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50 years vacant, the J.D. Baer house is finally ready for new tenants

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Michelle & Chris Gerard

Last fall, we took you inside the renovation of the J.D. Baer house, an impressive 1888 home on Trumbull that had been vacant and exposed to the elements for decades. After a year and a half renovation, it’s finally ready to be called home again.

This first picture was found in the Burton Historical Collection, date unknown. You can see the farmland in the distance and the original porch on the front of the house.

The JD Baer House, date unknown
Burton Historical Collection; Detroit Public Library

When Alex Pereira bought the property in 2015, it was pretty far gone. The roof had large holes in it, leaving the house exposed to the elements for years. The porch was long gone, but the previous owner had kept many of the bricks.

The house circa April 2015
Alex Pereira

The wood flooring was often too dangerous to walk on. Much of the woodwork (trim, molding, stairway) was in decent shape, but it was all painted over. Yes, gorgeous woodwork was covered with years of paint that the crew stripped during the renovation. Some of the doors were original, while they reclaimed others. Here’s an idea of what the inside looked like.

The stairway was in OK condition, but look at all that paint!
Not much was left of the fireplace, except some tiling.
Brown paint covered the woodwork
Pretty standard for the floors

And now for a look at the present day. The hardware on many of the doors is original to the house, and it is spectacular.

Stained glass windows were custom made by Terraza Stained Glass.

Pereira originally wanted to restore it to a single-family home, but as the renovations started, turning it into apartments made sense for the developer. This also allowed for work on a garden level commercial space, and Pereira is still looking for a tenant to take that over. In such a dense neighborhood, Woodbridge has few retail or restaurant options, and something like a coffee shop would make a lot of sense there.

The third floor presented a unique challenge. When Pereira and crew acquired the house, the roof was literally being held up with a metal cabinet.

The angular ceilings made a real living space tricky. So now, it will be used as an airbnb.

This renovation would be a massive undertaking for any developer. All systems were updated (each unit has its own heating and cooling systems). The units were insulated for energy efficiency and sound insulation. Windows were restored, hardware was recreated on the windows, and light fixtures specific to the period were reclaimed. Some wood boards from the Forest Arms was used in the common staircase. A few units are still available to rent.

If you know anything about Pereira, you know his houses always have a theme (Lorax, Up, Wonderland). This one is a more “subtle” Willy Wonka theme, shown in a quote on the sidewalk and the exterior paint colors. Here’s a closer look inside the J.D. Baer House.

Watch: Restoring a Victorian house