Building a Mansion to Last Forever–or at least 8 years

This oddball-house that was torn down forty years ago keeps popping up–two years ago in a box of china and yesterday in an e-mail.

Henry Eastwood House in Ottawa

The certain things in life that Benjamin Franklin mentions, death and taxes, can also include another item–that certainty is anything but certain.  

In 1923 my great-grandfather Henry Kelly moved his law firm and large family to Detroit from Ottawa, Illinois where his Irish immigrant grandfather James had settled after helping build the Erie and Illinois canal systems as a mason.  

James had left Ireland with a conviction that he was going to the right place with the right job.  His son, Martin, decided to become a farmer.  At the risk of invoking Gone With the Wind’s Gerald O’Hara, “Why land’s the only thing that matters.  The only thing that lasts.”  For Martin, the chance to finally own land and not be a tenant like his father’s relatives must have been very compelling.    He and Margaret lived outside of Ottawa, occasionally coming into town to visit friends or see the first Lincoln-Douglas debate.

One generation in the noble profession of farming was apparently enough so the family again switched gears from masonry, to agriculture, to law.  Henry worked on the railroad to pay his way through law school and founded the firm of Kelly, Kelly and Kelly with his two eldest sons.  The three of them posed with Martin on the steps of Henry’s new mansion that didn’t need a number, only “Eastwood” in the directory.

Henry Martin Emmett Harry 1919

Emmett is on the far left, Harry is on the right, just returned from World War I where he lost part of his right leg rescuing another soldier in France.  

This house was built to handle the ever-growing family:

Henry Family portrait 1913

The son standing on the left is Henry’s third-oldest, Melville, who died when he was seventeen working on his car in the basement garage of Eastwood (link).  My grandma Laura is right in front of him, didn’t like to discuss Melville.  His death was a terrible shock to the family in their new grand home that was built to last a very long time.  But six years later the family would leave town and the home would be partitioned into apartments and then torn down.  Even their first home from the 1890’s down the street still stands.


I remember my grandma talking about this house, her strongest memories included the large hedge that she showed me in a tiny snapshot of the estate and the electric car that she had to use to cart around the local nuns.  Unfortunately, I was unable find many pictures of the home.  The most frustrating part was not finding that tiny snapshot in the many shoe boxes I inherited after her death in 1990.

Two years ago we finally hauled out the large box of my grandma’s china that had been packed from her move from Florida in 1988.  Stuck in newspaper between her wedding china we found a mirror and a few framed photos, including the snapshot I remembered seeing in 1972.  


Not exactly the Maltese Falcon, but I was pretty excited.  My teenagers did a nice polite job of being excited that I was excited about an old photo.   This past summer I dragged those same polite kids on a trip to Ottawa and took a snapshot of the estate’s newest home. 


Somewhere between 1923 and 2012 the estate was removed and the ranch above was put in its place, but I was never sure when it was razed.  Yesterday, Mollie Perrot, Executive Director of the Ottawa Historical and Scouting Heritage Museum in Ottawa sent me this message and photo:  

Mornin’ Kevin!

We’re doing an historical survey of the West Side of Ottawa, including Ottawa Avenue. In the course of my research, I’ve been going thru Haargis Records from the State of Illinois.  Found this old photo, taken between 1971-1975 according to the state, of Eastwood. I’m sending it along to you. I was excited to see it!


So it’s nice to know that it lasted at least until I was 7 years.  It would have been fun to see it.  But Henry had left the house behind him when he moved to Detroit, so I guess I can, too.

I’ll try not to quote Shelley very often in this blog:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”


Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


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About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 10 years since then. Contact him at: He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion.

2 Responses to Building a Mansion to Last Forever–or at least 8 years

  1. Ann w Quinn says:

    I enjoyed revisiting those old photos…& the new ones. Would so love to do a time travel …

  2. claudia says:

    Another great story. Aidan and Abby will appreciate in years to come.