Ulysses S. Grant’s Detroit home to be moved, renovated

GENERAL GRANT'S OLD HOME ON FORT STREET Image extracted from page 156 of The history of Detroit and Michigan or, the metropolis illustrated by FARMER, Silas. Original held and digitised by the British Library. PUBLIC DOMAIN.

DETROIT — The Detroit home of President Ulysses S. Grant is being moved from the former Michigan State Fairgrounds to the Eastern Market, where it will be refashioned as a public education and resource center.

Sandra Clark, the director the Michigan History Center, said Thursday that the two-story white clapboard house that was built in the 1830s will be renovated and established as a museum to celebrate the nation’s 18th president.

“This will not be a traditional house museum,” said Clark. “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.”
Grant lived at the house with his wife, Julia Dent, from April of 1849 until May of 1850. Their first son, Frederick, was born while they lived there.

The Michigan State Housing and Development Authority has provided a grant to support the move. Clark said it could cost as much as $200,000 to get the house ready to relocate. The move is tentatively scheduled for August, but the operation to renovate and secure the property could take as long as two years.

The home was saved from demolition in 1936 when the Michigan Mutual Liability Co. insurance company bought it and presented it as a gift to the fairgrounds. The home was relocated in 1958 within the grounds to its current spot. HistoricDetroit.org says the building is being moved to make way for development on the fairgrounds, which have been dormant since 2008.

The house will be positioned in the Eastern Market among gardens and an orchard that Clark said would mirror its original setting. In a letter to Dent, Grant described “a garden filled with the best kind of fruit … a long arbour grown over with vines that will bear fine grapes in abundance for us and to give away” including currants, plums and peaches.

Heritage Michigan, the private foundation that supports the history center, is developing a campaign to fund the renovation and programming for the house.