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One of Detroit’s oldest houses is for sale

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The James Smith Log Cabin, plus its neighbor, is for sale for $29,900

Photos courtesy of the Detroit Land Bank Authority

Here’s one of those “only in Detroit” stories. A few years ago, someone told Preservation Detroit about a log cabin covered in vinyl siding in the Oakman Boulevard Community neighborhood. Amy Elliott Bragg, Preservation Detroit board member, said they came to check out the unassuming building. “It had been vacant for several years and was not in good condition, but we were so excited about this kind of secret, tucked away in the neighborhood, and wanted to do what we could to bring attention to the fact that this great piece of history was just hiding in plain sight.”

Bragg says the James Smith Farm House, or Log Cabin, could have been built as far back as 1830, but no later than 1850. “The oldest house in Detroit was built in 1826, so if it is that old, it’s in the running for one of the oldest existing properties in the city of Detroit.”

The little house is currently for sale for $29,900 through the Detroit Land Bank Authority, and includes the duplex next to it (more photos of the duplex can be found in the listing). It sits slightly askew compared to its neighbors on Clements Street.

James Bufalino, Broker and Owner of Premier Property Services, says that it’s unique in many ways. It has historical significance, it comes with a duplex, and there are live/work opportunities for the new owner. He says there has been interest in the property, but no one has sealed the deal yet. The neighbors would appreciate a new use for the building though.

“Neighbors are disappointed that it’s still vacant,” he says. “They’re looking forward to having it revitalized. They’re very warm and welcoming and I’m excited to see something positive happen with these two structures.”

Bragg hopes the new owner will highlight the historical significance, and use it as a tool for the community. “ I think it would be great for people to be able to come and see the log cabin and to understand the role that it played in this neighborhood and this city’s history,” she says. “Maybe use it as an educational place where people could learn about agricultural history in Detroit—where they could learn about farming.”

The structure was built by hand with logs and stone, and Bragg says it wasn’t built to last, but it’s obviously stood the test of time. The neighbors watching over it through the years certainly helps. Any takers?