My wife and I have lived in this 1958 3500 square foot brick ranch for over 35 years. We’re perched high atop the Defiance moraine on a little cul-de-sac nestled between Broadway and Plymouth overlooking northwest Ann Arbor. We see the sun set from our deck every day it’s not cloudy. We share the street with 12 other houses, all built about the same time as part of a real estate development – Fair Acres – carved out of an apple orchard when some of the land up here was still farmed. The developer Harry Baldwin contracted his names to produce Harbal. If you search on Google Maps you’ll find no other street with a similar name. Early in its settling, residents proposed renaming the street Defiance Moraine, since that was the geologic structure they resided atop. One of Baldwin’s descendants came out of the woodwork to protest that the change would defile Harry’s memory, so that was that. In 2015 when All-American quarterback and Michigan legend Jim Harbaugh came home to accept the challenge of returning Michigan Football to greatness, I proposed we rename our street Harbaugh. Sounds the same and maybe we could get Coach to come to the ribbon cutting ceremony. My idea was soundly overruled by my neighbors, who liked our unique name. By whatever name, we love the location, although you’ve got to go up or down the 37 degree grade Broadway hill to get anywhere, as we’re close to the hospital and campus. My Taubman office was 1.3 miles away (with more direct and interesting walks through woods possible) and Kathy’s 2.1 miles off, a very doable walk we take each morning, weather permitting. The houses here turn over very rarely, with neighbors right across the street coming in last fall the first new ones in several years. Everybody knows everybody and we have gatherings throughout the year, including Tom’s very noisy affair on the fourth of July when the city permits discharge of explosive devices. A couple neighbors have young kids, and Tom and Kara have a couple in college, but mainly we’re a pretty gray bunch.
Some houses have been renovated over the years, including ours. Most drastic was when Tom and Doug inherited retired shopkeeper friend Jim’s little bungalow next door and tore it down to build an Italianate villa. Fortunately for sake of neighborhood appearances, the place is much more ostentatious inside than out. In 2004 we moved completely out of our house to let designer-builder Gary Rochman have at it. We lived in 2 different houses on nearby Broadway for 6 months each. I emptied out most of the inheritances from my dad and Aunt Dorie, who had both died the year before. And I took out a new mortgage which was finally paid off this April. But boy did we get our money’s worth: soaring open beamed ceilings, a new Ipé deck, a giant hot tub, a fireplace shared by the hot tub and master bedroom, a laundry room, a storage room, a back yard (previously we’d just had a steep slope the glacier’d thrown up), ash floors, and a spiral staircase leading to an observation deck on top of the roof. Quite a few more square feet came from the bump out; fortunately, I don’t think the assessors have caught up. Gary got us on the homes tour that Spring and still features the job on his web page https://www.rochmandesignbuild.com/whole-home-renovation-harbal-dr-1 Our house is also still featured on Houzz https://www.houzz.com/hznb/photos/whole-house-addition-and-remodel-harbal-detroit-phvw-vp~114336632. https://www.houzz. We’ve made further improvements since, this time with Uncle Sam’s help and of the green variety, installing a geothermal system 2014 and adorning our roof with 54 solar panels last fall. Take that, Greta Thunberg! (Oops: politics, sorry).
So, we love our little hilltop home and use every inch of it, and not just to store our junk. Indeed, I’ve been attacking that with a frenzied, focused passion since I retired – Marie Kondo’s got nothing on me – and already we’re enjoying more neatness, organization, and open space. Get ready to check your Craigslist and eBay for bargains on homebrewing equipment, stereos, appliances, kitchenware, extra long sport coats, and plenty of other stuff. You don’t have to come to the house to pick it up, but if you do Kathy and I will be happy to show you around. Then you can see my view.