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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Hubel

Discovering the Charm of Pontiac's Franklin Boulevard Historic District

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Step back in time as you stroll through the picturesque Franklin Boulevard Historic District in Pontiac, Michigan. This captivating neighborhood, nestled between West Huron Street and Orchard Lake Avenue, offers a glimpse into the city's rich past and showcases a delightful array of architectural styles. With its intriguing history and stunning structures, the Franklin Boulevard Historic District has earned its well-deserved place on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Glimpse into History

The story of Pontiac traces back to its founding in 1818, with the earliest developments centered around the downtown area. The district's oldest structure, the Sibley-Hoyt House, stands tall as a testament to the city's historical growth. Originally starting as a humble company farm and frame cabin in 1819 or 1820, it has since become a cornerstone of the city's historical narrative.

As residential development spread westward, George M Williams played a pivotal role by plating lots in the area around Lawrence and Williams Streets in 1835. The year 1886 brought another significant development, with Henry Clay Ward plating Franklin Boulevard, Mary Day, and Henry Clay Avenues, named after his son, wife, and himself, respectively. Over time, these lots were sold and developed, contributing to the unique blend of architectural styles found throughout the district.

Exploring the District

The heart of the Franklin Boulevard Historic District lies along the eponymous boulevard, boasting generous lots adorned with large, detached, single-family houses. Ranging from two-and-a-half to three stories high, these residences display a diverse mix of architectural styles and materials. Despite their variety, the consistent 60-foot setback from the street unifies the streetscape, lending a harmonious charm to the district.

Venturing onto Mary Day and Henry Clay Avenues reveals a shift in scale, with smaller lots and houses that still manage to maintain a sense of unity with their consistent setbacks and similar massing. The eastern portion of the district, developed earlier, is home to the district's older houses. Notably, the structures along West Huron Street and Williams Street stand on particularly large lots, providing ample open space between them. On the other hand, West Lawrence Street boasts smaller homes, ranging from one and a half to two and a half stories in height.

Architectural Gems of the District

The Franklin Boulevard Historic District proudly boasts several notable structures that have withstood the test of time and continue to captivate residents and visitors alike. Some of these architectural gems include:

  1. Myrick-Palmer House (223 W. Huron): An Italian Villa-style house dating back to 1848, constructed by Frederick C. Myrick and later purchased by Charles H. Palmer. It has the distinct honor of being individually listed on the National Register.

  2. Sibley-Hoyt House (146 W. Lawrence): A historic cabin dating to 1820 with a significant addition by George Hoyt in 1867. This house holds a special place in Pontiac's history as George Hoyt was a blind music teacher at the Romeo Academy.

  3. First Church of Christ, Scientist (Williams and West Lawrence): Originally a Greek Revival house belonging to Edwin C. Smith, this structure transformed into a church around 1920.

  4. Pontiac Cultural Arts Center (47 Williams Street): Built-in 1898 by the Ladies' Library Association as the Pontiac City Library, this beautiful building now serves as the city's Art Center.

  5. Jacobs House (99 Franklin Boulevard): Likely the district's oldest building, this Queen Anne-style house was built in 1886 by banker Frank G. Jacobs and features a distinctive L-shaped front veranda and charming second-floor balconies.

  6. McCall House (72 Franklin Boulevard): Constructed in 1889 by businessman F. E. McCall, this Queen Anne-style house showcases a projecting angled, boxed bay at the southeast corner.

  7. Heltsch House (75 Mary Day Avenue): Adorned with a steep gable roof and an enclosed porch with three pilasters across the front, this two-and-a-half-story clapboard-covered house is a true sight to behold.

These are just a few examples of the architectural treasures awaiting those who explore the Franklin Boulevard Historic District.

Preserving the Legacy

As you wander through the tree-lined streets and admire the elegant houses, it becomes evident why the Franklin Boulevard Historic District earned its rightful spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The district's residents, historians, and preservationists have diligently worked to maintain its historical charm and protect its architectural heritage for future generations to enjoy.

The Franklin Boulevard Historic District is a living testament to Pontiac's past and a beautiful example of how history and modernity can coexist harmoniously. So, whether you're a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or simply someone seeking a tranquil and captivating neighborhood, the Franklin Boulevard Historic District is sure to leave a lasting impression.

If you want to immerse yourself in the essence of Pontiac's history and relish the timeless beauty of the Franklin Boulevard Historic District, be sure to take a leisurely stroll through its streets. Experience the rich tapestry of the past woven into the fabric of the present, making this district a true gem of Pontiac, Michigan.

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