GPHS Moorings Newsletters - page 206

On a spring evening in 1945, a handful of history buffs got
together to share stories about the old families and proper-
ties of Grosse Pointe and to try to establish an organization
the would make sure these memories lived on for future
generations. Sixty years later, they would surely be delight-
ed at how the Grosse Pointe Historical Society has grown
into a thriving, dynamic part of the community. Today, the
Society sponsors frequent activities for all ages, from black-
tie galas to children’s workshops to historic lectures to fami-
ly festivals. The Society owns and maintains two historic
structures and helped preserve a third building in the com-
munity. Its Resource Center houses a permanent collection
of artifacts and memorabilia that is available to the public.
“Grosse Pointe has a fascinating history and discovering its
past is a rewarding experience for people of all ages,” said
curator Suzy Berschback. “It’s a very important way to con-
nect to our community and feel a part of it.”
“The stories of this place one, two, or three hundred years ago capture our imagination. It’s a lot of fun to envision what
it was like here for past generations,” she said. “The layers of generations are so intriguing: the Native Americans, the
French habitants, the pioneers, farmers, and fishermen, the summer people, the auto barons. All these different groups
of residents give Grosse Pointe so much character.”
The first 50 years
The Society celebrated its Golden Anniversary ten years ago with a party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Donald M.D.
Thurber on Rathbone Place. Members marveled at how far the Society had come since its inception in May 1945 as a
small group of loosely organized history enthusiasts with a fervent interest in Grosse Pointe. For the first 30 years or so,
the group was quietly active, accepting donations of histori-
cal artifacts, presenting lectures, and even collaborating
with the Detroit Historical Museum on its 1956 series,
“Salute to Suburban Detroit.” The Society moved around a
lot, residing in libraries, schools, and the Grosse Pointe War
Memorial over the years. At one point, the Society was actu-
ally incorporated into the Friends of the Grosse Pointe
Public Library.
In 1978, committed citizens, led by James Gram, Mrs.
William Ledyard, and Mrs. Robert Hamilton, decided to
reactivate the Grosse Pointe Historical Society as an inde-
pendent organization. In the following two years, bylaws
were prepared by Charles Wright III, incorporation papers
were filed, and the first set of officers were elected on
February 5, 1980. George Zinn was an important part of the
The next 15 years saw much growth and change. The Society
hired a curator, Jean Dodenhoff, to catalogue the collection and help the public during open hours. The collection
expanded tremendously and membership grew from 64 in 1980 to more than 600 in 1995. The culmination of these
years was moving the Resource Center in July 1995 to its current permanent quarters at 381 Kercheval Avenue in
Grosse Pointe Farms.
continued on page 6
Tom Singelyn and Al Moran check out what needs to be
done to the Provencal-Weir House in 1993.
Leon Mandel, Mike Farley and Lisa Mower Gandelot
burn the mortgage to the Provencal-Weir House after
raising funds to pay it off in 2001.
Grosse Pointe Historical Society:
Bringing the Past to Life for 60 Years
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