Iconic Farmington house, barn will fall (or move) for parking

A Victorian farm house and barn on Grand River in Farmington will be gone this spring, but not soon forgotten.

The new owners of the property at 32905 Grand River, adjacent to the former Grand Bakery & Cafe, plan to open a sushi bar and eventually a hibachi steakhouse. They intended to raze the house and barn in March, to make way for parking.

Maria Taylor David Delind Johnna Balk Farmington City Council
1890s Victorian farmhouse
This 1890s Victorian farmhouse will be moved or razed to make way for parking. (Preservation Farmington)

But a campaign by local preservationists to find the barn – and possibly the house – a new home has drawn widespread interest. Preservation Farmington’s January 26 social media post has been shared more than 700 times. Detroit Free Press, WJBK-TV, WDIV-TVCurbedDetroit, and The Oakland Press have all picked up the story.

With a groundswell of interest, property owners have scheduled an open house on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2 p.m., for anyone serious about moving the structures. Both are being offered free of charge, but the new owner will be responsible for all moving costs.

Grand River Barn
Preservationists hope to find someone who will move this 1890s barn. (Preservation Farmington)

A ‘cozy’ history

While it lies outside the city’s historic district and has lost much of its historic value to remodeling, the house has been part of the community for more than 120 years. Oakland County records indicate it was built in 1890, and the barn followed in 1900. 

Most recently owned by Ginger Weichers, doing business as S.O.U.L. Cafe and Ginger’s Cafe, the picturesque property was known in 2006 as The Carriage House, a restaurant and catering business owned by Farmington High alum Cliff Donovan. Donovan, whose family also owned Grand Celebrations and The Chalet, installed a bar in the rustic basement and brought in live music.

Long-time locals still refer to the house as Mrs. Lovill’s Tea Cozy, gone more than 20 years. Doris Kay Lovill opened her business in the spring of 1994, serving lunch and an authentic British high tea. The home had been restored by the late Walter Sundquist, local philanthropist and long-time owner of Heeney-Sundquist Funeral Home.

According to Farmington Observer archives, Mrs. Lovill kept her small restaurant open even as she battled cancer. She sold the business in 2002 and died in 2004, at age 66.

In an Observer obituary, her son, Steven, said people traveled from as far away as Grosse Ile and Grand Rapids “to enjoy a pot of Mrs. Lovill’s Friendship Tea.”

“It was more formal than a previous location (in Franklin), but it retained the cozy atmosphere that made guests feel they were visiting a favorite aunt’s home,” he said.

Farmington resident Laura Myers recalls that Mrs. Lovill’s had a dress code that banned blue jeans, and Jean Schornick, also of Farmington, said, “I remember the harpist… very elegant.”

Before its commercial occupants, the Grand River property belonged for decades to the Maas family.

Based on information from telephone directories, Farmington Genealogical Society records, and Farmington Enterprise archives at farmlib.org, Louise and William Maas purchased the property at 32905 Grand River in 1916. William died seven years later; Louise lived in the home until her death, at age 93, in 1951.

The Maas’ sons, Albert and Paul, died in 1969 and 1980, respectively. A daughter, Minnie, lived in the home until her death in 1991, at age 97.

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Correction: The time for the barn open house was changed after this post was published. 

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