Upton House History

If the hallowed halls and historic rooms of the 140 year-old Upton House could talk, they'd tell stories of early township farm life, wild evenings as a popular entertainment venue, and civic business conducted by the Parks and Recreation Department.
Upton House
According to research completed for the state historic marker, William and Sarah Aldrich Upton, built the remarkable home in 1866-67. William Upton, born in Leicestershire, England in 1835, came to Sterling Township when he was a child of ten. His father, John Upton, bought land at Schoenherr and Clinton River Roads. In the summer of 1854, John died of cholera, and is buried, as is his wife Elizabeth, in the old Edgerton Cemetery at Utica and Schoenherr Roads.

In 1861 William married 17-year-old Sarah Jeannette Aldrich, daughter of Asquire and Polly Aldrich who were neighboring farmers. They raised four children while living in the Upton House: Charles, Frank, Rena and Victor.

In addition to farming, William sold fish which were caught in the Clinton River. In the 1870s he became a real estate broker and owned the Upton Block, a three-story building on the northeast corner of Cass and Auburn streets in Utica, where he sold dry goods, notions and "gents" furnishings.

He served the township at various times as Road Overseer, Juror, and Constable. In the disastrous Utica Fire of 1904, which devastated so much of the village of Utica, the Upton Block burned and the lot was sold to William Chapoton.

William Upton moved to Rochester, Michigan, where he spent the rest of his long life. He and Sarah are buried in the Utica Cemetery.

After Upton sold the home, it is rumored that it became a popular brothel in the 1920s.

One person commented, "It was the place to go if a man wanted to step out. It was an after hours drinking spot for men and women, and if a man didn't have a woman -- well, a few were already there."

Before the city purchased the Upton House in the late '70s it was utilized by the Macomb Child Guidance Center.

The City's Cultural Commission, as a 1976 bicentennial project, began efforts to preserve the home. A group called the Friends of the Upton House formed and raised funds to renovate the historic home.

William Kessler and Associates took on the task of preserving the house. Kessler and Associates took care in designing the structure to showcase how it first looked in the 1870s.

The Upton House is a classic example of Victorian Italianate style of architecture. The Italianate elements include the wide eaves supported by large brackets, the tall thin first floor windows which are semi-arched with pediments, a low-pitched hipped roof with cupola, and the cubic shape of the two-story section.

The Victorian elements include the bay window projection on the north face, the spindle trim on the porch, over the bay windows, and on the cupola.

The English bond brick was originally a natural red color, but over the years the house was painted white. The paint was so hard to remove that it was painted a shade appropriate to the 1870s.

The renovation project was completed on October 31, 1982 as Upton family members, city officials, cultural and historical commissioners, Friends of the Upton House and residents gathered for the Open House.

Marjorie Upton DeFrancis, great granddaughter to William and Sarah Upton; Mrs. DeFrancis' son, James; and his son, Jamie attended the dedication. James Upton was heavily involved in the renovation of the home.

The Upton House is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and is a Michigan Historical Landmark.

Today, the Upton House is one of a dwindling number of surviving 19th Century homes in Sterling Heights. Located on the corner of Dodge Park and Utica roads, it is presently used by the Community Foundation and the Historical Commission for meetings and is available for rental to the public.