The U.S. Grant house at the Michigan State Fair grounds

 

There is a house that Ulysses S. Grant once resided in located on the site of the former Michigan State Fair grounds. The Michigan State Fair has now ceased operations due to financial issues. The house was only open to the public each year during the week of the Fair. According to the book Seeking Lincoln in Michigan: A Remembrance Trail by Weldon E. Petz and Roger L. Rosentreter, Grant lived in the house as a Lieutenant in the Fourth U. S. Infantry Regiment. He arrived in Detroit for duty at Fort Wayne in 1849. The house was located at 1369 East Fort Street (the original number was 253)-between Russell and Rivard Streets. Some years afterward, the house was scheduled to be torn down but was purchased instead by the Michigan Mutual Liability Company and given to the state of Michigan. It was then that the structure was moved to the Fair grounds.

The house was to serve as a memorial to the man who saved the nation (Grant) and his Commander-in-chief (Lincoln). The City of Detroit had a plaque placed there to denote this. I have never been to the house that the Grants lived in. I had been to the Fair over the years-but not very often. I didn’t even know the Grant house was there at the time.

Recently, I drove over to the Fair grounds. There is construction of some sort of mall going on. There is also an “open to the public” sports field house that is active. The Main Entrance to the grounds was closed. I drove into the entrance for the field house. There were two gentlemen standing nearby having a conversation. They indicated that they were involved with the field house. I asked them about the Grant house. They never heard of it and didn’t know anything about it. With their permission I drove into the field house parking area, got out of my car, and walked over to the fence. There was a sign posted on the fence that was a “no trespassing’ kind of warning issued by the state police. I had gone as far as I was going to be able to physically go. I looked through the fence wires to see if I could locate the Grant house somewhere off in the distance. No luck. I left disappointed.

I find it strange that this house is, apparently, not accessible to the public. Not only was U.S. Grant the general that won the Civil War for the North, but he was a two-term U.S. President. I have heard it said that he was at one time the most photographed person in American history. I don’t know if that was true. Nevertheless, Grant was a most important person. America owes him a huge debt of gratitude. It’s such a shame that this genuine piece of history-the Grant house-stands on empty unvisited grounds that no one can be permitted to appreciate by seeing it. I consider it a deep loss for the people of Detroit and to history.

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9 Responses to “The U.S. Grant house at the Michigan State Fair grounds”

  1. Tom Watson says:

    There is a good chance that I will be visiting the Grant House sometime this week. After I do, I will show you the way. So far, it has been fairly easy to make arrangements. The final trick will be to get on the property and photograph the Grant House.

  2. B. Nash says:

    You were right! I went there and took a few few pictures. See: http://abesblogcabin.org/a-sad-visit-by-the-u-s-grant-house-in-detroit
    Thank you for your guidance!

  3. BDay says:

    You can see the house very well from the street called “State Fair”, which serves as the Northern boundary of the fairgrounds. You can stand nearly 100 feet from it there. It stands out, being a small white frame house situated right next to the modern Community Building, where the baking competition part of the faur used to be housed. Sorry you left without seeing it (the outside, at least).

  4. B. Nash says:

    Great information and update. I’m very encouraged!

  5. B.Hovansian says:

    The Grant House is currently being considered for removal from the Fairgrounds to a more appropriate military themed site. Although Grant was stationed at the Detroit Barracks during his tenure in Detroit, there are other more relevant sites that would function better.

    SHPO, Preservation Detroit (formerly Preservation Wayne) and many concerned others are currently involved in an effort to relocate the Grant House and will be taking an active role in ensuring the security and relocation of this house to a more relative site.

  6. B. Nash says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks for the thoughtful reply-and the link!

  7. Pale says:

    I am not a Michigan native, but have lived here for some time now. I’ve recently developed an interest in Grant and Lincoln … after seeing a piece on the American Experience about Grant and being left wanting to know more. I immediately downloaded the bio by Jean Edward Smith, Grant. I went from there to a bio of Lincoln and then on to Goodwin’s A Team Of Rivals. Now I am reading Grant’s memoirs. Tonight I was reading a collection online of personal recollections and interviews of those who knew Grant. One was an account given by a soldier who knew him while he was stationed here in Detroit. Which led me to google out of curiosity whether his home in Detroit was still around. Sorry to see in this post that it’s future is in question. Is it only obvious to me to wonder … Why in the world don’t they just move it to Greenfield Village?!! A museum whose very definition is … a collection of historical homes and buildings?!! I wonder if The National Trust For Historic Preservation might be of assistance … or perhaps his great-great grandson … http://www.coloradoan.com/VideoNetwork/895220871001/Ulysses-S-Grant-s-relative

  8. B. Nash says:

    Chris:
    I’m glad to hear the sites were reopended. I think I remember hearing about that. Unfortunately, I don’t see any hope on the horizon for the U.S. Grant house. Michigan is bankrupt and it’s priorites don’t include such things.

  9. I’ve never been here, but it’s sad to see history go to waste like this, even with state budget issues (which nearly every state has.) Hopefully the state will maintain it and open it again to the public soon – even if they don’t use the fairgrounds, they could at least allow people to see the house.

    Some lesser known sites (including some associated with Lincoln) were closed in Illinois in 2008 due to budget issues, but they were quickly reopened in 2009 (and are still open today).

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