Plymouth historical structures under fire

Starkweather School named after George Anson Starkweather whose first occupation was a schoolteacher. The classic revival building was build in 1927 for $125,00 and served as a grade school from 1927 to 1977.


May 20, 2015  PLYMOUTH VOICE.

Plymouth Michigan News


As a 67-year-old lifelong resident and lover of Plymouth and its history, I along with countless others have a difficult time parting with the homes and “old” structures that were a significant and important part of the fabric of Plymouth.

For the most part, as many others have voiced, I have come to accept change and understand all too well that “it just doesn’t make sense” to refurbish some of these homes for the sake of us dwindling number of individuals trying to hold on to memories.

I also well comprehend the desires and financial ramifications between buyer and seller. Saying that, many, many of the new homes that have been slotted into the core of uptown Plymouth’s boundaries have actually significantly improved the visual landscape and undoubtedly increased all city home values. However, in addition to the eyesore “Bigfoot McMansions” that were allowed to enter the equation while previous individuals, government and committees sat on their hands, numerous major Plymouth historical structures were and are currently “under fire.”

The Penn Theatre and old post office had to be saved by diligent resident volunteers. The Daisy factory became “Plymouthgate” and PHS/Central required the Malcolms’ generous monetary gift to stave off the wrecking ball and, instead, hopefully become PARC and stand as Plymouth’s new crown jewell for generations to come. Sadly, several other “golden opportunities” have been squandered, in my opinion: Dalys, Ash’s gas station and Cloverdale’s, to name just a few. Other potential significant losses, such as Saxton’s, Wiltsie’s and Bodes, while “still breathing” today, could also disappear in an instant.

Now, perhaps Plymouth’s best historical jewel, Starkweather School, is being tossed around in a shameful game of political football. Why? Money. New, young money to support the glut of restaurants that are the only businesses that have any sustainability and have flourished uptown. Retail business is all but gone, headed to Ford Road, the big box stores and the malls.

The Plymouth-Canton school board has disgustingly mismanaged the closure of schools and rearranged property lines and planned school sales, all of which appear to be a part of a grander scheme to support a failing budget. All this while constructing new, multimillion-dollar facilities adding to taxpayers’ obligations as this is written.

The school board, without any remorse or alternative planning, quickly and overwhelmingly voted to sell off Starkweather to Curtis Builders, with developer Mark Menuck’s vision to demo Starkweather and fabricate 26 “Cherry Hill Village-style” homes to occupy the school and adjacent green space property.

Subsequently, after reading letters and listening to residents at a town forum in January, Mr. Menuck stated he “truly in his heart has changed his mind and now wanted to re-purpose Starkweather.” Curtis Building was to have completed a feasibility study of the school in February/March with the intent to re-purpose the school for use as loft condos and preserve the outside of Starweather so it would somewhat resemble the original historical gem. Short of that, as result of Mr. Menuck’s “sincere wish that Starkweather history remain alive for Plymouth,” would seek another developer with that same intent.

This past week at the Plymouth Planning Commission meeting, Curtis Builders had no detailed plans for the school — just lots of blueprints for the fabrication of the new homes to go on the green space. For you, veteran Plymouth residents, does this sound like Daisy all over again? On the present commission’s behalf and spearheaded by Mayor Dwyer, they are demanding Menuck present “hard copy” drawings and plans for the school re-purposing before any further discussion takes place for the entire development. Stay tuned!

Why take the effort and time to pen this? All I’m asking is for Plymouth residents, new and long-timers, young and old, to attend the city of Plymouth Planning Commission meetings, write a letter to the mayor or the Observer or, if you’re now a resident of Plymouth Township or Canton, as I am, lending your support to preserve a few last key pieces of our distinct Plymouth history.

Plymouth’s uniqueness, history and charm are shared and enjoyed by us all. Starkweather and the remaining pieces of Plymouth’s almost 200-year-old history are advertised and proudly trumpeted by both the Plymouth and Canton chambers.

Check out the Plymouth Preservation Network and Plymouth Art and Recreation Center websites. But mostly, get involved! Demand that in the case of our few remaining Plymouth gems, the removal or re-purposing is put to a vote of all citizens, not just a select few. Township residents, demand your board listens and implements a vote. These are your gems, too. Your desires should not be blocked by a dysfunctional board that Ron Edwards has used for his personal agenda and advocates separation from the city because you live a few miles too far from Kellogg Park.

Yes, Plymouth has changed. Transition and progress are inevitable. In today’s high-tech world, decommissioning is occurring faster and, again in my opinion, perhaps at the whim of a few with the most financial clout. But as the cliche goes, “The more some things change, the more they stay the same.” Plymouth (including the township and Canton) is still is a fantastic town, has wonderful community vibrancy and, most of all, terrific people live here!

 Jerry Norquist

Canton resident, former Plymouth Township resident and 1966 graduate of Plymouth High School


Plymouth Voice.


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