The Palmer Woods Historic District

The Palmer Woods Historic District is named after Thomas W. Palmer, a prominent citizen of nineteenth-century Detroit and a United States Senator. Palmer's estate included land on both sides of Woodward Avenue, stretching from Six Mile Road to Eight Mile Road.[2] During his lifetime, Palmer donated some of his land to the city of Detroit to establish Palmer Park, and gave additional land to the state of Michigan to build the Michigan State Fairgrounds.[2]
Palmer died in 1913; two years later, Detroit real-estate developer Charles W. Burton purchased the section of Palmer's estate that now encompasses the Palmer Woods Historic District.[2] Burton envisioned an exclusive neighborhood, catering to Detroit's richest citizens, with room for spacious and elegant homes. He hired the landscape architect Ossian Cole Simonds to design the layout of the development.[2] Cole laid out a subdivision with gently curving streets, capitalizing on the natural beauty of the area and creating a parklike atmosphere in the neighborhood. Curbs are nonexistent, minimizing the transition from street to lawn and discouraging pedestrian traffic, and every lot in the neighborhood had a unique shape.[2] The neighborhood received the Michigan Horticultural Society's Award of Merit in 1938 for being the finest platted subdivision in Michigan.[3]

Most of the homes in Palmer Woods were constructed between about 1917 and 1929.[2] Many of these homes are in Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival styles. However, even by the Great Depression some lots remained unused, and additional mansions were constructed after WW II. The most recent house was completed in 1956.[2]

Palmer Woods is known for its elm-lined streets, large brick and stone homes in Tudor Revival architecture, set back from the street behind contiguous uninterrupted lawn.[4] Lots are large, with ample room for trees, play equipment, and a good expanse of grass. There may be Scottish coats of arms, leaded stained glass windows, and other features, such as elevators in some of the homes. Some of the properties boast more than one structure: such as a house and guest house, or maids' quarters. Streets gently curve through the forested neighborhood.

Shingle Style house in Palmer Woods

Palmer Woods has its own security service and an active voluntary neighborhood association. The home of physicians, politicians, business owners, artists, executives and their families, the Palmer Woods neighborhood has attracted some of Detroit's most prominent citizens. Charles W. Burton himself made his home in the neighborhood. Two of the seven Fisher Brothers (owners of Fisher Body), Alfred and William, also lived in the neighborhood. William Fisher's house, on Wellesley, is 35,000 square feet (3,300 m2), one of the largest in Detroit.[2] John H. Kunsky, the founder of United Artists theatres, also lived in the area.[2]

Almost every house in Palmer Woods has unique architectural features, but a number are particularly important. At the southern edge of the district is the only house in Detroit designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.[2] C. Howard Crane, the noted theater architect, designed the home of John H. Kunsky, incorporating many theater elements into the design.[2] Minoru Yamasaki and Leonard Willeke also designed houses in the district.[2]