Our History

The following information has been excerpted from the

"INTENSIVE LEVEL HISTORICAL AND ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY OF NORTON AVENUE AND SEMINOLE HILLS SUBDIVISION PONTIAC, MICHIGAN."
HENRY & HENRY PRESERVATION AND ARCHITECTURAL CONSULTANTS
MEDIA, PENNSYLVANIA
June 10, 1987
POST-FIELD WORK ASSESSMENTS
SEMINOLE HILLS


An 1872 atlas of Pontiac shows the Seminole Hills area as the 103-acre property of H. E. Crofoot, a member of one of Pontiac’s most prominent families. A smaller property in the southeastern corner of the Seminole Hills area was owned by a man named Stout. In 1872, some land just to the east of Seminole Hills had streets laid out on it. These streets were named Crofoot, College, and Conger. By 1892, the Crofoot parcel had become the property of Mrs. P. R. Roberts, and had grown to 145 acres. The section with Crofoot, College, and Conger Streets is now platted as Crofoot’s Western Addition and the streets in it are named College, Conger, Steward, and Stout. Across Huron Street to the north is the Oakland County Agricultural Society Fairgrounds. The 1896 atlas shows the same general arrangement of land, save for a change in minor land ownership, four acres owned by A. Efferts, and 32 acres owned by Mrs. A. Albertson. By 1908, the situation had not greatly changed, with the land now comprising Seminole Hills owned by Etta E. Roberts, and smaller parcels owned by Ellen Efferts, E. B. Efferts, William H. Morgans, and Mary E. Reed. Crofoot’s Addition was still in existence.
 
In the late Teens and early Twenties, during Pontiac’s growth period, Seminole Hills was platted and subdivided. The designers sought to capitalize on the terrain and the prevailing fashion for subdivisions with curving "Country Club" streets and designed the loop—and-curve subdivision seen in Seminole Hills.

They also sought to evoke the romanticism of the Indian culture with the subdivision and street names. There was not much information available about the development of the area; the only contemporary references found were real estate advertisements of the late 1920’s. The plat design of the subdivision seems to imply a desire to mix several different levels of house size and quality; the lots to the south and on Oneida and Chippewa are quite small compared to the lots in the interior and the north of the subdivision.
 
Most of the houses in Seminole Hills were built between 1922 and 1930. Very few houses were built at all in Pontiac during the Depression. Between 1930 and 1938, only 272 housing units were built in the entire city. Seminole Hills . . . contains 501 buildings approximately 130 acres, (.20 square miles), and is south of West Huron Street between and including Chippewa and Oneida. Seminole Hills extends south to Orchard Lake Road and Voorhies Road. [This neighborhood is made up of] single family detached homes lining curving suburban streets in a mildly rolling landscape, contains 493 single family residential, 1 multi- family residential, 2 religious, and 5 commercial buildings. Some of the buildings now used for commercial purposes were originally residences. Of the two churches in the area, one was also originally a residence. The houses are generally good examples of the variety found in American Suburban domestic architecture of the period 1920-1980. The predominant styles are the Tudor Revival and the Period Revival. Colonial Revivals and some Craftsman houses are also well represented here. This subdivision was developed in the early 1920’s in response to the changing attitudes about suburban subdivision design, in response to a severe automobile industry-related housing shortage in Pontiac, and also as part of the general growth and development of the city.

  1. General Description of District Location, Boundaries, and Surroundings:
The survey area is located in the city of Pontiac, Just south of Huron Street, the major east-west artery, and north of Orchard Lake Road and Voorhies Road, major diagonal arteries. The survey area is a rough pentagonally shaped plot of land which had been the property of H. B. Crofoot, a prominent Pontiac citizen. The survey area is bounded by West Huron Street, Oneida, Orchard Lake Road, Voorhies, and Chippewa. The major streets comprising the district Chippewa, Miami, West Iroquois, Cherokee, Ottawa, East Iroquois, and Oneida) run from north to south between w. Huron and Voorhies and Orchard Lake Roads. The roads curve slightly, creating a picturesque effect, and the land is gently rolling with large and mature shade trees. Three minor cross streets, Menominee, Algonquin, and Manitou cross the major streets and run in an east-west direction. Of these, only Menominee goes completely through the neighborhood. The subdivision is generally on a slope down from Huron Street to Voorhies and Orchard Lake Roads, with several changes in elevation occurring within blocks. Several blocks have a large grade difference between the street and the house entrance or rear yard. Several houses have basement garages. The subdivision covers approximately 130 acres total.
 
The neighborhood surrounding the district is also primarily residential, with some commercial, institutional, educational and religious buildings along the survey area boundaries and in the other neighborhoods. The surrounding residential neighborhoods have a similar mix of Period Revivals and newer construction.
Nearly all houses have auxiliary buildings such as garages and sheds. Most of these garages, however, are not readily visible from the street due to the depth of the lots and the garages’ sitting at the rear of the lots. Through-lot driveways are used. Most of the garages are simple shed-like frame structures with gable or hip roofs.
The lot sizes are not uniform, with small lots on the most exterior lots and larger lots in the northern blocks of Ottawa and Cherokee. The houses line the streets at setbacks of 24-40 feet, the setback being uniform along a street. A concrete sidewalk at about 6-8 feet from the roadway provides a public use and planting space. The streets are very well shaded, with many mature trees. Most houses have their own landscaping, with mature trees and shrubs. Fences occur almost exclusively at rear yards. A few houses have ornamental urns or other sculpture in the front yards or at the porch.
 
The romanticism of the 1920’s period is displayed in the many Tudor and Period Revival homes. Many of these are rather minimal in their stylistic development, little more than simple rectangular one and one half story houses with a steep pitched gabled enclosed entry with an arched door to give the house its picturesqueness. Others are fully developed Tudor Revivals com plete with false thatched roofs, brick-nogged half-timbering, and battlemented parapets. Many Colonial Revivals of the 1920’s,1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s were also built in Seminole Hills, the majority of which are simple two and two and one half story Adam/Georgian types. The Dutch Colonial Revival is represented in a smaller percentage.
The Seminole Hills development was fairly successful in attracting people of Pontiac’s middle and upper-middle class. Many professional people and upper and middle level management people lived in the subdivision. Many realtors also chose Seminole Hills. Most of the city’s oldest and most influential families remained in the Franklin Avenue subdivision and elsewhere. The small, worker-type housing was occupied by lower level management and tradesmen.

The subdivision was not intensively developed; enough empty lots remained so that there are today a good percentage of houses built after 1940. Some were even built as recently as the late 1970’s. These newer houses generally do not display the stylistic quality of the older houses. Most are of the type known as
Minimal Traditional, the familiar one or one and one half story boxy houses built by developers and the FHA/VA programs. Others, done later, are more modern ranches and modern Colonial Revivals with attached garages and aluminum siding. These modern houses are scattered throughout the subdivision, often next door to are across the street from an older, more architecturally interesting house. This mix of housing types, ages, and styles detracts from the subdivision’s historic character.
 
In general, the Seminole Hills subdivision is a pleasant and interesting development which can be viewed as a capsule history of American suburban design development.