“Explore southeast Michigan and allow its storied past to unfold” is the tagline of Hometown History Tours.
Being one who likes to practice what I preach, I enjoy setting out on sunny afternoons, armed with a camera and notepad, to explore urban and suburban neighborhoods, quaint downtown districts, cemeteries, churches, etc.
Recently, I was invited by Eric Criteser, this century’s caretaker of the Moses Wheelock Field estate, to explore Detroit’s Islandview Village neighborhood and see the inside of the gorgeous mansion where Eric resides.
Where is Islandview?
When you exit Belle Isle, you face Islandview Village. It’s the western gateway to the Villages community of East Village, West Village,English Village, Indian Village, etc. The neighborhood is bound by Jefferson to the south, Mack to the north, Baldwin to the east, and Mt. Elliott to the west.
The Villages website describes Island Village as an “eclectic array of stately turn-of-the century homes and smart, mixed-used infill developments define an area that is helping “pull” the entire Eastside closer to Downtown without compromising the historic grandeur of the neighborhood. Islandview’s location places it close to everything from the Detroit River and Belle Isle, to Downtown and the RiverWalk.”
I call it an emerging neighborhood in the very early stages of transition. What that means is there is still lots of work ahead before it’s truly a sought after part of town. Interspersed between blocks of beautifully maintained homes, you’ll find several burned out homes and apartments, vacant land, abandoned or foreclosed homes which the banks have allowed to deteriorate. If you’re adventurous, however, and like to be a trendsetter rather than a follower, this might just be the neighborhood for you to invest as it’s full of historic homes at still very affordable prices.
Who was Moses Wheelock Field?
Like water? Next time you take a drink from a water fountain in Detroit, think of Moses W. Field. He’s credited as the person responsible for Detroit’s first public drinking fountain.
Born in Watertown, New York 1828, Wheeler moved with his family to Detroit when he was 16 years old where he became a successful businessman and politician. His business enterprises included a wholesale grocery, a barrel hoop and glass manufacturing businesses.
According to the Moses W. Field facebook page: “Field amassed numerous land holdings before his death in 1889, including what is now Woodmere Cemetary in Detroit’s Springwells District.
Among Field’s accomplishments: he was a Michigan State Representative and founding member of the Greenback Party; founding member of the Michigan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; founding member of the Detroit Institute of Arts; member of the University of Michigan Board of Regents.”
What’s the story behind the Moses W. Field house?
Built in the late 1850s, the Moses W. Field Estate is one of very few pre-Civil War era homes still standing in Detroit. The Field Avenue residence was the centerpiece to Mr. Field’s 240-acre estate named Linden Lawn.
The exterior of this two-story. 12-room, solid brick farmhouse features Italianate influences such as a shallow hip roof and large, full-length windows. It’s great to stand inside the home and experience the dramatic impact of these windows. Tons of natural light and no choppy views here.
Inside, a long formal entrance hall leads to double parlors and a huge dining room. Four fireplaces, two carved marble and two carved pine, can be found in the home along with lots of original, unpainted woodwork.
Set back off the street on a wooded lot, the Field Estate is surrounded by late 19th and early 20th century residences. The property features a French pear tree that is at least 150 years old and an equally old apple tree, both of which still bear fruit.
Eric is one five property owners to call the Moses W. Field Estate, which was place on Detroit’s historic register in 1999, home. In 2007, he purchased the property and began the long-term process of stabilizing and restoring this beautiful home.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Eric for allowing me access to this historic home. I commend Eric, and other like him, for their efforts to preserve history.