The site of this elegant Queen Anne-style mansion, located at 2610 Biddle Avenue, has an important and prominent place in the history of our city long before the current house was built in 1896. The land was originally the homestead of Major John Biddle. Register of the Government Land Office, Mayor of Detroit, and trustee of the Michigan University, John Biddle was the first notable American of European descent in the area. Downriver appealed to Biddle, who thought he could live the life of a gentleman farmer.
Wyandotte was farmland and wooded areas at the time when Biddle bought the land in 1818 and built his farm (or, summer estate as he referred to it) on the corner of Biddle and Vinewood. He wanted it to be a retreat from the hustle and bustle of Detroit city life. He named his estate “Wyandotte.” The Georgian style home was completed in 1835. From 1836 to 1848 Biddle lived here in Wyandotte, but ended up selling his ‘estate’ to the Eureka Iron Company. When the city was established, West Jefferson was named Biddle in John Biddle’s honor, in respect to his reputation and the location of his early estate. His home was moved when construction began on the Ford-MacNichol project.
Completed in 1896, the Ford-MacNichol home was built by Capt. John Baptiste Ford and his son Edward as a wedding gift for Edward’s daughter, Laura. The Fords owned and operated the J.B. Ford and Michigan Alkali Companies - pioneers of the early chemical industry in Wyandotte. J.B. Ford was also the father of plate glass manufacturing in North America. His chemical works here in Wyandotte supplied raw materials to his glass works in Toledo (Libby Owens Ford Glass). In 1943, the J.B. Ford Company and Michigan Alkali consolidated as the Wyandotte Chemicals Company. In 1969, 98% of the shares of Wyandotte Chemicals were acquired by BASF Corporation.
The Ford-MacNichols lived in the home for seven years before they moved to Toledo to be with the rest of their family. At that time, the house was purchased by Jeremiah Drennan, a local lawyer. The Drennan Family lived here for 60 years, making them the longest private owners. In the 1970’s Yvonne Latta purchased the home and saved it from demolition. She was instrumental in the restoration of the structure, doing much of the work herself. In 1977, the home was purchased by the city with a grant from the Michigan History Division of the Department of State, along with funds provided by the Wyandotte Historical Society, local businesses, civic organizations, and individuals.
The Ford-MacNichol Home is a textbook example of the Queen Anne architectural style of the late 19th century, with influences of the classical revival. Designed by the famed Detroit architectural firm, Malcomson and Higginbotham (also responsible for the Old Main building on the campus of Wayne State University and the Ford-Bacon Home in Wyandotte), great detail and forethought was taken into consideration in the design and construction. This is evidenced by the tower with witch’s hat roof, projecting gables, wrap-around porch and elaborate decorative trim.
Much of the interior is also original. The square footage of the home is 6,600 square feet with 32 rooms and 11 closets. It was considered to be the height of technology at the time with indoor plumbing, a coal furnace with gravity duct system, speaking tubes, and both gas and electric lighting. There are 6 fireplaces, 65 windows and 53 doors! This elaborate and inspiring building represents the grandeur and promise of Wyandotte’s past and future. The Ford-MacNichol Home is on the State and National Register of Historic Places.