The Canadian Southern Railroad completed their facilities for international shipments through Grosse Ile in 1873. Trains would take passengers and freight from Buffalo and other eastern points to Amherstburg. A ferry then took freight and passengers from the Canadian shore to a slip on Stony Island where a rail line carried passengers and freight to what is now Trenton and the United States rail line. The Canadian Southern erected a 900-foot bridge to link Stony Island to Grosse Ile, and then a 1,500 foot bridge to link Grosse Ile to the Michigan mainland. The Canadian Southern intended to continue their line from Grosse Ile to Chicago, but they never found the requisite financing. Instead, they linked to Michigan’s railroad in present-day Trenton.
In the late Nineteenth Century, the federal government imposed taxes on most imported items. This was a major source of revenue for Washington, so there was need for a customs station on Grosse Ile. The building pictured above is what the federal government built. The financially challenged Canadian Southern Railroad was purchased by the much more solvent Michigan Central Railroad about 1880. The Michigan Central operated a fleet of ferries in Detroit, so they saw no need to maintain boat service from Amherstburg to Grosse Ile. I believe that Michigan Central terminated their regular use of the Grosse Ile crossing in 1883 and then completely closed the operation in 1888. Thus, there was no need for a federal customs house on Grosse Ile. The building was converted into a residence in 1904.
This building was originally located on Macomb Street. After the Grosse Ile Historical Society purchased the structure, they moved it to its present location.
Date of Construction: 1871
Architect: Unknown to me
Date of relocation to this site: 1979
Use in 2009: This is a facility of the Grosse Ile Historical Society.
Website for the Grosse Ile Historical Society: http://www.gihistory.org/
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: P25,388, Listed May 20, 1982
State of Michigan Historic Marker: None put in place
National Register of Historic Sites: Not Listed
Photograph: Ren Farley, August 3, 2009
Description prepared: August, 2009
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