Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A Curious ‘Cotswold Castle’ In ‘Motor City’

Bizarre Detroit house built of ‘Cotswold stone’ marketed for sale as a “19th century United Kingdom castle;” its price is 48% lower than when last sold in 2021 and its interior is beyond curious

Nicknamed ‘Motor City,’ Detroit is best known as the place where Henry Ford pioneered the use of production lines to mass manufacture automobiles. It had a population of 639,000 as of the 2020 census and is often cited for its connections with gangsters and violent crime.


Bizarrely, however, now a realtor is somewhat laughably trying to sell a dilapidated house built in 1925 in one of the ‘toniest’ districts in this place of plenty of no-go areas as a “19th century United Kingdom castle” of “elegance and grandeur.” It actually resembles something only maybe Morticia Addams might, as it is currently presented, love.


19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 1
The residence does indeed feature a ‘Great Hall’ that is certainly not what one would expect to find in the midst of a housing estate. It certainly has character, but is more akin to being in a village hall than a residential dwelling. Of it, in a Facebook group discussing this and other properties, one comment reads: “That tiny fireplace in the giant, drafty room wouldn’t put a dent in a Michigan winter. That room needs four or six fireplaces. It looks so cold.”
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 4
Many of the rooms are decorated in a very odd fashion and throughout the building someone once busied themselves randomly painting vines and creepers. They’re not exactly masterpieces.
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods red room
This particular room wouldn’t look out of place in a brothel or the home of the dastardly decorator and champagne swiller Dawn Ward.
The marketing video shared by estate agent Matt O’Laughlin is accompanied by Pachebel’s Canon in D Major. Clearly, O’Laughlin sees the house as potentially usable as a wedding venue given that the accompanied canon has been one of the most used pieces of music at weddings since the 1980s throughout the western world.
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 7
The rear yard of the house, with lots of exposed earth, most definitely gives off serial killer film set vibes. Goodness knows what’s buried here.
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 2
Throughout the house are lots of odd-looking cupboards. One commentator on Facebook describes them as being “suitable for use perhaps by a child catcher.” Chilling, at the very least.
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 3
Yet more examples of “child catcher cupboards.”
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 5
Whilst the bathrooms are perhaps original in terms of their tiling and fitting, somebody oddly has decided to write text just beneath the ceiling. Whilst the full narrative here cannot be read, it includes: “Think but this and all is mended. That you have but slumber’d here…” Okay.
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 6
Corridor areas do look especially creepy and dungeon-esque.
1943 sale listing 19551 Burlington Road Palmer Woods
The ‘Detroit Free Press’ advertisement from 19th September 1943 offering the house – then described at 19551 Burlington Road – for sale at an undisclosed price by an “owner anxious to sell.”

Priced currently at just £412,200 after having previously sold in October 2021 for the far punchier sum of £748,300, the 8,019 square foot property at 19551 Burlington Drive is situated in a district known as Palmer Woods. It includes 7 bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms, a 4-car garage and stands on a plot that extends to 0.57 acres.


Described as being of “Cotswold stone” construction and “a one-of-a-kind estate” in spite of its small plot, the 3-storey building offered includes what the selling agent Matt O’Laughlin of Max Broock Realtors references as “soaring wood-beamed ceilings, long arched hallways, intricate custom millwork, and a great hall fit for a modern-day king and queen.”


The Palmer Woods sub-division itself extends to around 188 acres and has been home to everyone from presidents of motor corporations including Chevrolet, Chrysler and Dodge to politicians such as the 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. For a time in the 1920s, a leading member of Detroit’s Purple Gang – a gang so feared that even Al Capone kowtowed to it – lived in a house there and more recently the former Detroit Pistons player John Salley was master of a 35,000 crib that was originally built by the Archdiocese of Detroit.


In March 2011, The Atlantic featured Palmer Woods in an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates titled ‘The Other Detroit.’ Whilst lauding it as a “really beautiful neighbourhood in the north-west portion of the city,” she pointedly referenced how when it was founded it was decreed that lots should “not be sold or leased or to be occupied by any person or persons other than that of the Caucasian race.” A clause, however, allowed: “This shall not be interpreted to exclude occupancy by persons other than of the Caucasian race when such occupancy is incidental to their employment on the premises.”


When 19551 Burlington Drive – also known as ‘The Souther Residence’ – was offered for sale in September 1943 by an “owner anxious to sell,” it was listed as having “servant’s quarters.” Thankfully, those bigoted restrictive covenants relating to servants were subsequently ruled unconstitutional in 1948 and subsequent black American residents of the area have included the popular Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier and Keith Ellison, the first Muslim congressman.


Editor’s Note – Unlike as is the case in many publications, this article was NOT sponsored or supported by a third-party.


Many more pictures of the wacky interior of ‘The Souther Residence’ follow at the end of this article.


The Names & Numbers – ‘The Souther Residence,’ 19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods Plats, Detroit, Michigan, MI 48203, United States of America

1st January 2023 – Marked on as “listed by bank” with the lender “now selling it.”


12th December 2022 – Listed for sale for at a price -48.1% lower than sold for one year earlier for £412,200 ($495,900, €465,900 or درهم1.8 million) or the equivalent of £52 ($62, €58 or درهم228) per square foot. The selling agent is Matt O’Laughin of Max Broock Realtors and the taxes payable amount to £9,740 ($11,717, €11,013 or درهم43,031) per annum.


October 2022 – Valued by Zestimate at £998,000 ($1.2 million, €1.1 million or درهم4.4 million).


26th October 2021 – Sold for a sum +142.4% higher than its 1994 sale price for £794,800 ($956,152, €898,400 or درهم3.5 million) or the equivalent of £99 ($119, €112 or درهم437) per square foot.


28th August 2014 – Listed to be sold by auction after being subject to a foreclosure by the Bank of America, N.A. The sum of the 1st mortgage amount was £748,300 ($900,008, €846,100 or درهم3.3 million). The name of the then “owner” was given as Evan Burkholder and a “trustee,” Trott & Trott, P.C. was also mentioned.


18th July 1994 – Sold for £327,900 ($394,500, €370,700 or درهم1.4 million) or the equivalent of £41 ($49, €46 or درهم180) per square foot.


19th September 1943 – Featured in the Detroit Free Press in an advert by Walsh, James & Wasey Co. They claimed the “owner anxious to sell” and listed the property as an “attractive English type Kentucky limestone residence” complete with 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and servant’s quarters. They lauded the offering also as having “many other superior features.” No asking price was mentioned.


1925 – Built, according to Instagrammer, tour guide and architectural history enthusiast Jonathan Peters, for a Mr Chester Souther and his wife, Keturah.


In a post dedicated to the property on 12th December 2021, Peters shared:


“Mr Souther was vice president of the Norton Land Corporation as well as manager in the tax department for General Motors. Leonard B. Willeke was one of the Detroit area’s more talented and prolific residential architects of the first half of the 20th century, most known for his Arts & Crafts designs.”


“The Souther residence is Palmer Woods’ lone home to be completely faced with stone. Detroit and environs are no stranger to Cotswold, with several iterations of the style to be found in neighborhoods throughout the city and suburbs. The most notable example being the Cotswold Cottage in Greenfield Village, which was modified, disassembled, transported from the Cotswold countryside and rebuilt in 1929 – 1930.”


Notable Residents of Palmer Woods

Walter O Briggs, George Romney, Mitt Romney and John Salley
Left to right – Residents of Palmer Woods have included variously included many considered amongst the ‘great and the good’ – amongst them Walter O. Briggs Sr., George Romney, Mitt Romney and John Salley.

Whilst other areas of Detroit, such as the Russell Woods district, counted The Supremes’ Diana Ross amongst the prominent names to have lived there, those ‘famous faces’ who’ve variously called Palmer Woods home have included:


  • John Ballantyne (1868 – 1937), financial advisor to the Dodge Brothers Motor Corporation and president of Merchant’s National Bank., resided for a time at 15750 Balmoral. He was born in Paisley, Scotland


  • Walter O. Briggs Sr. (1877 – 1952), automobile body manufacturer, philanthropist and owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball team from 1919 until his death in 1952. He built his 8,136 square foot residence in a ‘Tudor style’ in the area in 1925 along with a “rare carriage house.”


  • Joseph Burnstein has been described as “one of the smartest and toughest leaders of the Purple Gang.” He lived at 1920 Lincolnshire Drive for a time and for 49 years more recently, somewhat ironically, the building was home to a commanding officer of the Detroit Police Department’s Organised Crime Division. The Jewish led gang, also known as ‘The Sugar Gang’ and ‘The Purples,’ operated as bootleggers and hijackers in the 1920s and “even Chicago’s notorious Al Capone made peace with them and bought Canadian whisky from them rather than fight them for territory.” His surname is often misspelt as “Bernstein” and by the time of the gang’s fall in 1935, he and his cohorts no longer reigned over Detroit’s underworld, at least 18 gang members were dead and many others in prison.


  • Marvin E. Coyle (1887 – 1961), general manager and president of the Chevrolet Motor Company in the 1930s and 1940s, resided for a time at 19391 Suffolk. He was known around the world as ‘Mr Facts & Figures’ and referenced as “having decimal points in his blood.”


  • Lamont Dozier (1941 – 2022), part of the popular Motown songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland, is said to have lived in the district for a time. This thrice married, father of six co-wrote and produced 14 US Billboard number-one hits and 4 number ones in the UK.


  • Mike Duggan (born 1958), the 75th Mayor of Detroit (elected in 2013), is said to live in the district. He received national attention for becoming the first white mayor of the majority black populated city since the 1970s.


  • Charles Van Dusen, lauded as a “department store king,” is said to have lived in the district for a time.


  • Keith Ellison (born 1963) the first Muslim congressman, is said to have lived in the district for a time. He currently serves as the 30th Attorney General of Minnesota and is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL).


  • Brothers Alfred Fisher (1892 – 1963) and William Fisher (1886 – 1969), who ran the Fisher Body automotive company which was eventually absorbed into General Motors, both had homes in the district in the 1920s and 1930s at 1771 Balmoral Drive and 1791 Wellesley Drive respectively. The later was demolished after a fire in 1994.


  • K. T. Keller (1885 – 1966) president of the Chrysler Corporation between 1935 and 1949 and the company’s chairman from 1950 to 1956, resided for a time at 19366 Cumberland. He was also appointed by President Truman to serve as chairman of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Merchant Marine and the director of the Office of Guided Missiles after the Second World War.


  • William S. Knudsen (1879 – 1948), president of General Motors between 1937 and 1940 and an appointee of Franklin D. Roosevelt to head the War Mobilization Board during the Second World War, resided for a time at 1501 Balmoral. He featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1940 and was commissioned by Franklin D. Roosevelt to help lead the United States’ war material production efforts during the Second World War.


  • George W. Romney (1907 – 1995), who was president of the American Motor Corporation and the 43rd governor of Michigan, owned a house in the district until circa 1952. He was father to 4 children including the 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (born 1947) and the latter politician is described as having lived in Palmer Woods until he turned five.


  • In 1915, the family of the late senator Thomas W. Palmer (1830 – 1913) sold the 188 acres of land that now forms the district to one Charles Burton. He founded the Palmer Woods Company and hired a landscape architect, Ossian Simmonds, to design what has been noted as an “oasis of winding streets and irregular sized lots.” A summerhouse designed by the architects Mason & Rice for the Palmer family in 1885 is still to be found in Palmer Park.


One house in particular, ‘The Bishop Gallagher Residence’ at 19366 Lucerne Drive is considered the most notable residence in the area. It was built between 1920 and 1925, stands on a plot of 2.06 acres and consists of 20,030 square foot of “livable area.” The 62-room residence’s ‘notable names’ have included:


  • Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International and founder of the Impact Network, the largest African-American Christian television network in the USA, subsequently lived there from 1995. He sold it to a real estate developer for a sum said to be “more than” £2.1 million ($2.5 million, €2.3 million or درهم2 million) in 2017. Bishop Jackson was amongst those who gave benedictions at the inauguration of President Donald Trump on 20th January 2017 at the United States Capitol in Washington. He has 9 children and 26 grandchildren.


  • John Salley (born 1964), former Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers basketball player, owned ‘The Bishop Gallagher Residence’ from 1989 to 1995. He subsequently appeared in the Luther Vandross music video Take You Out and in programmes ranging from the Weakest Link to I’m A Celebrity… Get Me out of Here! and is now known as a vegan activist and cannabis brand owner.


  • Various bishops and archbishops of Detroit including Bishop Gallagher, Cardinal Edward Mooney and Cardinal John Dewden lived in the property in the years after its construction.


More pictures of ‘The Souther Residence’ from its current realtor listing

19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 9
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 10
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 11
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 12
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 13
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 14
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 15
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 16
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 17
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 19
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 20
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 21
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 22
19551 Burlington Drive, Palmer Woods 23
Palmer Woods map
Matthew Steeples
Matthew Steeples
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Matthew Steeples is a writer and marketing consultant. He conceived The Steeple Times as a media arena to fill the void between the Mail Online, The Huffington Post and such organs as the New York Social Diary in 2012.


    • Don’t you think it a little sinister? As for all the “British castle” guff, ridiculous. The realtor has most definitely been on the hooch.

    • Could be used in a horror movie! This X a million. I agree June. I’ve seen images on Tv & books of British mansions. The vast majority are ancient & very beautiful. As a Brit once told me,they have buildings older than America. They sure do & most are goegeous.

  1. Scrolling those pictures gave me a headache. The place is as June says CREEPY but I’d also bet money that there are bodies in the cellar and in that earthen backyard. Something weird went on here. Mark my words… The REAL story is yet to be told.

  2. Actually, the lot is probably worth the asking price. Overall, I think with the right landscaping and lighting, the exterior of the home is rather charming. But the inside –gawd! What few original features worth keeping are completely overshadowed by hideous paint jobs and kinds of damage, from signs of water leaks to structural cracks. You would basically be paying for the lot and the bricks because the interior is a gut job. And even if you did get a good deal, sink a few million in upgrades and end up with a stunner… are still living in a suburb of Detroit. Yuck.

    • Prithee Pardon me Sir Tommy, thee has’t did burst mine own bubbleth. I shall taketh my leaveth to findeth mine own dreameth Castle far hence from Detroit!

  3. Americanized castle effect that was several times reamericanized and then further Americanized and then cheered right up with a splash of color …it’s ungrandly looming and is in fact looming over my sensibilities as I type…..what strange future awaits it??


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