The Byrd Center Farmhouse is Becoming a Historic District

A photo of a house.

On January 11, the Pittsfield Township board voted on making the Byrd Center Farmhouse a historical district. Formerly known as Sunny Pastures, The Byrd Center is named after black activist, educator, and architect David Byrd. He restored the house in 1970’s along with his students from Washtenaw Community College

Pittsfield Township began establishing Historical districts back in 2009. They are a way for properties like this one to be preserved, taken care of, and celebrated.

“It’s been one of my goals to create a community here that is welcoming, engaging, diverse, vibrant, inclusive, respectful and I feel like this is a great example,” Mandy Grewal, supervisor of Pittsfield Charter Township, explained. 

In 1825 the 480 acre property was founded. Overtime, portions of property were sold off. In 1935, University of Michigan professor, J. Raleigh Nelson and his wife Emma purchased it. During their time on the property, Nelson wrote two books, a biography of his mother’s life and one of poetry inspired by the property called “Sunny Pastures”.  

The Byrd Family purchased and began restoring the now 6 acre property in 1975. David Byrd built a chapel just behind the farmhouse now known as the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation

The African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County purchased the property in December of 2023.

“The museum started as a museum without walls…one of the locations we ended up in terms of having our meetings was at the Byrd Center,” Joyce Hunter, president and CEO of the museum, explained. “Because of their background and being community activists, we really wanted to preserve that property,” she said. 

Letitia Byrd, David Byrd’s wife and fellow activist, was a founding member of this museum. Not only was she the first black teacher at Forsythe Middle School in Ann Arbor, Letitia Byrd was also the first ever recipient of Ann Arbor Citizen of the Year in 1997.

So far, a few renovations have taken place including the installation of a new roof on the barn and some painting.

“The plan is to start moving out this summer and have some kind of open house in September,” Hunter said. Currently, they are looking at about  $300,000 in renovations. 

The Pittsfield Township Historic District Commission will be working closely alongside The African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County for renovations, upkeep and plans.

“We want to respect and include them in each step of the way, and really take our lead from them,” Grewal said. 

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