Built about 1859 as a single-family residence, the Italianate home at 402 East Cross was converted to a duplex in 1937 and purchased by the affluent McHenry family to serve as their summer home. They also owned a farm on Whitaker Road that was purchased by the government and is now the site of the Ypsilanti post office. Mr. McHenry and his eldest daughter, Marie Isabelle, had a thriving law practice and winter residence in Grosse Pointe. However, they are probably more well known for the McHenry family slayings committed by younger daughter Ruth on September 30, 1937. After the tragedy Mr. McHenry returned to the Detroit area, and the duplex fell into disrepair while occupied by a series of tenants.
In 1994 Mark and Julie Fisher purchased the duplex. They have lovingly restored it to a single-family home, doing much of the work themselves. Because of a high level of abuse and neglect, the Fishers had to do extensive renovations to the exterior structural timbers, the interior walls, and the support beams. To join the two halves of the home, they removed one staircase and returned two others to their original locations. A single updated kitchen with a charming nook and French doors replaced the two duplex kitchens. The beautiful arched firebox in the front room is one of three fireplaces thoughtfully made to appear original. To add continuity to the redesigned interior, Mark and his father built several pieces of furniture along with the dining room bookshelves.
The Fishers’ attention to detail, from the restoration of the gingerbread at the roofline to their personal collection of family photos to their daughter’s outdoor playhouse, has shown that with hard work and helpful neighbors a former eyesore can be restored to a lovely neighborhood gem.