When Ethan Dunn became president of the newly established Woodward Village neighborhood this month, he brought with him a lifetime of memories and a hope for a reality television series to bring national attention to his turf.
“This is a neighborhood with a whole lot of charm and beauty,” says Dunn, 34, a partner with Maxwell Dunn PLC in Detroit. He and his wife, Meagan Dunn, a communications executive with Henry Ford Health System, live on Lawrence Street, a block from the home where he grew up.
Now he has the resources and clout to show off that charm and beauty.
“We have 60 to 70 people working on committees to beautify, stabilize and promote our neighborhood,” Dunn says.
With the zeal of a city planner and the respect of an urban historian, he notes the neighborhood of 526 stately homes, west of Woodward and just north of Boston Boulevard, was built by doctors, inventors and lumber barons in the late 1800s.
Hardly any of these homes are on the demolition list, thanks to continuing occupancy.
Dunn’s family bought the home at 130 Lawrence Street in the early 1980s from the grandchildren of the original owners, Francis and Laura Osborn. They did some research and discovered Laura Osborn was president of the Detroit School Board, a noted suffragist and namesake of Osborn Preparatory Academy. Her husband was an inventor of cash registers before selling out to NCR (National Cash Register Company).
The grandchildren had neglected the home’s maintenance, leaving the Dunn family to restore its innate beauty.
“My folks found our stately Victorian house in a bad state of disrepair. It still had gas light fixtures. Our family … all four kids and our parents … spent many happy hours sanding and varnishing the banisters, painting rooms and fixing the plaster,” Dunn recalls.
Such skills never lose their luster.
The Dunns spent $9,000 to buy their current home at 606 Lawrence off the tax rolls in 2011. One of his grade school buddies owned the house years ago.
The stately home, built in 1911, was falling on its haunches until the couple restored the foundation. They invested another $100,000 for all new windows, exterior tuck pointing, kitchen remodeling, bathroom fixtures and infrastructure upgrades.
Now the home is a beacon of welcome for college colleagues from the suburbs, family in Detroit and new friends from the immediate neighborhood who love to socialize by the roaring fireplace and generous sized living room.
Meanwhile, the family home on down the block on Lawrence Street with five bedrooms and a carriage house will be rented to Wayne State University students.
In late January, Dunn also realized his dream of a reality television series that brings national attention to neighborhood. The new reality TV series “American Rehab: Detroit” premiered on the DIY Network featuring Christopher Lee and Amy Feigley-Lee’s home on the next block.
The couple rescued a 3,500-square-foot home from the tax rolls, one that belonged to Christopher’s great grandparents. They had a $138,000 budget for repairs, which Dunn says is right in league with rehab projects.
Woodward Village, once known as “north of Boston-Edison,” comes into its own prominence. “We aim to attract really good neighbors, people who will maintain their properties and share in the urban experience,” Dunn says.
Looks like they have.