Out and About: Discover the History of Northville

WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTOS | MILL RACE HISTORICAL VILLAGE

Multicolored leaves swaying amid a resplendent fall sky compel us to cherish the day and seize the season. Perhaps we embark on a color tour or visit an orchard to relax and recall simpler times.

Northville, a quintessential charming small town, is a delightful destination on autumn days, which may be surprising because the city is in Metro Detroit. Just less than an hour’s drive from the skyscrapers and freeways of the RenCen, Northville’s farmers market continues on Thursdays through October. A lovely place to relax, Northville is awash in architectural character of days gone by, with restored Victorian homes, a historic downtown, and unique antique exhibitions.

One of the local treasures is Northville’s Mill Race Historical Village, a designated historical site comprising buildings that have been saved from demolition and preserved for future generations.

“Fall is a great time to visit Mill Race Historical Village! The colorful foliage and period landscaping provide a beautiful accent to the historic buildings, each of which tells a unique story of the city’s founding and development,” according to Leanie Bayly, executive director of the Northville Historical Society.

“Truly a hidden gem, the Village is a perfect place to enjoy the splendor of the fall season,” stated Bayly.

The Mill Race Historical Village was established in 1972 by the Northville Historical Society on property donated to the city by the Ford Motor Company.

The Society focuses on the preservation and display of architectural styles and furnishings of the 19th century, from several prominent periods of early Northville. The village features an inn, blacksmith shop, schoolhouse, church, general store, exhibit hall, weaver’s cottage, and more.

The first structure moved to the site was the New School Presbyterian Church, built in 1845. One neighbor is the Cady Inn, circa 1831, a colonial residence that is believed to have been an early stagecoach stop and was moved to the village in 1987. The one-room Wash-Oak School was built in 1873 and operated through 1969.

Tours of the village may include a live blacksmith demonstration or a weaving session at the Weavers Cottage, a Victorian cottage that was originally built around 1889 and moved to the village in 1976.

Two period-style museums are housed in historic homes. The Hunter House is a classic Greek Revival built in 1851, and the Yerkes House is a traditional Carpenter Gothic style built in 1873 by descendants of early settlers.

The buildings are open for tours on Sundays, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm, through mid-October. Docents recount historical stories of each building. The grounds are open year-round, from dawn to dusk.

Several special events are taking place at the village this fall. The annual Victorian Clothing Sale runs September 9-11, in time for outfitting attendees for the city-wide Victorian Heritage Festival, taking place September 15-16. The festival features many Victorian-era themed activities and concludes with its signature Duck Race, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

New this year is the Halloween Hysteria family event on Sunday, October 28.

Another enjoyable, historic fall destination in Northville is Parmenter’s Cider Mill, which was established by the son of an original settler in 1873 to produce vinegar.

Today, Parmenter’s makes fresh donuts, apple cider, and caramel apples and sells myriad local products. Open daily from September through mid-November from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm; the venue also has hard ciders, a craft brewery, and a winery with tastings. In the spirit of the season, pair an apple cider slush with caramel apple chips. Select a locally made memento or gift, such as Dearborn Summer Sausage or Brownwood Acres preserves, which feature Michigan fruits.

Memorabilia also awaits at the J.M. Mead General Store, which was the last timber-framed building standing in downtown Northville. Built between 1830 and 1850, it was disassembled board by board before being reconstructed using some of the original materials on the grounds of the village.

Unique treasures are also available at the Northville Art House, which offers an extensive assortment of original artwork. Select from paintings, photographs, fiber arts, ceramics, jewelry, and more, all handmade by more than 50 local and Midwest artists.

Numerous parks and trails in Northville also inspire visitors to slow down and appreciate the vibrant beauty of autumn in Southeast Michigan.

About the Northville Historical Society

The Northville Historical Society (NHS) was founded and incorporated in 1964 to bring people interested in history, and especially in the history of Northville, together. Their mission is to discover, collect, preserve, advance, and disseminate knowledge of the history of the region.

The Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit volunteer organization, responsible for the financing and operation of Mill Race Village and the preservation of the Northville Archives.

The NHS relies upon fundraisers and donations and supplements its operating expenses by renting some of its venues. The New School Church and Gazebo are popular wedding locales; the Cady Inn is available for private parties and meetings.

The village grounds are open dawn to dusk unless posted otherwise and may close for private rental events. Business offices are open Monday-Wednesday, 9:00 am to1:00 pm by appointment.

 

Northville Historical Society at Mill Race Village – 215 Griswold Street, (248) 348-1845 l MillRaceNorthville.org

Northville Chamber of Commerce – 195 South Main Street, (248) 349-7640

Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill – 714 Baseline Road, (248)349-3181, NorthvilleCider.com