As Farmington celebrates 200 years, here's where to visit to get a sense of its past (and future)

There’s a lot to be excited about when you consider downtown Farmington in 2024. The small but mighty traditional American business district started the year much in the same way that it ended 2023, with new business announcement following new business announcement. Just in the few short weeks since the new year, Heights Brewing has set a grand opening date of Saturday, Feb. 10, while other new businesses have announced their intentions to open in the coming months, too. It’s a group that includes Blueberry Brunch taking over the former Shish Cuisine restaurant on Farmington Road, and Apricot Lane Boutique coming to the old Sunflour Bakehaus building.

There will be plenty more revealed and announced in the coming months, no doubt. And not only new businesses but other community-shaping developments like public space and public art initiatives. For a sneak peek at what’s in store for 2024, it might be worth attending the upcoming Heart the Art: A Public Art Benefit event at the GLP Financial Group headquarters on Saturday, Feb. 10. The event is open to the public, and tickets for the public art fundraising party are available online.

For all the excitement and buzz being generated, perhaps the biggest news happening in downtown Farmington this year is the year itself.

Like the actual year.


That’s because 2024 marks the community’s bicentennial. It’s been 200 years since Arthur Power, the founding father of both Farmington and Farmington Hills, settled in the area, triggering a chain of events that led us to where we are today. The central business district as we know it today would begin to take shape in the 1870s, as businesses first drawn to the area would eventually center around the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Farmington Road.

A devastating 19th century fire and decades of development have made it so that much of what remains of those early downtown Farmington buildings can only be found in history books and photo albums. But not all of them. You can still touch history in downtown Farmington, as evidenced here. And in some of these buildings, there are some pretty exciting developments happening, ones that could shape downtown for decades to come.

33400 Shiawassee St.

The First Baptist Church was organized in 1826 and remains in service today, operating out of a building that was first built in 1861. Where that building sits is the original Quaker settlement that grew to become Farmington as we know it, 200 years later.

23925 Farmington Rd.

Built as a private residence in 1825, this house served as Farmington's first post office beginning in 1826. It has since returned to being a private residence.

33805 Grand River Ave.

Built in 1867, the Governor Warner Mansion was built by P.D. Warner and would later belong to his son, Fred M. Warner. It was the younger Warner whose career in politics included three terms as Michigan's governor, from 1905 to 1911. The mansion is now owned by the City of Farmington and work is underway to restore and reopen the grounds as a community space. A $1 million Public Infrastructure Grant passed by the State of Michigan in 2023 should help them do just that.

23715 Farmington Rd.

Farmington Masonic Lodge No. 151 has been firmly situated at the heart of downtown since their building was built in 1876. With the Masons upstairs, the first floor was used as the Farmington Township Hall from 1876 to 1963. Today, the first floor is home to the recently opened Blue Hat Coffee, which spent several years renovating the space. Out front, the Farmington Downtown Development Authority has been transforming the corner into a public space.

33318 Grand River Ave.

One of the older mixed-use buildings along the Grand River Avenue streetscape is the Cook & Company Building, which first went up in 1908. Today, it's home to several businesses that keep people coming downtown, including Legato Salon & Spa, Basement Burger Bar, and the 1up Arcade Bar.

33335 Grand River Ave.

GLP Financial Group spent more than $5 million purchasing and completely renovating the Farmington State Savings Bank building, first built in 1922. A previous owner's remodel of the building as the Village Mall had the GLP team gutting and rebuilding the interior as its 21st century headquarters and restoring the exterior to its historic facade.

33312 Grand River Ave.

The roaring '20s (or should we say 1920s...) saw another impressive bank go up in downtown Farmington, this time as the Peoples State Bank in 1923. Today its tenants include an office for Edward Jones Investments.

Photography by David Lewinski.
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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.