Large abandoned house in Detroit

John Harvey House, Detroit Michigan
Date added: August 08, 2022 Categories: Michigan House
Southern front and western side facades, taken from south looking north (1990)

The John Harvey House was built in 1885. Its architectural style is representative of the eclectic nature of American architecture in the late 19th century. Its owner, John Harvey, businessman and philanthropist, and his family were instrumental in educating and feeding the city's poor children during the period immediately following the Civil War and on into the early twentieth century. The establishment of Detroit's Industrial School and later the Sabbath Mission School did much to aid the city's indigent children.

The land upon which the John Harvey House sits was part of the Park Lots that were part of the ten thousand acres granted by Congress in 1806 and were laid out by order of the Governor and Judges in 1808. The Brush family owned the Park Lots east of Woodward and therefore laid them out and subdivided them according to the same high standards they imposed on the farm bearing their name abutting to the east. All of this area, just north of downtown Detroit, is known as "Brush Park " today. Winder is the earliest street opened in Brush Park, having been put through in 1852. It was named for Colonel John Winder, a landholder that was prominent in the Detroit court system.

John Harvey bought his lot in 1867, but did not build for some years. Permit number 433 was issued to architect John v. Smith on May 6, 1885, for a three story brick dwelling to cost $15,000, a very considerable sum for the time. The permit is listed under the correct address, then 51 Winder, but lists lot number 8 instead of the correct lot, number 7. Research into adjoining houses has, however, confirmed that the permit cited can only apply to the Harvey house, all other houses on the block, including that on lot 8, being otherwise documented.

Nothing much is known about the architect, John V. Smith, who was listed in City Directories from 1869 to 1893. There is a record of a permit (in permit index) for the construction of a new brick building at 42-50 Grand River issued on June 23, 1879; this refers to the permit for the construction of a 3-story brick building to house the expanding Industrial School. One could speculate that it was built by John V. Smith, thereby establishing an earlier connection between Smith and John Harvey, although one could not be absolutely certain because specific permit information does not exist for buildings constructed prior to 1880. Leading further credence to this speculation, the Detroit City Directories from the early 1880's list John V. Smith as having offices in the Industrial School Building. He may have also served as the building's superintendent because he was referred to as "Architect and Superintendent" in his advertisements in the directories during those years.

John Harvey was a successful pharmacist and prominent Detroit businessman, who began his professional career at the age of twenty-two. He opened his first drugstore on the corners of Woodward and Grand River. This site proved to be so profitable that he remained at that location for over thirty years. By 1893 Harvey owned the largest retail pharmacy in the city, and by year's end he was forced to move to a larger site at the corners of Woodward and High street (now Vernor).

Although John Harvey was a successful Detroit entrepreneur, it was his work with the city's poor for which he was most known. A deeply religious man, Harvey served as a deacon and elder at Fort Street Presbyterian Church, as well as superintendent of the Sunday Church School, a position he held for over thirty years.

Harvey's concern for the poor was rooted in his childhood, when he spent time with his uncles and grandfather, all whom were Presbyterian ministers. His strong religious upbringing was coupled by his family's belief in helping the poor. Harvey's marriage to Jessie Garnock Campbell, daughter of Colin Campbell, a leading dry goods merchant of Detroit, not only brought together two local prominent families, but two families who were instrumental in changing the lives of many of the city's poor children by establishing Detroit Industrial School.

The Industrial School was established for Detroit's "destitute children" by the Society of Protestant Women, under the leadership of John Harvey's mother-in-law, Mrs. Colin Campbell. The society was formed with the specific task of "breaking up begging from house to house by children. Any girl under 14 and boy under 10 needing clothing and schooling was a proper subject for its benevolence." Organized in June 1857, the Industrial School, "taught children useful occupations and a book education. Boys were taught to split wood and sew buttons on their clothing; and girls were taught to prepare vegetables, wash, scrub, and clean, set tables, and serve as waiters."

The Detroit Industrial School was modeled after similar schools in New York, the original of which was the Five Points House of Industry in Mulberry Bend. Like so many of the industrial schools of the time, Detroit Industrial School was established by a group of "charitable women." The running of the industrial schools afforded society women the opportunity to work outside the home, utilizing skills they might not have used otherwise.

Detroit Industrial School opened October 5, 1857 on the upper floor of a building located on Monroe street. It had a student body of 16 pupils which grew to 99 within a month. The students were fed one hot meal a day, and the younger students were given warm clothes to wear. According to the 1850s and 1860s school records, many of the children who attended the school were orphans of Civil War soldiers. Most of these children were so poverty-stricken that the school soon became known as the "ragged-school." In 1858 the school had outgrown its facilities and moved to a simple two-story building located on the corner of Washington Blvd. and Grand River street. During the next few years the Industrial School continued to thrive and grow. By 1866 the Society was able to purchase the lot and building they were occupying for $6000; the old structure was demolished three years later. The new school was completed in 1878 at a cost of $12,000 and dedicated a year later on December 9, 1879, a three story structure with room enough to accommodate 200 students. In 1867 John Harvey established a Sunday School for the children who attended the Industrial School, and served as its superintendent for the next 38 years.

In 1871 Mrs. John Harvey was elected recording secretary of the Society; a few years later she was elected president, and thereafter she remained a member of the Board of Directors. During her tenure on the board the Industrial School began to make great strides; it was a pioneer in day care, opening the first day nursery and kindergarten in the city in 1907. By this time the school had moved to Fourth and Porter street. In 1914 the Industrial School became known as the Neighborhood House and continued on with such programs as meals on wheels. By 1962 when the building was condemned and demolished, the Neighborhood House was the oldest settlement house in Detroit.

Although John Harvey died in 1905 his widow remained at the Winder address until the 1920s when the house was sold to Jesse Hobbs, an automobile worker. It has had a succession of owners since and was used as a boarding house.

Building Description

This eclectic dwelling is unique in its massing and its plan. It is asymmetrical in its arrangement of elements but is yet fairly ordered both vertically and horizontally. With its geometric complexity, its simple detail, and its red brick banded with stone, it reflects very strongly the English version of the Queen Anne, although its mansard roof would label the building Second Empire in style.

Set on ashlar foundations, stylized wooden brackets emerge from the stone watertable to support the sills of the multi-storied towers and bays of the front facade. The entrance appears fairly centered on the front facade of the building; although the steps are gone, most of the porch detail has survived. Heavy round Eastlake columns support a porch roof with stylized detailing. The original double doors are presently hidden by the boarding of the building. Above the porch roof at second story level is a single double hung sash window.

Common to windows throughout the major elevations of this building are shared continuous sills resting on console brackets, stone string courses at the halfway point up the window (at sash level), and the continuous stone lintel. A molded stone belt course runs between the second and third stories all along the front facade and side elevations. This treatment results in a horizontal banded effect. Otherwise, the building at 97 Winder flaunts its many vertical elements well. The four-story tower on the southeast corner and the three story bay or engaged tower on the opposite corner of the front facade are emphatically vertical elements. The gabled dormer between the two towers in the central section, projects vertically from the heavily bracketed mansard roof with molded cornices. Roofs on the towers of the front facade and side elevation are multi-sided and have molded cornices bounding the lower roof slope above and below. Brick chimneys also provide vertical thrust to the side elevations.

Towards the rear of the building, in the lower part, the detailing is simpler, the banding disappears, but gabled dormers with heavy brackets project from the slope of the mansard roof. Single windows openings within the dormers have brick voussoirs with stone impost blocks.

Inside, a central hall leads back to an ell which contains the three story staircase which winds around an open well and is set against the east wall; an enormous window, now missing its stained glass, rises from below the stairs to above the first landing. In front of the stairs is a parlor, and across the hall double parlors line the west wall. Behind the double parlors is the dining room, and behind that the service wing with rear stairs, pantries, and kitchen spaces. The finish in the house is relatively simple for such a large and elaborate building; window and door surrounds are typical wide moldings with square blocks at the corners containing turned "bulls-eyes". The interior is in poor condition, but original or old fireplace mantels survive in all the major rooms, the woodwork is largely intact, and much ornamental plaster likewise remains. The staircase railings are quite elaborate in their carving. The upper floors are divided into bedrooms and suites reflecting the floor plan below. It appears that the third floor was originally largely given over to servant's quarters.