Swain House, Fort Street, Detroit

Fort Street West (possibly at Swain Street), constructed 1861-3. I believe this might have been the house of Isaac N. Swain (1807-1880), who made his money in lumber in Watervliet, and in flour. He was the president of Woodmere cemetry and is buried in Lot 1184.


The "American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-made Men" p. 136 notes that Swain bought 12 acres of land on the Detroit River after his wife's death in 1858 (and his subsequent remarriage in 1859), and "commenced with its cultivation and adornment". Between 1861 and 63 he constructed "one of the most substantial mansions of the west". It notes his library, and that he has never taken "wine, or malt, or spirituous liquors as a beverage, nor does he use tea, coffee or tobacco". Even in his 70's he was a muscular well built man of 6'-2" who had a long flowing beard, iron grey hair, light clear complexion and a "fine set of natural teeth", "erect as most men of fifty". He is noted as "simple and easy in his manners; prompt, courteous , and agreeable in all business transactions; and delights in relating his varied adventures, especially to the young".


And in 1881...



Photo is from WSU Virtual Motor City, noted as:

Old Detroit; Residences; Swain Home - Note: Negative reads “Fort Street” (21295)


By Sheldon Smith with E. A. Walshe. Strangely someone named R. A. Sheldon produced the similar Starling Medical College in 1848 with a remarkably similar tower. www.flickr.com/photos/theeerin/280882844/


Swain is buried in Lot 1184 of Woodmere cemetery.

  • Jim Garrett 6y

    Wow! Just look at those brackets and the details on that attic story!
  • [davidrobertsphotography] 6y

    Nice bit of Gothic.
  • Chad Johnson 6y

    Wow!! This house is amazing.
  • Scott Weir 6y

    Yeah its fantastic. I think this was waterfront.
  • pinehurst19475 5y

    It's hard to imagine Fort Street as a thoroughfare lined with mansions. It's too bad that few (if any) were preserved as examples of what the street once represented.
  • Scott Weir 5y

    I'm trying to think of any that are left. Far as I can tell there are some really good industrial, religious and commercial buildings interspersed but I don't think any of these remain.
  • bg147 5y

    I have never seen anything like this, a work of art.
  • Will n Julie 5y

    The porch was extended to the right side sometime after it was built. The 1881 image shows only a central porch over the front door. I was also surprised to see the old circular driveway in the 1881 image. This shot is so rural looking.
  • Alexandra Christina Photo 5y

    Absolute amazing!
  • JoannePezzu 5y

    There are legends/rumors that this house built in 1861 had a tunnel used for underground railroad.
  • sweetest.sound.of.thunder 4y

    Do you know if this place is still standing?
  • Shinhiryuu 4y

    I love this home, ugh, you always want more. I live in Indian Village now and would still give it up to move to this home
  • Scott Weir 2y

    Indian Village is pretty darn fantastic. I agree this one is bizarrely special but love Indian Village. Beautiful part of the world.
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Uploaded on November 26, 2009
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