Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Woodward East Historic District

The Woodward East Historic District is encompassed by the larger Brush Park Historic District neighborhood located in Midtown Detroit. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and is bounded by Alfred, Edmund, and Watson streets, from Brush Street to John R. Street.

The origin of the neighborhood can be traced back to a ribbon farm granted to an early French settler in 1747. The land eventually came into the possession of an Irish trader, John Askin, whose daughter married Elijah Brush. The land then passed to Brush in 1806 and became known as the Brush farm. His son Edmund oversaw the subdivision of a portion of his land beginning in the late nineteenth century. When developing the area, the Brush family placed restrictions on the lots, requiring high quality homes to be built on the mostly 50 square foot lots to ensure the desirability of the area. Over the years as the City of Detroit grew, the area became home to leaders of commerce, finance, industry, and the courts. A significant number of magnificent houses of worship were built in the area leading to the nickname of “Piety Hill.” The first location of the now famous Pewabic Pottery was a carriage house on Alfred Street. The Brush family continued to maintain ownership of some of the properties well into the 1960s. 

In 2015, the Ransom Gillis house, built in 1876 at 205 Alfred Street, was renovated by HGTV’s Nicole Curtis. In 2017, Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans announced a $100 million, 8.4-acre, mixed-use development project called City Modern within the Woodward East District, which broke ground in 2018.

The Woodward East Historic District is recognized for its High Victorian style homes which were built for Detroit’s wealthiest citizens in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although some buildings have deteriorated and been lost over time, many have been restored recently with particular attention to their unique architectural details.