By DAVE GORGON
For the Sunday Times
TAYLOR – As part of the city’s 50th anniversary, open houses have been scheduled at the historical buildings in Heritage Park from noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 6.
Admission is free. The park is at 12111 Pardee Road.
The buildings open to the public will be the Taylor Historical Museum and three of the facilities surrounding Coan Lake: the replica Town Hall, the Log Cabin and the One-Room Schoolhouse.
All four buildings are operated through the city by the Taylor Historical Commission and Taylor Historical Society. The groups schedule open houses at the museum to provide visitors a look at city historical artifacts that have been collected and stored in the former Knope Farmhouse in the south end of Heritage Park.
The replica Town Hall serves as a gift shop featuring Heritage Park souvenirs, historical goods, old city maps, cookbooks, toys, popcorn, water and pop.
The Log Cabin is used for special events. The One-Room Schoolhouse is occasionally used for field trips for school classes.
In addition to the four open buildings on Oct. 6, attendees can purchase food and beverages at Maggie’s Sweet Shop in the park’s historic Greenwald-Herkimer House.
While Taylor celebrates 50 years as a city this year, the community’s heritage dates back to the 1800s. Originally, Taylor was part of Ecorse Township, but residents found they lived too far away to participate in the civic affairs and functions of the township.
Residents petitioned to form a separate community. The petition was granted in 1847 and the new community was named Taylor Township, in honor of Gen. Zachary Taylor, an American hero in the Mexican War who would go on to become president of the United States.
The first registered property owner was Peter Coan, who purchased an 80-acre parcel from the U.S. government in 1830. The Coan family name continues through Coan Lake at Heritage Park.
The current Taylor Historical Museum was a farmhouse owned by Fred and Clara Knope on Beech Daly just south of Northline Road in then-Taylor Township. The 20-acre site was a productive farm from the mid-1920s until the city of Taylor purchased the property.
The house served as offices for the city Community Development Department for a several years during the rebuild of Taylor City Hall and by the Historical Commission until 1999.
The city also purchased other farm acreage nearby to build Lakes of Taylor Golf Club and the Department of Public Works and eventually sold some property to a private condominium developer.
The farmhouse was moved on Nov. 1, 2000, to Heritage Park. The Historical Society restored the building and preserved it as a museum.
The replica Town Hall has been open occasionally on weekends since it was created in 1991 by the Taylor School District’s Building Trades class. The original Township Hall was built in 1855 for less than $300, but was destroyed by fire in 1863.
The original structure was repaired the following year and used as a town hall and sometimes a schoolhouse until 1887, when a new Township Hall was built on Goddard Road, west of Telegraph. The current City Hall is at 23555 Goddard.
The Log Cabin is Taylor’s oldest existing home. Built about 1850 and used as a hunting cabin, the dwelling belonged to several Taylor pioneer families. Originally situated on a 40-acre farm on Pennsylvania Road between Beech Daly and Telegraph roads, close to old Indian burial grounds, the home was donated by Fred Miller in 1985 and it was moved to Heritage Park in 1986.
The One-Room Schoolhouse, known as Taylor Heritage School, was formerly attached to St. John’s Lutheran Church at Telegraph and Northline roads. The room was used for confirmation classes in 1852.
In the 1930s, the building was sold to a Taylor resident and converted to a garage. In 1988, it was donated to the city for use in Heritage Park. The Historical Society restored the building in 1993 and the facility is offered to teachers and their classrooms for a “day back in time.” Children could experience old-fashioned desks, slate boards and chalk, inkwells and pens, McGuffey Readers and even a hickory stick and dunce stool.
The Greenwald-Herkimer Home was built on 80 acres of land near the intersection of Pardee and Eureka roads and was used as a farm. Frank and Anna Greenwald and their neighbors constructed the farmhouse out of the finest lumber available.
The Greenwalds raised their three daughters in the home. Family members occupied the home until 1988 when it was moved to Heritage Park and restored to its original state. Presently, Maggie’s Sweet Shoppe and a music studio occupy the home.
Members of the Historical Commission are appointed by the mayor with ratification of the City Council. They collect historic artifacts. The Historical Society – whose membership is open to anyone interested – is the fundraising arm of the two groups. Members support historical projects, run the museum and take care of the organization of items and record keeping.
The Historical Commission accepts donations of artifacts year-round. The items on display are changed from time to time.
Membership in the society is $12 a year with checks made payable to Taylor Historical Society and sent to P.O. Box 1225, Taylor, MI, 48180.
For more information about Taylor history, follow the Taylor Michigan Historical Society’s group page on Facebook.
(Dave Gorgon is a member of the Taylor Historical Commission.)