Hill House History
About the previous
The man that commissioned
the home to be designed and built was businessman Alfred F. Stephens and his
Zillah Violetta Perkins. Zillah's
Joseph Browett hailed from
He came to Ingersoll Canada in the early 1800's and
practiced Optometry through
out Ontario until his death in 1902. For love and respect of her heritage and
renowned Grandpa they named the house "Coventry Crest". Little did
she know that a decade later the town of Coventry would be nearly blown from the
face of the earth by the Germans during the bombing Blitz of WW II.
Alfred was born on a farm in
Southfield Mi. in 1869. His family came to America from England to
Southampton Long Island N.Y. in 1627 and where among the founding fathers of
Southampton. Alfred's Grandfather Edward, a retired Captain and Whaler from
Southampton traveled to Michigan via the Erie Barge Canal landing in Southfield
around 1824, and was among the founding fathers of Southfield as well.
his wife Phebe (see of kings & queens) purchased three hundred and twenty acres at ten mile and
evergreen roads. The property was farmed for almost a hundred years before it
was sold to make way for Northwestern Hwy.
The following is from "The
Burton Collection" at the Detroit Library.
Alfred Foster Stephens is the Vice President of
the Arctic Ice Cream Company of Detroit, in which connection he has built up a
business which is the second largest in the city. A spirit of unfaltering
enterprise has actuated him at every point in his career and unflagging industry
and determination have carried him to a point of business prominence which he
He was born on a farm in Oakland County, Michigan September
15,1869, and is a son of Chilion and
Margaret O. (Fiero) Stephens. After acquiring a
district school education in Oakland County he attended the
State Normal School at Fenton, Michigan, and in
1890, when a young man of twenty-one years, came to Detroit. Here he entered
upon the manufacture of ice cream on his own account and from 1899 to 1907 was
connected with the
Detroit Creamery Company.
In the succeeding
year he founded the
Arctic Ice Cream Company, of which he has since
been the president, and today the business is the second in size of its kind in
Detroit. In addition to the main plant in this city the company has condensing
Grand Ledge, Fenton, and Hastings and milk
receiving stations at Richmond, Birch Run, Shear's Station and Shotke Station,
and an ice cream plant in Grand Rapids, all in Michigan.
At the beginning new
customers were secured through personal solicitation and the equipment consisted
of a small manufacturing plant and two wagons for delivery. Today the company
trucks and thirty-five wagons and employs an
average of one hundred and fifty men. Thirty thousand gallons of milk per day
are received and during the manufacturing season from the first of May until the
first of October the daily output of ice cream is eight thousand gallons.
Shipments to all parts of the United States are made from the condensing plants
and the business has become one of the most important industries of this
character in the middle west.
Mr. Stephens was joined in wedlock to Miss
Zillah Perkins of Detroit, and they have become the parents of two
children: Russell Browett, born October 19, 1909, in
Detroit; and Frances Helen,
born September 26, 1911.
Mr. Stephens is a member of the Grand River Avenue
Christian Church. His political support is given to the republican party and he
never lightly regards the duties of citizenship but has never sought office as a
reward for party fealty.
He belongs to the Fellowcraft Athletic Club and the
Detroit Automobile Club and also to the Kiwanis Club, while along the line of
his business activity he is identified with the Michigan and National
Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers and as a representative of these bodies
is continually studying everything that has to do with the development,
promotion and protection of the trade.
Alfred, aside from his duties at the Ice Cream
Company invested heavily in real estate and the stock market. Family rumor
has it that he had financed the invention of the modern refrigerator. The
marbled wall refrigerators installed in the
kitchen at Coventry Crest where said to be the first of their kind.
Mr. Stephens had purchased a substantial amount of
property in Bloomfield Twp. and Bloomfield Hills, including almost all of the
property known today as Cranbrook Village. Alfred, through his real estate
travels met Judson Bradway, they became good friends and where involved
with many transactions together.
The Great Depression:
Like most, Alfred took a financial beating during
the Great Depression. He sold the Arctic Ice Cream Company to The Detroit
Creamery. It was added as a division of the Detroit Creamery and called
The Arctic Dairy Products Company. Alfred stayed on as Vice President
until he retired in ill health. During those years he and
Judson Bradway struggled with their real estate
holdings, selling many for as little as ten cents on the dollar. Alfred
passed away February 3, 1947.
About the house:
Alfred and his family moved from Scotten Ave.
in Detroit to Lincoln Ave. in Birmingham in 1918, the YMCA to the Teachers
Credit Union sits on that property today.
During the planning stages of "Coventry Crest" on June 20, 1924
The Arctic Ice
Cream Company in Grand Ledge almost burnt to the ground.
Coventry Crest was built by a man fearful of fire, thus the reason the house was
built like a bomb shelter.
Construction of the house began in 1927 and was
complete in 1929. The furnishings in the house where all custom built
in Grand Rapids Michigan. The tile work through out the house was all done
Pewabic Pottery Company