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Royal Oak’s Oldest Structure
Progress Overwhelms History

“Royal Oak’s Oldest Structure May Go Down” so states a newspaper clipping from the 1950's. The 110 year old Benjamin home, built in1845 by John Benjamin Sr. would eventually be cleared for a shopping center in April 1968.





Royal Oak's "Oldest"- 1831-1968

The Benjamin property was located west of the old Saginaw Turnpike (latter
Woodward Ave.), at about 12 ½ Mile Road, just north of today’s Benjamin Ave.John Benjamin Sr. the son of John and Mary Benjamin of Mendon, New York, was born in 1809. John’s father died from a bullet wound fighting in the War of 1812. In May of 1830, at the age of 21, John moved his Mother and two brothers to Detroit, Michigan. In 1831 John received, for $100 cash, a land patent on 80 acres just north of what would be 12 Mile Road. Today much of this land lies in the Roseland Park Cemetery.


In 1835 John married 16 year old Ruth Ann Warner, born in Niagara County, New York in 1819. The couple moved into a log cabin built by John on the Woodward property. In 1845, John replaced the log cabin with a seven room frame house. Extra rooms and a second floor were add later increasing the structure to 13 rooms and a pantry. John and Ruth lived on the Benjamin farm until their deaths, his in 1878 and hers in 1911.

Originally a cabinet maker, John applied his woodworking skills to making grain cradles. He built a two story factory west of Woodward, and north of his home for the assembly of the cradles. The Benjamin Grain Cradle became famous for its quality of construction.

John and Ruth had 5 children born between 1836 and 1849. Mary was the oldest followed by John Jr., Asenath, Levi and Julia. John Jr., being the eldest son, stayed on the family homestead, (now increased to160 acres) farming and helping his father make grain cradles. In 1864, at the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in Company C, Thirtieth Michigan Infantry. He served as a fifer for the company and was mustered out in 1865. He married Martha A. Campbell in 1869, they had one daughter who died at 10 months old. Martha, sadly passed away in 1872. John married again in 1876 to Ella S. Parker. The couple adopted a daughter Elsie in 1887. John and Ella remained on the Benjamin property until his death in 1914 and her’s in 1943.

In 1939, the Benjamin home, now 2244 North Woodward was sold to a Dr Manting. It was remolded and used as the Ruth Farra Manting Antiques Shop. Sometime in the 1940's it became Aunt Fanny’s Restaurant until 1968 when it was finally demolished for a shopping center.                

Resources:
“Royal Oak Michigan, The Early Years” Owen A. Perkins, A Royal Oak Golden Jubilee Publication, Published in 1971 by Golden Jubilee ‘71, Incorporated, Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the City Of Royal Oak, Michigan.

Lecture given by Ralzemond A. Parker to the Oakland County Pioneers,1921:
available at The Royal Oak Historical Society Museum.


    




Benjamin home second floor addition in 1892.




Benjamin backyard 1890.






John Benjamin frame house built in 1845 on the west side of Woodward Ave., north of 12 Mile road. This home replaced the original log cabin built in the 1830's.


Remodeled in1939 as the Manting Antique Shop.


Aunt Fanny's 1940's -1968.

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Early 1900's.


Before it's 1930's renovation.
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