Celebrating our Victorian heritage
Posted on 09/22/2022
Mayor Brian Turnbull Dear Northvillians and friends, 

Last week during our Victorian Heritage Festival days, it was truly outstanding getting back to former traditions the pandemic interrupted. With summer-like weather, Northville was alive with people and bands throughout the three-day festival. The Victorian saloon, with its fellowship, food and festive atmosphere, was electrifying.

The activities around town were tremendous, with third graders coming downtown Friday in Victorian dress, learning about our history and being part of the parade that night. On Sunday, the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Mill Race Village was in full swing. Nearby, we had the duck race on the river, along with the various vendors in town and a vast array of music throughout the weekend at multiple locations.

We also celebrated the 75th anniversary of Scout Troop 755 at Ford Field and at their encampment across the street at Ford Field East. Over the years, they have given back to the community through various projects that benefited all in our area.

Following the festival weekend, the annual Old Timers of Northville gathering was held on Tuesday at Genitti’s, and included a Northville history recap, the announcement of our annual Senior of the Year Award and the sharing of many stories from our past among those attending.

With all those sharing their time and talents over this past weekend, it has been suggested that we start recognizing on a weekly basis a community citizen who has given to the greater cause for those that enjoy our “Hamlet in the Hills”. This Northvillian of the Week recognition will start in late September.

Before we talk about some of our distinguished seniors and old timers, let’s first look at what’s going on in our city today:

Events/Info

• Mayoral Townhall – Sept. 22, 7 p.m. (Live – Northville Township Hall, 6 Mile and Sheldon and on Zoom) – School board candidate introductions and an introduction to the new Superintendent Dr. RJ Webber.
Town Hall Zoom link. (Meeting ID 875 9014 3522)

• Northville CROP Hunger Walk, Oct. 2, 1 p.m. starting at Presbyterian Church (200 E. Mains St.). See link for additional information.  

• History Lecture at the Community Center by the Mayor – Oct. 13, 6 p.m. View link.  

• Northville’s Parmenter’s Cider Mill, since 1873 – 630 Baseline, is open for the season. Also check out Northville Winery & Brewing Co. right next door with music.

• Concerts every Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. through October – Downtown

• Farmers’ Market – Northville’s Award-Winning Market, Thursdays (7 Mile/Sheldon)

This week, the Old Timers gathered to break bread, tell stories and to catch up on local events… I will share some of the organization’s history here.

The Old Timers (History) luncheon has occurred for decades and has kept the community connected to our colorful past, its characters, and its storytellers. Importantly, it also welcomes newcomers to our community.

• The luncheon is an opportunity for friends, acquaintances and newcomers to listen or swap stories about families and activities that have been part of our town’s 200-year history.

• Attending over the decades are people with names such as Ambler, Yerkes, Atchison, Allen, Casterline, Wright, Stevens, Miller, Allen, McGuire (Guernsey), Folino, Lapham, Long, Genitti, Ely, Turnbull, Longridge, and many others after whom our streets are named.

• First timers and old timers merge during this gathering. The group was originally an all-male assembly. Today, the group has transitioned to be fully inclusive.

• This gathering rekindles old memories when Northville was ranked just behind Detroit in economic activity for Michigan. At one time, trains, trolleys and stagecoaches stopped on the hour in our village.

• During a presentation at the luncheon, I spoke about the different phases of our community:

o Milling days on the Rivers – our early beginnings and first uses of “river power.”

o The industrial phase, with production facilities along our waterways when Northville ranked just behind Detroit in economics.

o To today, using our rivers as a platform for a connecting pathway system for southeastern Michigan along our waterway’s scenic banks.

• During this year’s history update at the Old Timers gathering, I reminded everyone that Northville had the largest furniture factory in the country and our foundries were second to none. In those early years, our four historic burgs were the only places to live in town – Historic District, Beal Town, Cabbage Town, and Orchard Heights.

• Stories abounded about our ski jump platform that launched world-record holders into the air. Others spoke during the Old Timers lunch about folks who came from all over Michigan in the summer to attend the largest fair in the state at Northville Downs, where harness racing was first run under the lights.

• Northville is the town where Henry Ford spent his honeymoon and also commissioned the building of a Village Industry factory.

• This year’s Senior of the Year recipient was George Miller. The Miller Family sold and serviced vehicles in Northville since the 1930s through several locations around town. George (NHS Class of ’55) and his wife Carol (Class of ’60) ran Miller’s Custom Bumping and Painting (where the Garage Grill is today). George continued his father’s tradition of volunteerism and support for the community he loves. The Northville community is pleased to recognize and thank him for all he’s done for our town and our citizens.

I personally believe we must know our history to plan our future.

Keep that Northville historic faith!

historic Northville and George