PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Ypsilanti History & Stories

This page is a place to post comments about the history of Ypsilanti and of the PPNA neighborhood. If you’ve lived in the neighborhood or the city a long time and have a story you’d like to share please post a comment. Even stories you think might be irrelevant might strike a chord and help someone else connect their memories.

3 Responses to “Ypsilanti History & Stories”

  1. Linda Smith said

    Found your site by Googling “Ypsilanti street map” in doing my genealogical research for the surname Sperry. I have what looks like a small, very old plot map with Prospect Ave. N. 1 degree 58W, 60 feet wide on one border, Davis Avenue, and Emerick Street; Maus Avenue as main focus N. 89 degree E. The lots are numbered, showing public alleys. The other document I acquired is a copy of a page from an 1860 Directory for Ypsilanti. My ancestors was listed thusly: Sperry, Volney, Saloon, (Pantheon,) Congress, corner of Washington. Years ago, I was given the information that this locale still has a “drinking establishment.” Can this blog share info or sources regarding this? Btw, Maus is another family surname in our family.

  2. Michelle Kirwan-Woods said

    Another Gilbert Mansion story… By Michelle Kirwan-Woods

    Ypsilanti, Michigan…To the outside world it’s best known as home to Eastern Michigan University. To current and former residents, it’s probably the city’s historical buildings and landmarks that come to mind. When I think of Ypsilanti, it immediately brings to mind a home located at 227 N. Grove.

    It was the summer of 1982 the first time I saw Gilbert Mansion.

    As a child I spent my summers at the Huron Valley Boys & Girls Club. I was no more than five years old the first time I saw Gilbert Mansion, but I remember it like yesterday. Gilbert Mansion was built 1861, making it well over one hundred years old when I was a kid, I guess that’s part of what made it so fascinating. Throughout a good portion of the 1980’s, the mansion was vacant and in complete disrepair. As I recall all of the doors and windows on the lower level were boarded up. The paint was peeling and dirty, and the landscape hadn’t been touched in years. The residence looked as though it were a haunted house from a movie scene, appearing almost menacing on a stormy day. Yet on the contrary, it held some sort of whimsical charm on a bright summer day. I was completely enamored with the home and it’s ominous presence. I could spend hours staring at the place in awe, almost in a hypnotic like state. The place was so grand that I used it as a landmark. I always knew we were almost home when returning from field trips, because you could see the highest peek of the house just above the trees while driving up Park Street. Given the house was right next to the club grounds, my friends and I would find ways to slip away so we could snoop around, even though we knew good and well we weren’t supposed to be there. Although only a few steps away from the club, hanging around the mansion was like being in a completely different world. Gone was the hustle & bustle of the club, only to be replaced with the hissing of cicadas, and cooing of the pigeons who had taken over the rooftop. As a game we would dare each other to walk up to the front porch, and the first one to run away was chicken. Amusingly I remember pretending to be Nancy Drew, always trying to solve “The Gilbert House Mystery.” To this day I can’t tell you what the so called mystery was… I guess that’s something only a child can figure out.

    Each summer was the same until around 1985. That fall my family relocated out east. Gone were summers spent at the Boys & Girls Club and Gilbert Mansion. It would be nearly fifteen years before I would return.

    As an adult, the places I once knew as a child seem quite small. I was now in my early twenties; I hadn’t been back to Ypsi in years. It was merely coincidental that I happened to be in the area, so I decided to take a drive through the old neighborhood. The first stop on my list was my old elementary school on Ecorse Road. Then I decided to cruise past my old stomping grounds on South Prospect. Last but not least, the Boys & Girls Club crossed my mind.. and Gilbert Mansion of course. Given it’s prior condition before I left, I honestly wasn’t expecting the house to still be there. Curiosity got the best of me though, so I hung a left on Michigan Avenue and started toward Park Street. Just a few moments after making a right onto Park, there it was… the highest peek of the house just above the trees… and you know what, it looked exactly the same way it did when I was a kid. As I got closer I realized something was very different. Gone were the boarded up windows, unkempt landscape and peeling paint from the 1980’s.. Gilbert Mansion had been restored to it’s former glory. There are no words that can express the way I felt.

    While both my childhood and the 1980’s have come and gone, I can still recall the eerie nostalgia of Gilbert Mansion as though it were yesterday. When I think of Gilbert Mansion, it takes me to a completely different time and place. Today I can drive up Park Street and see the highest peek of the house above the trees, just as it was over twenty years ago. As our today turns to yesterday, and future generations come and go, the only existence that will never fade are the footprints of time. Even when I’m gone, I suspect the marks they leave will still remain. They may change, but I know they’ll never fade.

  3. My family moved into 14 N. Park St. in 1939 – the corner of N. Park & Babbit St. The Ypsi Parks Dept. showed free movies and held foot-races (Prizes were Orange Drinks – every kid won one)at the corner of the property by the Rail Road. I remember going to a Community Dinner at the Mansion when I was 10 years old in 1945. My Brother and I used to catch Garter Snakes in the garbage dump in the same location to take to school. We lived across the street from the Kindergarten entrance to the school.
    I don’t know anything about the Boys Club. Was it on the same property? The Mansion took an entire city block. I do remember the property was run down for quite a while, but it seems somebody bought it and made a Condominium of it in the early 1980s…not true, eh? We used to play on the Rail Road Freight Cars as they picked up speed going out of the Ypsi Train Station, and built a giant Sling-shot in the fork of a Box-elder Tree growing in the bank, and used it to pummel the Box Cars…keeping the Pinkerton Police busy.
    I clicked on this site hoping for a photo of the Mansion to include in my book. I will probably publish it as an e-book within a Month – BED WETTER An Adventure Story. I mention the Pennsylvania RR, the train jumping, and thouught a photo of the Mansion would be appropriate.
    Cheers!

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