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The Oldest House in Oakland County

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Just as it would become two hundred years later, the settlement around the 
Founders Map of Downtown Bham-no text - Copy (2)Saginaw Trail was a hotbed of real estate investment and property squabbles just a few years after first being settled.  Among other things, all three of the first founders with adjacent parcels (Elijah Willits, John West Hunter, and John Hamilton) offered rooms to rent for travelers on the trail, a rather lucrative business, as people migrated inland to Michigan's wilderness on the only inland route available. Other settlers were drawn to the area, which was experiencing a bit of a population boom. The land had become so valuable just three years after the first purchases by Willits, Hamilton, and Hunter that the situation led to boundary disputes. To be fair, the nature of survey marking at that time may have contributed to error; but in any case, it was discovered in 1821 that John West Hunter had built his cabin on Elijah Willits' side of the property line.

This ultimately led to Hunter building a new dwelling in 1822; but, rather than build another simple log cabin like those of the settlement, Willits had an itinerant carpenter build him a fine frame house instead. One can speculateHunter House that  this generated a certain amount of envy in his neighbors, and perhaps more so since Hunter had an extra room added to rent to travelers on the trail, superior accommodations in comparison. That first frame house in Oakland County exists today as the oldest frame house in the county, and is located right on the site of the Birmingham Museum--the John West Hunter House. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a unique example of building styles and technology of the period. It is furnished with period antiques that reflect its occupation from that time to the twentieth century, and a guided tour is part of admission to the Birmingham Museum.