The University Record, November 20, 2000

Regents approve sale of historic home

By Jane R. Elgass

Gordon Hall from the west. Photo courtesy Investment Office
The listing for sale of a historic home in Dexter was approved by the Regents at their Nov. 16 meeting.

Gordon Hall, built in the 1840s, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was gifted to the University in 1950 from Katherine D. Dexter McCormick, granddaughter of U-M Regent and Judge Samuel William Dexter. Dexter was a regent in 1840–41.

The gift required the University to retain and maintain the area immediately around the home for at least 15 years. This requirement expired in 1965. The University has preserved the property for 50 years.

The property includes a 9,900-square-foot home, Gordon Hall, with an 1,800-square-foot garage, situated on approximately 70 acres on the western outskirts of Dexter Village. The University constructed two additional houses in 1956.

McCormick approved the plans for construction of those homes and interior changes to Gordon Hall. While she informally asked for the opportunity to review and approve any plans for the property if changes were made during her lifetime, she also told the University she had no objections to the sale of the property. She died in 1967.

“Gordon Hall is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and there is evidence the house was once used as an Underground Railroad site,” said Henry D. Baier, U-M associate vice president for facilities and operations. “The interior renovations over the years have obscured some earlier architectural features, but the remaining architecture suggests that hidden rooms and passages were part of the house at one time.

“The building itself,” Baier noted, “is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the state, and its importance has been recognized at the local, state and federal levels. The listing of the building in the National Register is consistent with the family’s desire that the structure be preserved as a landmark and treated in a respectful manner.

“The University has now exceeded its responsibility to hold the property and the listing in the National Register responds to the interests of Mrs. McCormick,” Baier added. “The University no longer needs the property and does not anticipate a potential program use for the site.”

Gordon Hall now is divided into four large apartments, and these units, as well as the other two houses, are rented to U-M faculty and staff through August 2001. Forty acres are leased for farming through December 2000.

To preserve the site, the University will seek a designation with the local historic district commission to protect the exterior of the house from substantial changes or demolition. It is anticipated that this designation will take six months to complete.

Because of the unique nature of the property, information about its availability will be advertised in local, state and national publications.