Cass was once a farm boundary line. The Lewis Cass farm, purchased from the Macomb family (the Macomb family, one of Detroit's earliest settlers. They owned large parcels of land and at one time owned Hog Island, later named Belle Isle), was one of the largest Detroit farms, the width of Cass to Third Street and north from the Detroit River to Grand Boulevard in length. The 500 acres bought for $12,000 and the subsequent growth of Detroit made Cass a very wealthy man.

Cass came to Detroit as a schoolmaster in the early 1800s and became a lawyer, a colonel in the militia, and a general in the U.S. Army.

In 1813 President James Madison appointed Cass the second governor of the Michigan territory, a post he held for 18 years. He became a U.S. Senator from Michigan in 1845. In 1848 he ran for president as a Democrat, but lost to Whig Zachary Taylor. He served in the Senate until 1857 and was President James Buchanan's Secretary of State. Cass Street was located immediately west of Fort Shelby, and after Cass the streets were named numerically First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, signifying their order west from the fort."


Images:

French Farm Owners Detroit.jpg



1920/30s Image at WSU Virtual Motor City Collection (Detroit News): Traffic; Canfield & Second; Showing Marked Lanes (2877) (SHOWS RED CROWN GASOLINE STATION!) Source: Virtual Motor City



What is the history of Second Avenue? Did it have an "identity" in the city?

Research into companies or ideas associated with the building's history

From meeting with Bill McElhone of the Birmingham Historical Museum and Park

Organizations:

  • Society of American Archivists
  • Walter Reuther Archives at WSU
    • Mike Smith
    • Cathy Schmelling
    • might have students who need work
  • Manning Bros Collection
  • Burton Historical Collection at MSU
  • State archives
    • Corporation records
  • National Automotive Heritage Collection (part of Det Pub Lib)
  • Detroit Auto Dealers Archives
  • Preservation Wayne

People:

  • Robin Boyle (WSU Planning Department)

Businesses:

  • Allegra - for printing photos
    • Marguerite (248-390-5531)

From meeting with Marsha, Marilyn, Bob and Frank April 8, 2010

Property originally bought from "3 friendly Indians" (On the Abstract)

1922-23

  • Ames bought chassis from Ford & cabs from a furniture company in Kentucky and assembled them at this building

Pre-1941

  • Before 1941 building was a service garage

History of Kanners

  • Sam Kanners born in 1896 came from Romania
  • Originally was a finder (called on businesses and businesses asked them to "find" the supplies they needed) and worked out of his home at Forest and Beaubian
  • 1925 Wendt, Steffen and Kanners opened at 33 Elliott (Elliott and Woodward)
    • Wendt died during World War II
    • Steffen was in Buffalo and only furnished money
  • 1941-2 S. Kanners Co. moved to 4444 Second
    • Note: current Midtown area was birthplace to shoe business. Businesses started as shoe repair shops and also sold shoes.
    • "The Chief" sponsored people from the old country when they a=came to America
    • Bob started with the company in Sept. 1944 He was 14 and made 45 cents an hour.
    • Ida Kanners was head of finance
    • Frank started with the company in 1952
    • in the 1950's Victor Kanners took over the company
    • 1940's Bob had a '36 Plymouth that could only turn left. In 1950's Sam gave Bob an envelope with $1000 and told him to buy a new car
    • 1976 Victor Kanners sold business to Bob & Frank, Chester and Bob Patrize
    • 1996 Frank sold the building to John Linardos
  • Misc. Notes:
    • Before annex was built, it was a dirt lot where the staff would park their cars. The brick wall has parking places marked with staff member initials.
    • Cinch products were their brand

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Resources