July 18, 2018
Counter-clockwise from Big Beaver Road and Brookdale Road
10.5 miles, 4 hours
As the site of Cranbrook, my home and affiliated institution during the years that I was in metro Detroit, Bloomfield Hills seemed the appropriate location for a final walk.
Bloomfield Hills became a village in 1927 and was incorporated in 1932. It consists of 5 square miles of mostly residential property, located within Bloomfield Township in Oakland County.
“The legitimate history of Oakland county, so far as it relates to the settlement and civilization of the whites, commences with the abandonment of the siege of Detroit by the great Indian chief, Pontiac, in 1764. With this portentous danger removed, the interior of southern Michigan became a field of investigation to adventurers and those seeking homes; so that in 1815 the surveyor general of the state commenced to run his lines south from Detroit toward the Ohio boundary.
“On the 23d of April, 1820, Congress passed an act authorizing the sale of public lands at $1.25 an acre, payments in full at the time of the purchase…. The purchaser became at once the absolute owner of the soil. Every act of improvement was made to benefit him or his children….
“The gentle sloping surface of the country — the majestic growth of timber, the dark, rich soil, attracted many settlers to that town, and the whole was settled with unrivalled rapidity. And now the nicely painted houses, and well cultivated farms show how accurately the pioneer judged, and how well the earth has repaid him for his labor.”
— Thaddeus D. Seeley
From the City of Bloomfield Hills Master Plan (adopted May 12, 2009):
“Bloomfield Hills is located in the heart of Oakland County, Michigan. The City is rich in history, having evolved from a densely-wooded wilderness inhabited by Native Americans, to pastoral farms and orchards worked by early settlers, to today’s predominantly residential community with stately homes and diverse neighborhoods….
“Bloomfield Hills is a built-out, low density residential community. Preserving this character is of the utmost importance to residents and officials alike. Defining characteristics should be preserved and protected where they are established. In general, characteristics such as single-family residential on one acre or larger lots on quiet, tree-lined streets, surrounded by ample vegetation and natural features, should be preserved throughout the City…
“Historically, Bloomfield Hills developed as a suburban community with very few sidewalks. More recently, sidewalks and non-motorized pathways have become a topic of debate in the City. Proponents cite that “safety paths” provide health benefits, an additional mode of transportation, recreational opportunities and help link certain areas in the City....
“The resident survey conducted as part of the Master Plan process revealed that a comprehensive city-wide sidewalk or pathway system is not desired ... opponents noted the sidewalks’ potential conflict with the natural character of much of the City, the need to remove mature vegetation and historic walls, complex engineering over varied terrains, perceived safety concerns at crossings, construction and maintenance costs, and liability concerns.”
Christine Blackwell, Bloomfield Hills: Home of Cranbrook, 2016.
Thaddeus D. Seeley, History of Oakland County, Michigan. Lewis Publishing Company, 1912.
Kay Smith, Bloomfield Blossoms : Glimpses into the History of Bloomfield Township and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1976.
Some photos by Phoebe Kuo.