The historic Detroit residence of Civil War general and former President Ulysses S. Grant is preparing to move across town from the State Fairgrounds to a new home at the corner of Orleans and Wilkins in Eastern Market. Once relocated, it will be thoughtfully restored into an educational center and museum.
Originally built in the 1830s, the two-story building is currently boarded up and in need of repair. The move made possible by a grant from the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority and is expected to take place before August of this year.
Preparations such as stripping its lead-based paint could begin as early as this month. The home’s restoration and renovation into a public attraction, however, is dependent on financing and may take one or two years to complete, according to U.S. News & World Report.
“This will not be a traditional house museum,” said Michigan History Center Director Sandra Clark in a Department of Natural Resources release. “Our hope is to make it a 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.”
The upcoming relocation won’t be the first time that the old clapboard house has moved. When Grant and his wife Julia moved into the building in 1849, it stood at 253 Fort Street. It moved to the State Fairgrounds in 1936 and was slightly repositioned again to its current spot at the corner of Bauman and Ralston streets in 1958.
A plan to move the home has been in discussion since the site hosted its last Michigan State Fair in 2009. The city recently finalized its purchase of 142 acres of state land in the area and has plans to redevelop the site.
The building’s new location in Eastern Market will also include accompanying gardens and a small orchard consistent with the home’s description in a letter by Ulysses sent to Julia. The Michigan History Center plans to host a series of public meetings to gather ideas for the historic home’s renovation and future programming such as lectures and reenactments.
“We want the project to have high community and high educational value,” Clark told Curbed. “Grant’s story is a great story, a young man from the midwest without high expectation becomes the greatest general of the civil war and the president, but it’s also a story that is related to race. Grant was a son of an abolitionist, and he lived in Detroit at a time when the city was heavily involved in the underground railroad.” Clark hopes Grant’s story can find a way to inform new conversations and fit into teaching curriculums.
“It’s a fantastic project, and it’s finally becoming real,” said Erin Burns of Heritage Michigan, the group responsible for fundraising. “It’s a unique opportunity for Detroit and such a good fit for Eastern Market. People have already contacted us, asking how they can help”
Burns estimates it will take about $200,000 clean-up and move the property and an additional $300,000 to make it ready for the community to use. Individuals looking to support the Grant house project can do so by donating at Heritage Michigan’s website.