The Way It Was – The Charles Christopher Trowbridge Home, 1955

The Charles Christopher Trowbridge Home, 1955
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Trowbridge Home
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE WALTER P. REUTHER LIBRARY, ARCHIVES OF LABOR AND URBAN AFFAIRS, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY (THE DETROIT NEWS)

1955Though scores of commuters pass the house on the right at 1380 E. Jefferson Ave., it’s not likely that many are aware of its historical significance. In fact, the Charles Christopher Trowbridge home is Detroit’s oldest documented structure, erected when John Quincy Adams was president. In 1826, Trowbridge built the home for him and his new bride, Catherine Sibley, daughter of Solomon Sibley, Detroit’s first mayor. Something of a Renaissance man, Trowbridge was a banker and businessman, politician (he briefly served as Detroit’s mayor, in 1834), explorer, and ethnographer of Native Americans. He was unsuccessful in his bid to be Michigan’s first governor, in 1837. Today Trowbridge would have to do a double take to recognize his home. It was originally much larger and in the Greek Revival style. In the late 19th century, it was reduced in size, apparently to accommodate the Victorian home on the left. It also underwent architectural changes through the years, so the home now is a pastiche of Victorian and federal elements. Trowbridge lived in the home until his death in 1883. Later it served as the home and studio of Polish artist Roman Kryzanowski, who was one of the founders of Detroit’s Scarab Club. After his death in 1929, it became a rooming house in the 1930s, then a single residence again in 1942. The edifice is truly a survivor, and in 1976 was included on the National Register of Historic Places. These days it houses several businesses, including a law firm, accounting firm, and a real-estate company.

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