The History of Southfield, Michigan is alive at the Burgh of Southfield.
A Burgh is defined as an incorporated town, having jurisdiction over certain services. The Southfield “Burgh” can be defined in a similar manner. To 19th Century Southfield residents, the term “Burgh” meant village center.
Until 1872, when the Town Hall was built, the Southfield Burgh was a business center, sometimes called Southfield Centre. It was located on 10-1/2 Mile Road, now Civic Center Drive, between Berg Road and the Rouge River to the west.
The Burgh is the City’s most important historical property. It represents Southfield’s origin as the Town Center for what was a Michigan farming community. Eight acres of property make up the Burgh.
The Burgh became a Historic District in 1976 for the Bicentennial of the United States.
The Old Town Hall, built in 1872, was the first governmental structure at the Burgh. Social gatherings, along with Township meetings and elections, took place here. The Town Hall (Museum) is a simple wood frame structure lacking in frills and decorative trims. The hall is the anchor in “the Burgh.” It became a museum and the home of the Southfield Historical Society in 1976 during the United States Bicentennial.
The Fire Station was built at the Burgh in 1942 when Southfield only had a volunteer firefighting force. It is located to the north of the Town Hall. Each structure faces the same direction (elongated to Berg Road). It was the first official fire station in Southfield. The collection includes a fire engine, equipment, and uniforms.
Simmons, a man who wanted to reflect individuality, elegance, and economy, built the house in 1870. It is a complex looking structure with two gable peaks. The main entry, located off-center, is covered by a porch and the second floor balcony helps to counterbalance the left dominance of the gable peaks. It represented a departure from the conservative type of structure prevalent at that time. The Simmons House was originally on the site of the McDonnell Towers 1. Today, the house encompasses the Southfield Human Services Department.
The Methodist Church was built in 1856, on Southfield’s main street, by a group of families at a cost of $800. In 1925, a tornado moved the church off its foundation, blew out the windows, and damaged the inside. The members soon repaired the church and even enlarged it. In 1938, they built the annex that was used as a Sunday school and kitchen. It was later purchased by the City of Southfield and moved to its present site in 1984. It is no longer a center for worship; however, small weddings, the Senior Art League, SRO Productions, and the Historical Society make use of the building.
The Parks House was built in 1881 by David Parks. The house was part of a livestock farm bordering on Eleven Mile and Evergreen Roads. This structure, of refined Italianate style, was built to “show off”. It was constructed of hand-hewn oak and ash timber hauled from Lapeer County by bobsled. It had an elaborate black walnut staircase, seven bedrooms, two kitchens, and a dumbwaiter. It is said that peacocks roamed the lawns. It was acquired by The City of Southfield and moved to its present location, on the Burgh, in 1984.
The Gazebo was built in 1988 by the City of Southfield. It is a lovely focal point in the Burgh. It is the site for musical concerts and weddings in the summer months. The Gazebo complements the beautiful, well-kept grounds surrounding it. Click here for directions to the Burgh.
Southfielders can be proud of the Burgh, because they have something that so many communities lack: a link to their past, and the knowledge that the past will be intact for years to come.
Drawings of historic buildings by Vicki Goldbaum.