The history of the Sullivan House

The Sullivan House, Detroit, MichiganWe have a friend, Sarah, who is a librarian. She is extremely excited about the house, and she emailed me today to let me know she has started research for us.

She discovered from the Detroit Public Library that the house was owned originally by Daniel Sullivan and that it was built in 1899, and that the address used to be different. Apparently Detroit redid their addressing scheme in 1920-1921.

The closing is scheduled for Tuesday. Today we visited with an electrician to get some estimates of what we’re getting into. While there, we discovered that some previous tenant was clearly interested in the history of Woodbridge in general and the house itself.

As we were exploring, Lincoln found a little pamphlet from 1979 called “Woodbridge Historical Sketches”. Thanks to Sarah, we knew the name of the original owner. Luckily, his sketch was in this book. Here it is, verbatim:

“Daniel Sullivan was born June 26, 1867, in Detroit. He was the son of Daniel Sullivan and Julia (Finn) Sullivan. Daniel attended the public schools in Detroit and also business college called the Detroit Business University. In 1887 at the age of 20, Daniel began his career in business with his father’s firm, Daniel Sullivan, Coal and Coke dealer which had been established by his father in 1881. Sullivan spent forty-seven years with the firm, first as a clerk and later, after his father’s death, as president of the firm. Mr. Sullivan was president of the firm at the time of his death.

Mr. Sullivan was a member of the Detroit Board of Commerce, the Detroit Athletic Club and the Detroit Golf Club and in 1914 listed “automobiling” as one of his favorite forms of recreation. Sullivan was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, fourth degree, a Roman Catholic, and one of the founders of Visitation Church. Sullivan was a Democrat in politics but did not run for any public office.

On October 6, 1890, Daniel Sullivan married Catherine Thompson of Detroit. Miss Thompson was the sister of William B. Thompson who was later mayor of Detroit from 1907 to 1909 and 1911 to 1913. The Sullivans had two daughters Catherine E. and Frances R.

Daniel Sullivan died February 11, 1934 in Charles Godwin Jennings Hospital in Detroit. He is buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan.

The Sullivan House at 4304 Avery, was built for Daniel Sullivan by Stephen Lindner. The building permit for the home was issued June 3, 1898 and the two-story wood dwelling was valued at $2,500.00. On October 27, 1898, Frank Jahnke, a carpenter, took out another building permit for another structure on the Sullivan property. The result was a two-story wood barn valued at $400.00.

Daniel Sullivan and his family lived in the Avery house from 1899 to 1918. In 1919 Mr. Sullivan moved to a home at 1530 Boston Boulevard, Detroit where he remained until his death in 1934.”

There you have it. I’m sure Sarah will be able to dig up more at the Detroit Public Library.

19 thoughts on “The history of the Sullivan House

  1. I find myself checking IntoDetroit multiple times a day for updates. Please keep them coming :)
  2. How exciting. The fact that the house is so old, but still in fairly good shape must mean it's just win.
  3. A fascinating example of old race relations and caricature. You guys should frame that. While its content is clearly... inappropriate, it's a great piece of history.
  4. Looks like someone is selling a copy of that book "Woodbridge Historical Sketches" on Amazon. Definitely need to scan some of those pages! Also, planning to hopefully visit this weekend to visit you guys, do some research at the library, and check out the house and the neighborhood. :)
  5. I have read alot about this house and the plight of Detroit on the abandoned forums I belong to. We have had alot of members wishing that we could save all the beautiful homes there. The city is rich with history and architecture that we will never have in current homes and buildings. Its great to hear that one at least will be saved. Is it okay if I post and update about your home as you restore it? It would be a really great feature story. :-)
  6. This continues to be a great read. Thanks again for sharing the story as it evolves. I can't stop reading! It's fantastic to have the history on the house. You've truly chosen a gem. Beyond what you're doing for yourselves, what you're doing for Detroit is even more admirable. The house will live on because of you guys.
  7. I used an inflation calculator to determine the house would've cost about $65,000 and the carriage house $10,000 in 2010 dollars. The insurance company was estimating more like $350,000 for replacing it today. Yikes.
  8. That just doesn't seem accurate at all. There's no way you could have built that house for $65K in 2010.
    Of course not, because no one builds houses like that anymore and the materials and skills are scarce. Inflation doesn't account for all the other variables involved.
  9. I just happened to be looking at old Detroit photos online around Thanksgiving last year and could not believe my eyes when I ran across your blog on the Sullivan house. It was kismet. Daniel Sullivan is my great-grandfather! I shared your website with my siblings most of whom still live in Metro Detroit. They were equally astonished. We would love to visit you and see the house. I'm trying to get the brothers to cough up some money for a descendants rock or something and would like to know...could we arrange a visit??? I live out of state and held off on contacting you until I knew I'd be visiting which I am this week and later in the summer as well. It is gratifying to see new stakeholders in Detroit willing to undertake the enormous challenge of renovating a grand old house. I look forward to hearing from you.
  10. Hi Kelly! That's so awesome to find you guys and thank you so much for reaching out. Yes, absolutely, we would love to have you guys visit. I'll email you!

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