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Preservation Detroit regroups, rebrands and works to save McGhee House

What was once Preservation Wayne is now Preservation Detroit, a new name for a renewed organization that specializes in historical preservation and is focusing its efforts on mapping out and registering the historic structures throughout the city.

"There are so many treasures in this city that just rot away," says Marion Christiansen, interim executive director of Preservation Detroit. "We cannot allow that to happen."

One of the non-profit's newest priorities is working to preserve the Orsel & Minnie McGhee house on the near West Side. The four square-style house at 4626 SeeBaldt (just northwest of I-96 and Tireman) played a critical role in the repeal of race-based restrictive covenants in property deeds.

Orsel McGhee, a press operator for the Detroit Free Press, and his wife Minnie, a postal worker, rented the house for a decade during the depression and tried to purchase it. The block club sued to remove the McGhee family during World War II. By 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against restrictive covenants based on the McGhee lawsuit and another similar case from St. Louis.

The McGhee house has been a rental for years until it was recently sold to its longtime tenants. They reached out to Preservation Detroit about helping preserve the house, which is on the Michigan Historical Register but not the National Register of Historic Places.

"It really is a treasure," Christiansen says. "It has fallen into a little disrepair."

Preservation Detroit is working to map and catalog the city's historic structures, like the McGhee house, on the state and national historic lists. The hope is identifying these buildings and establishing what needs to be done to preserve them will help make sure they survive. For instance, Preservation Detroit is helping fundraise for a new roof and other essential improvements for the McGhee house and by putting it on the National Register of Historic Places makes it eligible for tax credits and other governmental incentives.

For information on Preservation Detroit and its efforts to preserve the McGhee house, click here.

Source: Marion Christiansen, interim executive director of Preservation Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke
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