GPHS Moorings Newsletters - page 107

Mrs. Weir, widow of James
Weir, a former probate judge of
Wayne County finds herself
penniless and alone in the
When her father Peter (Pierre)
died in 1893, he left to Mrs.
Weir a handsome tract of land
in GP Village with a frontage of
150 feet on the lake shore. The
recent sale of the property for
$165,000 to the Country Club
by the Union Trust Co.
conceals a story of hardship
and struggle that few women left alone in the world at
Mrs. Weir's age have had to wage.
The piece of property has been in litigation and the
objective of various creditors for 10 years, ever since
Mrs. Weir, unable to stand on her feet alone, was
compelled to borrow $18,000 from William Cottrell,
once prominent in Mt. Clemens, to meet her
requirements. This was the fatal step that led her
down the stairway to loss of fortune.
Mrs. Weir gave Cottrell a mortgage for the amount and
when she found that she could not meet it she
renewed it several times until the sum had increased
to $50,000. Cottrell urged her to sell the property but
it had been her home since childhood and there were
sentimental reminiscences connected with the place
which forbade her. So Cottrell threatened foreclosure.
Mrs. Weir then appealed to Joseph H. Berry, varnish
manufacturer, for help and Berry consented to aid her,
giving the Union Trust Co. a guarantee for moneys
advanced on the Cotrtell mortgage. The mortgage,
taxes and interest kept piling up until, when Berry
died, he was indebted to the Union Trust Co. $50,000
for money advanced on the old Provencal home and
In the meantime, Mrs. Weir had given Berry a second
mortgage. Shortly after Berry's death, Cottrell also
died and the administrator for both estates could do
nothing but foreclose.
The Berry estate was compelled to pay off the Cottrell
mortgage to protect itself and the entire indebtedness
was thus valued to $115,000 about the entire value of
the property at the time.
Then the Union Trust Co. administrator for the Joseph
Berry estate sold the property to Mr. Frederick Alger
who acted for the Country Club, the price received
being $165,000.
Some five years after Mr. Berry's death, Mrs. Weir
brought suit against the Berry estate, his heirs and the
Union Trust Co, the Country Club and all the
purchasers of the property charging them with fraud
and asking for the restoration of the property.
The November 19, 1914 issue of the Detroit Journal
states, Mrs. C. Weir Loses Extended Lawsuit. Judge
Van Sile rendered his decision and exonerated the
Country Club, Frederick M. Alger, the Union Trust and
the estate of Joseph H. Berry from the charges of
Program Director Nancy Pacitto was digging around in the archives of the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library
and discovered this information for an article in the Detroit Journal on April 26, 1911.. We thought it was particularly
interesting relative to today’s foreclosure epidemic.
The headline reads:
Mrs. Weir, Once Worth $100,000, Left Almost Penniless: Loses Fight to Save Old Homestead
Good Enough to Eat!
The Provencal-Weir House has inspired numerous artists
throughout its history, but recently, two Grosse Pointe
Farms residents recreated the building in a unique
medium—gingerbread. Neighbors Thom Coyle and Dennis
Miriani designed their work for a gingerbread house
contest sponsored by the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in
November. Their house was on display at the Ford House
through early January along with other entries.
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