Tom Palmer would be kicking up his heels to the sound of the Chelsea House Orchestra fiddlers if he was alive to see how the all-volunteer People for Palmer Park have revived the log cabin he built in 1885 near Woodward and McNichols. The public will celebrate his summer home in a combination urban/Victorian merriment.
Hat making, square dancing, blacksmithing, high wheeling and quilting – much like they did in Palmer’s Day – will be featured in a festival from 1 to 5 p.m. June 25. This historic cabin – one of the largest in Michigan – is open only one weekend a year so come enjoy the people and places that shaped us. A day earlier, a concert inside the cabin will help subsidize this legacy.
Log Cabin Day is a “log jam” of sorts featuring music from the Chelsea House Orchestra fiddlers, who really know how to throw down string music. Guests will be invited to square up and join in the pioneer hustle (aka “square dance”.) There will be plenty of experienced dancers on hand to teach traditional steps, which are easy to learn and, surprisingly, addictive. If you get hooked, many of the Detroit Recreation Centers offer square dance classes weekly.
The family event pays homage to U.S. Sen. Thomas Palmer who donated his summer home with a cabin, a lake and a forest with over 296 acres of land to the city of Detroit for a public park at the turn of the 20th century. The building was closed almost 40 years until the People for Palmer Park and a log cabin historical society put funds and elbow grease into opening it again. The groups are actively involved in restoring the building.
On Log Cabin Day, it is everyone’s cabin. Historians and actors dressed in period fashions will welcome guests. The owners of Guernsey Dairy in Northville will serve the first 500 guests free ice cream. Volunteers will teach children and adults how to make hats from paper bags and newspapers and they can join a bonnet parade later in the afternoon.
Peek inside the everyday lives of the Detroiters of the 1800s with traditional blacksmith and wool spinning demos. Learn about the underground railroad and the role of quilts from Detroit Unity Temple artists and the life of civil war soldiers through an encampment of the 102nd USCT Black History group. Also on board is stained glass window demos with Andrea Sevonty, whose company, Sevonty Restoration, has helped restore many of the broken glass windows in the log cabin.
Cyclists will enjoy watching the wheelmen rolling around on their penny farthings while others will meet and chat with actors representing Tom Palmer and his wife Elizabeth Palmer. For the first time in many years, visitors can tour the second floor of the log cabin.
A day earlier, the public can attend one of two concerts in the log cabin to subsidize the restoration of the cabin. Tickets are $50 to $60, but the work on the cabin will cost well over $100,000 to complete.
Jazz, Blues and Motown music will be played by world-renowned jazz musicians — A. Spencer Barefield (guitarist), Shahida Nurullah (vocalist), and Ibrahim Jones (bassist). The shows run from 4-6 p.m. and a twilight concert from 7-9 p.m. Both events will include a tour of the cabin along with a reception with wine and cheese. Tickets can be purchased online.
All photos by Barbara Barefield
About Palmer Park:
Built in 1885 by Senator Thomas Palmer and his wife, Elizabeth Merrill Palmer, as their summer retreat, the cabin has undergone major renovations over the past few years with the help of the City of Detroit. Completed work includes a new cedar shingle roof, foundation, porch canopy and back wall. In addition, the People for Palmer Park raised money to restore all of the cabin’s original stained glass windows. Future projects at the cabin will include new lighting, rebuilding the chimney, completing the interior woodwork, installing new sidewalks and rebuilding the kitchen for events.
Palmer Park, located just west of Woodward Ave. between Six and Seven Mile Roads, is comprised of 296 acres of lawns and historic woodlands. It includes a public golf course, tennis courts, splash park, hiking and biking trails. The focal point is the two-story log cabin situated next to a small lake with a lighthouse. The Detroit Mounted Police keep horses and their headquarters at the park. The People for Palmer Park is a volunteer, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, started in 2011. It is the adopt-a-park organization that works closely with the City of Detroit on all events and activities in Palmer Park.
For more information, please visit peopleforpalmerpark.org