The Starkweather Farmhouse is considered to be one of the most historic houses in Ypsilanti. It was built in 1844 by John and Mary Ann Newberry as the center of their farm and has since had a very rich history.
In the mid-19th century, the Starkweathers were a very prominent and influential family in Ypsilanti. John Starkweather, already successful in the real estate market, married Mary Ann in 1839, after which Governor Mason appointed him Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction. Later that year, 1841, John purchased 160 acres of land northwest of the city and the couple moved into the Greek Revival farmhouse built on the property. By 1846, the land had been cleared and was ready for planting orchards. The extensive orchards were successful and considered some of the best in the state by the State Agricultural Society. Not only was the farmhouse and orchard an important part of Ypsilanti, it was also an important part of the Civil War. Elijah McCoy, a famous African-American inventor, was an employee on the farm. While he was working on the farm, the house served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. McCoy served as one of the conductors, helping escaped slaves make their way to Canada.
Greek Revival style homes consist of a pedimented gable and are symmetrical in shape. Like many Greek Revival homes, the Starkweather Farmhouse has an entry porch with columns. During nearly 200 years of history, the farmhouse and estate changed hands several times. The house was eventually broken up into three apartments, but the building had deteriorated from years of neglect.
In the summer of 2003, the possibility that the Starkweather Farmhouse might be demolished was evident. In August of 2004, the Ypsilanti City Council appointed a Historic District Study Committee that was in charge of studying and reporting on the feasibility of providing legal protection for the farmhouse. The Ypsilanti City Council created the Starkweather Historic District in May of 2005 after Resolution 2005-16 was passed, and started a search for a renovator interested in taking on the challenge of restoring the structure. In 2007, Ypsilanti resident Ronald Rupert took on the challenge.
Ronald Rupert, a long-time resident of Ypsilanti, is a retired builder and renovator and has worked on some big restoration projects. When the Starkweather project was put up for bid he jumped at the chance to restore the structure. Rupert plans to restore the farmhouse to its 19th century grandeur; however, restoring it to its original prominence may prove to be a difficult task. While the farmhouse is structurally sound, many aspects of the farmhouse are in need of much repair. Large portions of the foundation need work and the siding needs to be replaced, as do two large hand hewn oak beams. One characteristic that makes the farmhouse fall under the style of Greek Revival is the entry porch; however, this characteristic needs to be reattached. Work needs to be done on the interior as well.
After being broken up into three apartments, the inside of the structure needs to be completely gutted. All the electrical and plumbing systems and its septic system need to be replaced and updated. The farmhouse was also never hooked up to the city’s sewer system. For the cost of transferring the title, Rupert will get the farmhouse from the city; however, the structure is in need of much repair and is estimated to cost several hundred thousand dollars to restore it. The restoration of the farmhouse was expected to begin Summer of 2008 and to last five years. Once restoration is complete, a prominent part of Ypsilanti’s history will be brought back to its former grandeur.