When Michigan became a state in 1835, the constitution required that the legislature select a location for a capital other than Detroit. That city had served as a territorial capital since 1805. In the 1840s, it appeared quite possible that British Armies would invade the United States by crossing the Detroit River; hence, the construction of Fort Wayne on the waterfront. For security reasons, it seemed wise to locate the state’s capitol away from the point of a possible British invasion. Ann Arbor, Jackson and Marshall appealed to the legislature for selection as Michigan’s capital. To this day, State Street is one of the main thoroughfares in Ann Arbor, named in hopes of convincing the legislature that Ann Arbor had space and facilities for the state buildings. Unable to agree upon one of these established cities as a capitol, the solons compromised and, in 1846, selected a remote vacant location now called Lansing. It had the advantage of being fairly close to the geographic center of the state and was 80 miles from the British Empire.
For several decades it was challenging to travel from Detroit to Lansing. A rail line west from Michigan’s biggest city was completed in the early 1850s linking Detroit to Ann Arbor, Jackson, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Niles and Chicago. Ann Arbor, Jackson and Marshall were all linked to Detroit by rail when they sought to become the state’s capitol. Realizing that there was no way to travel by train from Detroit to Lansing. Detroit businessmen—in 1865—began funding a rail line from Detroit to Lansing. This was known as the Detroit and Howell Railroad. Another group of investors from the prosperous business center of Howell began building a rail line from their city to Lansing. In 1870, the two lines were consolidated. In 1871, this became the Detroit, Lansing and Lake Michigan Railroad when the Detroit to Lansing line joined with another railroad building west from Lansing. The line continues to operate today linking Detroit to Lansing while passing through Redford Township, Plymouth, Brighton, Howell, Fowlerville, Webberville and Williamson. By the end of the Nineteenth Century, after undergoing several changes in ownership and its name, this line was included in the Pere Marquette Railroad. That was the second largest Michigan-oriented railroad, the Michigan Central being the largest. The Pere Marquette survived as an independent railroad until 1947 when it was purchased by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. Forty years later, the Chesapeake and Ohio and the Southern Railroad merged to form the CSX Railroad, the firm that now operates the rail lines that pass very close to the building that served Redford Township School District Number 9. Commuter trains never operated on this line. Indeed, around 1910, there were only three passenger trains in each direction every day on this line. The last passenger trains ran on this line in spring, 1971, but they ceased stopping near this school in the 1930s.
Villages grew along the railroads. Beech Road crossed the Detroit and Howell Railroad and at this point, a small village developed. I believe it was known as Beech. The school pictured above, built in 1874, was designed to serve 60 students, even though the village had only 50 residents. The optimists must have won when the school board discussed erecting this structure. This is an attractive brick Victorian-style structure with a gable at the front. On either side of the entrance, you see four over four windows. This is an appealing rural school building and so proximate to the rail line that teachers and students must have heard every approaching train.
In 1923, the several small school districts in Redford Township merged. Classes were held in the building you see until 1952. For some years, the building was then used by the school district for storage. Later it served as a home for a series of different non-profit organizations including the Boy Scouts. In 1988, the school district sold the building to private developers. In 2008, it was used as a local historical museum.
Date of Construction: 1874
Architect: Unknown to me
Architectural Style: Late Victorian
State of Michigan Register of Historic Places: Listed May 16, 1991
State of Michigan Historical Marker: In front of building on Beech-Daly Road. The
Marker was put in place on June 25, 1991.
National Register of Historic Sites: Not Listed
Use in 2008: Redford Historical and Geoealogical Association, Historical Museum (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mirthgs/)
Photograph: Ren Farley; October 5, 2008
Description Updated January 16, 2009
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