Friday, September 24, 2021

When History Is Destroyed, It Is Gone Forever: The 1825 Sheldon Inn

"And what do you want to bet those same people will travel out east and will  "ooo"  and  "ahh"  over the quaint New England villages that are 200+ years old."
From a commenter on a Detroit Historical Architecture page upon finding out the subject of today's posting has been razed.

(I actually wrote this post in spring 2021,  but could not fit it into the schedule until now)~

. ~ _~ .

I have to say,  I am pretty upset.
A building nearly 200 years old is a rarity here in Michigan.  Even though the metro-Detroit area has been settled by Europeans since 1701  (and centuries before by native Americans),  most structures from that early period are long gone.  In fact,  there are relatively few buildings erected before the 1850s still around.  
So now,  in typical Michigan fashion,  another important piece of the state's past,  and thus,  America's past,  has recently been torn down.
The Sheldon Inn - gone forever.
The Sheldon Inn was built and established as a tavern and stagecoach stop in 1825 ---1825!  Nearly 200 years ago!--- and,  until this past January  (2021),  it stood in its original location facing the Sauk Trail  (known now as Michigan Avenue US 12 Chicago Road).  This Inn was built by Timothy and Rachel Sheldon.  The couple moved from Monroe County,  New York,  with all their possessions in a wagon,  intending to settle further to the west,  but when they camped for the night on the Chicago Road two days from Detroit,  they were impressed with the surrounding area and decided to settle there.  On June 6,  1825,  the Sheldons purchased 160 acres near their overnight camping spot, including the property on which this building sat.  They were the third landowners in Sheldon Township,  filing their claim only a week after their first two neighbors.
It was here that they built a Greek Revival home on their land,  and the building almost immediately became an inn,  serving the influx of travelers and settlers spreading westward from Detroit.  The Sheldons farmed the surrounding land,  and soon the hamlet of Sheldon Corners grew around the inn.
Nine years later,  Sheldon Corners would become Canton,  Michigan,  which is still its current name.
In 1830,  Timothy Sheldon became postmaster of the area's post office,  and the next year,  Rachel Sheldon purchased an additional 80 acres adjacent to this property.  The town would soon boast a log schoolhouse,  two general stores,  two churches,  a cemetery,  a cobbler,  and three blacksmiths.
It is interesting to think that this inn was on the same trail - the same road - as other inns and taverns,  such as the Eagle Tavern  (originally known as the Parks Tavern when built in 1831 - now relocated to historic Greenfield Village)  and Walker Tavern,  now a museum on its original site,  both lovingly restored.  
Heading west from Detroit,  the first stop outside of the city was the Sheldon Inn.  The next tavern up would be the Eagle Tavern,  followed by the Walker Tavern...
It was because of the opening of the Erie Canal the same year that this Inn was built that many folks from New York and New England traveled west,  countless settling here in Michigan,  helping it to become the 26th state.  And it was taverns and inns such as the Sheldon Inn that these travelers stayed at as they traveled along the dirt and corduroy roads to the state's interior or further on to the Lake Michigan coast.  
And now,  due to the brilliance of the powers-that-be,  this wonderful piece of Michigan history that helped to tell this historic story is no longer.  
This really makes me sad...and,  in all honesty,  pretty angry - - - once history is destroyed,  it's gone forever.
Eighteen twenty-five...
Once a stagecoach stop,  the Sheldon Inn as it sat not too long ago in its 
original location,  still facing the old Saul Indian Trail,  is now no longer. 
Much of my anger stems from the strong hint that,  as far as I can tell through my internet research,  it has been razed seemingly for no reason.  This was all I could find about its demolition,  which came from the HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION CHERRY HILL SCHOOL:
"Sheldon Inn Demolition Notification
Discussion was had regarding the call to the Township wherein the owner of the Sheldon Inn at 44134 Michigan Ave. has notified staff of his intentions to demolish the building. The owner of this Nation Register Property has called and has advised staff that the building is no longer occupied by residents as it has served as an apartment for the past several years. The Inn is not included in the Canton Township Historic Preservation Ordinance. The owner has agreed to allow the commission to enter the building and photograph anything they wish to photo document the structure. Additional consideration will be discussed with the owner to include the possible filming of the building and the return to the Township the National Register designation sign so that it can be held by the Historical Society."

Now,  it gives no definite hint of a reason why the owner wanted it razed.
Was there unrepairable structural damage?
It sure didn't look like it from the outside to me.  And allowing people to enter to photograph the inside is also a telling sign there was nothing dangerous about the building.
So why would such a historic building allowed to be torn down?
I know,  I know...yes,  the owner has the right to do as he/she pleases.  But this building played a strong role in the history of Michigan and even the U.S.
And it was nearly 200 years old!
Was there even an option for someone to buy it?
The Sheldon's added a one-story wing to the house in the 1830s for an unmarried sister.
Think of the history that took place inside these walls.  
In the great scheme of things,  saving history may seem minor to many.  But it is also important to many,  hence why we have preservation going on throughout the entire world.  And it always seems that during discussions on the razing of historic buildings there are those few who like to needle the rest of us by making snarky,  asinine remarks aimed at those who believe in historical preservation.
And,  as noted in the oh-so-true comment at the top of this post,  these very same people will travel east to visit the history preserved there,  ooo-ing & ahhh-ing at the historic buildings restored.
I believe in saving the past - houses,  objects,  even monuments - for it is something that is important to me.  Yes,  I've put my money where my mouth is and spent actual time  (and money)  in various ways working toward historical preservation.   
I just find it sad that so many in this country would rather not save the past.
Perhaps a new Walmart will replace it - wouldn't that be grand.
Truly heartbreaking.

Until next time,  see you in time.

(photos in today's posting were taken at my one and only visit to the Sheldon House in summer 2020)

To read about the oldest structures still standing in Michigan,  please click HERE
To read about some of the mid-to-late Victorian homes and buildings in Michigan,  click HERE
To read about Michigan's involvement in the War of 1812,  please click HERE
To read about historic train depots here in Michigan,  please click HERE
To read about Michigan's taverns and travel of the 19th century,  please click HERE 

~   ~   ~


Constance said...

Thank you for sharing your wonderful post.

Lady Locust said...

That is very sad. I too mourn the loss of history. What clues to the past did it yet have to offer?

Bama Planter said...

This is a great loss for sure. My friend in Denver Colorado is also constantly witnessing the destruction of that city's history. The apparent goal in Denver is to tear down any old building and build new. There is little to no historic preservation there. The "unsinkable" Mollie Brown House is all they care about. Denver doesn't go back to the 1860's to begin with. Victorian houses are torn down weekly to build million dollar new structures. The housing market there is out of control.