Oliver P. Gibbs House
This Craftsman-style home with Prairie influences was built in 1922 as the family residence of Oliver P. Gibbs and his wife, Cora Glaspie Gibbs. The couple owned a twenty-acre parcel in what was, at the time, rural farmland west of the village of Rochester. Oliver and Cora Gibbs were prominent local citizens; Oliver Gibbs served as Supervisor of Avon Township (now Rochester Hills) from 1927 to 1952, and his wife was active in several civic organizations. Gibbs sold the property just before his death in 1955, and beginning in 1960, it was used for religious services by the Fellowship of Christ. The house was threatened with demolition in 1996, but was saved from the wrecker's ball after being rehabilitated for professional office use. The Oliver P. Gibbs house was certified as a Michigan Heritage Home by the Historical Society of Michigan in 2022.
Oliver P. Gibbs House, east elevation, 2020
Oliver P. Gibbs, circa 1933
Backstory and Context
This house was built ca. 1922 as the family home of Oliver P. Gibbs and his wife Cora D. Glaspie Gibbs. The couple was married in Covington, Kentucky on April 16, 1910, and Gibbs purchased a twenty-acre parcel on North Livernois Road in 1912. According to the WPA rural property inventory of Avon Township, the current house was built in 1922 and the property included a garage, barn, and hen house. The Gibbses called their home "Chestnut Ridge."
Oliver P. Gibbs was Avon Township supervisor from 1927 through 1952, and also served as chairman of the Oakland County Board of Supervisors from 1934-35. He also built the Gibbs Block, a commercial building, on Main Street in Rochester between 1919-1921. Cora Gibbs, a native of Oxford, Michigan, was active in community organizations and was a founder of the Christian Science congregation in Rochester. She died at home in 1944. Oliver Gibbs sold the house in February 1955; he died in December of that year.
In 1960 the Fellowship of Christ purchased the former Gibbs property and for a time used the house for a religious school. The barn on the property was converted to a church, but the era of ownership by the Fellowship of Christ was a troubled one. The barn suffered an arson fire on October 15, 1972, which was allegedly set by the son of the man who was serving as the church's pastor at the time. In 1978, the Oakland County Circuit Court ordered the church dissolved after seven former members brought a lawsuit against the church over the disposition of lots in a residential subdivision affiliated with the church and known as Heartpeace Hills. The church contested the court order over a period of years, but after all appeals were exhausted, vacated the property in October 1982.
In 1996, the vacant Gibbs house was threatened with demolition, but was saved after it was rehabilitated for office use by landscape architecture firm Donald C. Westphal, Associates. It is currently a part of the non-contiguous Rochester Hills Historic District, and was certified as a Michigan Heritage Home by the Historical Society of Michigan in 2022.
The house is a fine example of the Arts and Crafts style, evident in the use of stucco, the 5/1 windows, and the canted columns. Prairie style influence is evident in the deep overhanging eave, but the house has a high profile, unlike the low-lying Prairie style house.
Michigan Rural Property Inventory, Avon Township, 91.
Michigan. State Historic Preservation Office. Intensive Level Survey, Rochester Hills Historic Districts Survey [prepared for the City of Rochester Hills by Jane C. Busch], 2002, p.289.
"Entertained Oxford Ladies," Oxford Leader, June 12, 1925, p.1.
"Mrs. O.P. Gibbs Dies in Rochester," Oxford Leader, April 28, 1944, p.1.
"Local Church Picking Up Pieces," Rochester Eccentric, October 19, 1972, p.1.
Swords, Bea. "Young Bound Over on Arson Charge," Rochester Eccentric, November 30, 1972, p.4.
Walsh, Tom. "Rochester Church Takes on State - In Court," Detroit Free Press, March 24, 1983, p.6A.
"Home May Avoid Wrecking Ball," Rochester Clarion, October 17, 1996, p.1A.
"Historic Tag May Save House," Rochester Eccentric, November 21, 1996, p.A2.
"History is Preserved At 71 N. Livernois," Rochester Clarion, July 31, 1997, p.1.
"For Sale: Road Commission Markets Historic House at 71 North Livernois Road," Rochester Observer & Eccentric, December 29, 1999.
"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XQ1V-CHP : accessed 4 November 2020), Olive [i.e. Oliver] P Gibbs, Avon, Oakland, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 5, sheet 32A, line 36, family 748, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1016; FHL microfilm 2,340,751.
"United States Census, 1940," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org /pal:/MM9.1.1/K4GB-CY2 : accessed 17 Jun 2013), Oliver P Gibbs, 1940.
Rochester Era, October 6, 1933, p.1.