A few days ago I happened to notice four corners of brick pavers surrounding the Orange Risdon memorial sign in Oakwood Cemetery here in Saline.
For those who don’t know, Risdon is commonly credited as the founder of Saline and the man hired to survey a military road (modern Michigan Avenue) from Detroit to Chicago in the early 19th century.
It’s said he liked the area that is now Saline so much that he built his lifelong home atop a hill here.
Risdon donated a portion of his property to act as the local cemetery, and after his death the burial sites slowly expanded northward toward the Michigan Avenue border.
His home was moved to a parcel on Henry Street in the 1940s, and it’s now a rental property. It’s actually for sale right now at a fairly high price for the neighborhood, more than $330,000.
Anyway, I saw the paving stones and shot David Rhoads a couple of quick questions about it via text. I figured he probably played at least some part in the endeavor, since he’s done so many similar awesome things around Saline, not to mention he’s the former historical society president and former mayor pro-tem of the city.
He texted back and, as I suspected, said he was responsible for finding the foundation, hiring a ground sonar guy to confirm his suspicions.
A few days later, I happened to see David in Carrigan Cafe and asked him a few more questions about how it all went down.
Here’s, a small bit of transcript of what he had to say about the day the Risdon house’s foundation was found once more:
“Now, if you move a house you’ve got to take everything out totally and fill it with sand or whatever,” he said. “They didn’t do that. They just moved the house and left the basement.”
“You could sort of tell (where the foundation is),” he said. “There was a depression there where it had settled over the years.”
“That was fun watching the guy do that,” he said of the sonar operator. “We found the house walls, the outline, so we were able to mark those four corners. We also found where the porch had been.”
“And then on the southeast corner we found a circular thing and I’m thinking that was probably a cistern,” he said. “That would make sense back in those days. That’s what people did, so they could drain water off the roof.”
David said they marked the foundation for future reference.
“So what I had done was have the ground radar guy throw some stakes in the four corners and the historic society and the city had discussions for about a year-and-a-half or so about how to mark off the house,” he said.
After tossing around a few options, David said the city decided to have DPW place paver stones in the four corners, given they can be weed whacked around and not harmed in any way. These pavers are what you see in the photos.
It’s worth taking a look of you’re near the cemetery. The historical sign right next to the foundation has a bunch of great info on Risdon, his family and early Saline in general.
This is stack of pavers on the northwest corner, which would have been one of the back corners.
Risdon’s house as it sits today on Henry Street, a rental property currently for sale.
This is a pic of Risdon’s house being prepared to be moved from its original location. The front faces east toward downtown.