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History of Our Building: The John Almon Starr House

How the John Almon Starr House Came to Be

Long before Woodward Avenue and downtown Royal Oak took their places, it was Crooks road that filtered life through the city. Part of the Indian’s Saginaw Trail and highly traveled, it was a natural place for one of the cities earliest businesses to take foot. Our building is the historical John Almon Starr house. John Almon Starr (1828-1895) and his wife, Nancy Quick (1831-1895), built this house in 1868 from bricks fired in Almon’s tile factory. Almon and his parents had emigrated to Michigan from Richmond, New York, in 1831, the same year Nancy was born in Royal Oak Township. Almon and his father, Orson Starr, manufactured animal bells until 1866, when Almon started his brick yard and tile works at this location, later known as Starr Corners. The house was occupied by the Starr family until 1967. The John Almon Starr house is located on a site which contains a last visible segment of the Detroit to Saginaw Indian Trail.


Detroit to Saginaw Indian Trail

The Saginaw Trail, running from Detroit to Saginaw through Pontiac and Flint, was originally an Indian Trail. In 1816 Michigan territorial government authorized the building of a road from Detroit to Saginaw along the trail. Part of the trail in Oakland County is now Woodward Avenue and Dixie Highway. Evidence of the original Saginaw Trail’s path through Royal Oak is still visible as a Depression in the ground running northwesterly across the property adjacent to the John Almon Starr House.

The Indians who traveled this trail might have been going from their summer homes on the Detroit River to their winter homes inland from Pontiac northward to the Saginaw area. In the spring they would make the trip in reverse.

If they were moving with the change of season, they would be carrying their clothing, household goods like pots for cooking, and skins or thatch to cover their next home. If they were on a trading trip, they would be carrying produce from the farms on the riverbanks to communities inland, and returning with furs. If they were on a hunting trip, they would carry their hunting weapons.