Madison Heights: From Tent City to Victory City

MayorFerguson small
1950s Era Scene Showing
Mayor Lloyd Ferguson (Left)
with DPW Worker
Published in the Daily Tribune Special Edition, May 22, 2005

Peninsular Electric Light Company of Detroit is granted permission to provide lighting for public schools and private use.

Iron bridges are built to replace precarious wooden plank bridges spanning the Red Run creek near Lockman farm at 12 Mile and Stephenson and Hanley farm at 13 Mile and John R.

A new school district is established, separate from Royal Oak district.  The Madison School District is named for President James Madison.  The first school in the district was Greenwood School, a one-room schoolhouse.

Aug. 21, 1913

Residents meet at the home of Mrs. John Echert on the corner of John R and 11 Mile and agree on site plans to build Greenwood School, the first one-room school.

Pontiac Light Company is given permission to install gas mains.  Installation began in 1914 and gas was available to some residents the following year.

Fall 1914
Greenwood School, which opened in the fall of 1913, is destroyed by fire; it's replaced by a similar one-room school named the White House which was later renamed as Kendall School.

First bus line is established, going south to the Highland Park Ford plant.  Line is owned by George Hallock.

August 1920
Section 23 of Royal Oak Township is subdivided between 10 and 11 Mile Roads.  It's the township's first subdivision.

Mabel Baldwin becomes the first elected official of Royal Oak Township, when she wins an election for township treasurer.

Lamphere School District No. 4 establishes a library.

Schools in the district include Blanche Villa (now Edison Elementary), Vandenberg (at 11 Mile and Hales, formerly known as Koss School), Oakland (later annexed to Royal Oak), Kendall (now Roosevelt Elementary), Madison, and Monroe.

September 1924
Madison High School built.  The building later became Wilkinson Junior High when a new high school was constructed.  The first class - consisting of two pupils - graduated in 1929.

Madison School District becomes a graded district, run by a five-member school board.

First bank in the city, City Bank, opens.

First grocery store opens - Wood's Grocery & Meats at 629 W. 11 Mile.  Herman Herring opens a hardware store next door and George's Barber Shop opens next to the hardware store.

Doc Murray's Drug Store opens at 10 Mile and John R.

Edison School built at 27321 Hampden.  The name of Kendall School, 26060 Wolverine, is changed to Roosevelt School.

Kroger opens grocery store at 11 Mile and Hampden.

Lamphere School rebuilt; now is part of Hiller Elementary.

Dec. 16, 1929
Prohibition agents raid a house on Dartmouth and destroy a moonshine operation, dumping illegally made liquor and smashing glass bottles and jugs used to store the liquor.

The Great Depression hits the area hard.  A tent city of homeless families springs up and a soup kitchen opens around Blanche Villa School.

A 5 & 10 cent store is opened by a Mr. Schumacher at the corner of John R and 11 Mile.

Ponchartrain Dog Kennel opens on Gardenia.  Owner Glen Stain trains seeing-eye dogs and Dobermans.

Izzy Katz opens John R Lumber, the first lumber yard in the area.

Madison Heights Methodist Church founded.

Cozadd Market, formerly known as The Sugar Bowl on 11 Mile Road, sets up a screen and shows movies outdoors.  The popular diversion is discontinued in 1941 due to wartime blackouts.

Open air pavilion opens for dances on John R north of 11 Mile.

Eugene Bucco opens the Wayside Bar.

George Pappas opens Sloppy Joe's Tavern; later it becomes Anthony's Castaways.

The Green Lantern restaurant opens at 12 Mile and John R.

The Lamphere School District refuses to accept students from a tent city where welfare recipients live on 13 Mile Road across the street from Lamphere School.  Lamphere administrators tell state officials education is needed for the children, but add that most of the tent city residents come from other communities and no one has offered funds to pay for their education.  Lamphere administrators say they have no room, no additional teachers and no money to provide for educating the tent city children.

Fall 1937
Tent city residents will have to continue to reside in the tents throughout the winter, the Oakland County Welfare Committee decides at a meeting at the Bloomfield Hills Fox & Hounds Restaurant.

Hilla B. Willard becomes the second woman ever elected to an office in Royal Oak Township when she is elected justice of the peace.

Co-operative Homesteads formed as a nonprofit corporation to construct affordable homes on 120 acre tract of property.  First house is build on 13 Mile east of John R and is owned by John L. Brzenewski.  Co-op members do all of the construction themselves.

Madison High School students sell magazines and earn enough funds to buy an electric basketball scoreboard for the school.

Sept. 28, 1942
New Madison American Legion Post No. 288 opens and Pecky Levins is selected as first post commander; his wife is named president of the auxiliary unit.  Lewis later becomes Mayor of Royal Oak.

The township fire department moves to the Madison area from the new city of Hazel Park.

Royal Oak Township Police and Fire Department created.

The Lincoln-10 Civic and Improvement Association seeks to have the area incorporated as a city, buy the county rejects the proposal.  The proposal suggests naming the community "Victory City".

Madison Heights Methodist Church buys the old Kendall School for a church.  In April, the school is moved to 11 Mile and Groveland.

The Royal Oak Township Police Department moves from its headquarters at John R and Farnum to a facility at John R and Sixth.

Dr. M. Shoskes becomes the area's first resident doctor.

June 1945
Voters in the Lamphere School District vote to enter into an agreement with the federal government for a four-room addition to Lamphere School.

Township branch library moves into the Township Hall.

Cooperative Lumber and Supply takes over the old Veterans Sawmill at John R south of 14 Mile Road.

Construction on new Township Board Building begins at 26337 John R.

Township dump on 13 Mile between John R and Dequindre, owned by August Hasenbein and William Desand, closes following complaints by residents.  The dump moves to John R north of 12 Mile and is later referred to as the Bishop-Bolday Dump.

Township library moves next to the police station.

Dredging and other improvements are made to the Red Run Drain.  An intercity agreement is signed to make further improvements.

Two parks created - one as a memorial to veterans of World War I on Hudson and the other as a memorial to veterans of World War II south of 12 Mile.

Federal Housing Administration building program results in the construction of 150 new homes.

The former 5 & 10 cent store becomes B&C Market.

The former site of Ponchartrain Kennel becomes the site of Woodland School.  Monroe School is built at 25421 Alger.

Col. C.V. Burnett, director of Detroit's Aviation Commission, seeks approval for the construction of Northeast Airport at 12 Mile and Dequindre.  The plan is rejected.  Instead, the South Oakland County Garbage and Rubbish Authority selects the site of the proposed airport runway at 12 Mile and John R for the construction of an incinerator.

Madison Heights Police Sergeants Joseph Landino, Richard Travnikar and Frank Rutecki complete fingerprinting courses at the Detroit Police Academy and become expert instructors.

New Township Hall is built.  It was originally planned to be dedicated as a memorial to those who lost their lives in World War II.

Another attempt is made to incorporate as a city.  County once again rejects the proposal.

Madison High Principal Fred C. Burgess is invited to serve on the reviewing committee for the North Central Accrediting Association.

Area gets its first large industrial building, Acme Industrial Products, at 12 Mile and John R.

Library moves to new Township Hall.

Jan. 17, 1955
Madison Heights finally becomes a City.  Virginia M. Solberg, who was elected to the City Council by the largest margin, became de facto mayor.  Other council members were John B. Michrina, Darrel K. Davis, Charles B. Edwards, Jr., Theodore Krenn and George Sergeant.  Michrina served as Acting City Manager.

Royal Oak Township Board sets up a drainage district for the John R and Osmun trunk sewers.

Pigs from a 13 Mile Road farm get loose and wander through traffic at 13 Mile and Campbell Roads.

Lamphere district schools go on half days to combat overcrowding.

Madison Heights Woman's Club founded.

S. Jerome Bronson chosen as first City Attorney.

Dec. 8, 1955
Lloyd H. Ferguson becomes the City's first elected Mayor.

February 1956
Donald V. Smith, 30, is named the first City Manager.

Madison Heights Rotary Club founded.

New recreation center opens.  First Recreation Commission appointed.

James B. Edmonson Elementary School built in the Lamphere District.

Lamphere School District reverts to half-day class schedules, saying there is not enough money to hire 17 teachers and district income cannot match expenses.  There is only enough money to pay teachers until April.

Nov. 1, 1957
A decision is made to hold off on plans to expand the Madison Heights incinerator, much to the relief of area residents.  Authority decides instead to purchase 164 acres in Troy to bury ashes and unburnable refuse.

John Page Junior/Senior High built in the Lamphere District.

Waldo E. Lessenger Elementary School built in the Lamphere School District.

Madison Heights Woman's Club joins Federation of Women's Clubs.

Construction begins on two new schools in the Madison School District: Madison High School on 11 Mile Road and Halfman Elementary School on Couzens.

City Manager Jack P. Sweitzer is fired, and angry residents try to recall Mayor George S. Horkey and Councilmembers Jerome A. Nowacki, Henry F. Pickering, Dean W. Eggart, LeRoy M. Ainsley and Floyd J. Nykanen.  Recall attempts fail.

Madison Heights Kiwanis Club founded.

New Madison Heights Post Office opens.

Route approved for the construction of the Chrysler Freeway (I-75).

Edward W. Lawrence becomes City's first Municipal Judge.

John B. Simonds School and Woodland School built in Lamphere School District.

Madison Heights Marauders, sponsored by Giles-Everingham VFW Post 9507 and Thomas Edison American Legion Post 187, take honors as the most outstanding drum and bugle corps in a national competition in St. Paul, Minn.

Feb. 1, 1960
New Madison High School opens.

Sidney H. Sixma School built in the Lamphere District.

Madison Heights Exchange Club sponsors polio shot clinic.  Dr. Leroy Neumann, a Rotary Club member, gives the shots.

Construction begins on East School and Lamphere Senior High School.

Madison Heights Junior Women group founded.

Municipal Building Authority founded.

Woodland Park is renamed Greenleaf Park and six tot lots are built.

Twelve Town Drain project begins, along with work on the Dequindre interceptor sewer and the enclosure of Red Run Drain.

Incinerator Authority given permission to expand.

December 1961
Lamphere High School opens.

Construction begins on I-75 through Madison Heights.

New Madison Heights Fire Department headquarters opens.

Feb. 11, 1964
Virginia Solberg named Madison Heights "Outstanding Woman of the Year" by Madison Heights Jaycees Auxiliary.

June 14, 1964
New library opens on 14 Mile Road.  New City Hall, civic center site and library dedicated.

Martin Place Osteopathic Hospital opens.

New zoning ordinances and map adopted.

12 Towns Drain completed.

Old Lamphere School is renamed Fred Hiller School.

Oakland Mall opens at John R and 14 Mile in Troy, with J.L. Hudson's as the flagship store.  Tax income from the new complex provides a tremendous boost to the Lamphere School District.

An $8.5 million bond issue is approved for major addition to Lamphere High School.  To be built are a swimming pool, lockers, auditorium, home economics room, multi-purpose room, greenhouse, band room, three shops, nursery school training area, little theater, enlarged library and several classrooms.

Nov. 25, 1969
Following reports of razor blades, pins and poison in candy treats, Madison Schools Parent Teacher Association recommends no more Halloween trick-or-treating, but wants a City-wide party held instead.

Sixma Elementary School, 2500 Alden, closes and becomes the Madison Heights Community Center.

Organized group of residents seeks to recall Mayor Virginia Solberg and Commissioners S. Robert Raszkowski and Walter Giszczak after opponents claim there are irregularities in their administration.  Clerk's office rules more signatures are needed before the campaign can seek a recall of Commissioners Ronald Binlenda and Charles C. Cagle.

September 1976
State Representative Monte Geralds is subject to a lengthy probe by the State Bar Grievance Board.  Geralds sponsors a state enactment of a Parental Responsibility Law.

Aug. 10, 1983
The Lamphere School District sells the Simonds Woods area to the City for use as a public park.

John Page Middle School earns a National Exemplary School Award.  In 1987, Lamphere High School earns the same award.

Bishop Foley Catholic High School gains an Exemplary School Award for parochial schools.

Dec. 17, 1988
City discusses a $50 million dollar plan to upgrade and reopen the garbage incinerator.  Residents oppose the reopening.

Aug. 15, 1989
Madison Heights City Council plans to combat the impact of the tax-limiting Headlee Amendment.  The Council feels there are no funds to finance needed road repairs unless there is a Headlee override.

The Lamphere School District becomes the focal district in Michigan for the JASON Project.  Founded by Dr. Robert Ballard, the JASON Project gives students throughout the country an opportunity to work directly with scientists in such areas as deep-sea and rain-forest experiments through satellite and Internet links.  By 1996, Lamphere's Primary Interaction Network drew 20,000 students from across the state to participate in the project.

Oct. 27, 1989
Madison Heights Police raid a John R garden shop suspected of selling marijuana plants.

January 1990
The City Council unanimously agrees to nix a proposed video arcade at a John R site after residents and neighboring businesses object.

January 1990
The City Council is informed that thousands of dollars are being spent to remove Ku Klux Klan stickers from City stop signs.  Hate literature is also reported distributed in several neighborhoods.

July 1990
The City Council denies the request of Madison Community Hospital to run a bingo hall on Stephenson Highway.  The Council feels there are already too many bingo halls in the City.

Aug. 16, 1990
Under-soil testing is ordered for the area around the incinerator after residents protest pollution, ash and hazardous conditions.

January 1991
City officials object to building any additional senior housing, saying Madison Heights already has more available housing for seniors than any other South Oakland community.

February 1992
Jon R. Austin, former Garden City City Manager, is hired as City Manager to succeed Dorothy M. Lents, who retired in January.

August 18, 1993
Three hundred residents attend a meeting to discuss $2 million in cuts in the school district.

Lamphere High School graduate and internationally recognized marine life artist Wyland returns to his alma mater to paint a whale mural on the walls of the high school pool.

June 4, 1996
Shameka Layton, 19, and William Brooks, 21, both of Detroit, are convicted of first degree murder in the fatal shooting of James Groppi at Astro Lanes Bowling Alley.  Arthur Layton, who was 14 when Groppi was killed, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.  On July 11, 1996, Detroiters Rosemary Jackson, 27, and Bennie Layton, 17, were convicted of first degree felony murder charges in connection with Groppi's death.

June 30, 1996
A Fourth of July fireworks display injures nine people.

Nov. 4, 1996
Madison Board of Education President Richard Lintner resigns, citing a "malicious act of vandalism" in which someone loosened the lug nuts on the rear wheels of his truck.

Irregularities are found in Madison School District funds.  Superintendent Jack Myers steps down.

Nov. 27, 1996
Susan DeGroege writes a history of Lamphere Schools.

Sept. 30, 1997
Voters approve Lamphere Schools bond issue of $35.5 million for building renovations, playgrounds and technology.

Nov. 2, 1999
A proposed $19 million recreation center is defeated by a vote of 4,011 to 886.  Political newcomer Edward C. Swanson is elected Mayor.

Nov. 19, 1999
Robert Corbett defeats John Turchin for a City Council seat after winning a drawing of lots at the Oakland County Clerk's Office.  Corbett finished three votes behind Turchin in the Nov. 2 election, but a recount showed the election ended in a tie.  The rare and unusual tiebreaker was necessitated to comply with Michigan Election Law.

The Charter Amendment and Revision Committee generates a ballot proposal to eliminate local primary elections in the City.  Later approved by voters, the measure is expect to save $18,000 in the following election.

Working with the Downtown Development Authority, the City installs a clock tower and other "gateway" improvements at the corner of John R. and 11 Mile Roads.

April 2000
The City purchases Gertrude Zielke's house, which will be converted to "The Little House on Hales", a middle school drop-in recreation center the following year.

Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission approves a $3.3 million upgrade of Red Oaks Water Park, including installation of an "action river", water playscape and expanded sunbathing and eating facilities.

City administrators negotiate a tentative agreement to restore the Red Oaks Golf Course, including a $3 million upgrade and host community agreement with the George W. Kuhn Drain and SOCRRA that provides the City $25,000 a year.

"The Ramps", a City skate park, opens at Civic Center Park.

May 21, 2002
Meijer opens a 24-hour retail/grocery store on 13 Mile Road, east of John R, while construction of a 47-unit condominium development continues on the former Frank Lloyd Wright subdivision site.

August, 2002
Voters approve a $5.9 million bond proposal to finance construction of a new north-end Fire Department headquarters and renovations to a south-end building.

April 20, 2003
A three-alarm fire destroys 30 vehicles and causes upwards of $4 million in damages at the Department of Public Services facility on Ajax Drive.  Officials say the blaze apparently was caused by an electrical problem in one of the vehicles.  The facility is rebuilt in four months, eight months ahead of schedule.

Construction of the new Fire Station no. 1 and the renovation of Fire Station No. 2 are completed under budget and ahead of schedule.  The new, $4.3 million fire hall at Irving and Brush streets is three times the size of the Fire Department's old headquarters next to City Hall.

May 3, 2005
The City conducts school board elections in the Lamphere and Madison districts, and a small portion of the Royal Oak District, under a new State Law making Municipal Clerks responsible for school elections.