There are many types of lifestyle properties within the real estate spectrum. Some, like golf communities and lake front communities are oriented around leisure-time activities. Others, like horse-oriented properties and gentlemen’s farms, are more about country living and animals. There are people who prefer the more rustic, “up north cabin” style, many of whom build (or live in) log homes, often in deeply wooded settings. The vast majority of America’s housing is located in what are called bedroom communities – those large suburban subdivisions with row upon row of similar looking homes, each on what are usually neatly kept lots of similar (smaller) size. Then there are the urban dwellers in the larger cities, either in urban neighborhoods with individual homes or in the real urban setting of condo, apartments and lofts. Finally there are the small towns and villages, many of them originally farm towns, which lie out beyond the suburbs.
One such village is The Village of Milford, where I live, and it is the subject of this article on what I call “The Village Lifestyle.” Milford is a small Village of about 6,300 in southwestern Oakland County that is located about equidistance fromI-96 to the south and M-59 to the north. Milford is just far enough off the beaten path to have been spared the “Big Box Store” invasion that killed so many small towns and villages, yet close enough to that type of shopping to make it convenient for its residents. It has retained a lot of its quaint small town flavor; so much so that I often refer to it as the Mayberry of Michigan, in reference to the old Andy Griffith show.
The Milford downtown area is still made up primarily of historic buildings that have remained unchanged in appearance since the late 1800’s, but with a few more modern building and certainly with modern stores. Downtown Milford remains a place where one can shop for useful items such and clothing or shoes or furniture and in which several very good restaurants are located. Having a viable and vibrate downtown provides the foundation of “The Village Lifestyle.” The fact that we have a very good housing stock arrayed around the downtown with sidewalks to encourage walking to the downtown is also a key factor in the lifestyle of Milford.
Milford also has 6 parks within its boundaries, with Central Park in the middle of the Village being the primary focal point for events. The Huron River runs right through the Village also and it and the tributaries that feed it in Milford were the original draw for the settlers who founded the Village in the mid- 1800’s. While the original mills that gave the Village its name are long gone, the mill ponds that they were built upon remain and give the Village additional water features, including two waterfalls.
In addition to the historic buildings of downtown Milford, much of our close-in housing stock is made up on homes built before the turn of the Nineteenth Century. Another significant number of homes in Milford were built before 1950, many right after World War II. More modern subdivisions are arrayed around the Milford downtown core, many of them still within walking distance to downtown. That is important because so much of the Village Lifestyle revolves around the things that go on downtown – shopping, dining and special events.
Speaking of special events; it is the well planned series of events during the year that makes Milford special to the surrounding communities, too. There is something going on in Milford almost every month of the year, from Ladies Night Out twice a year in Downtown to what seems like the monthly parade in the summer. We have three major parades a year through downtown; these are parades that close off Main Street so that the parade can march down it. They are the Memorial Day Parade, which kicks off the parade season each year and attracts also most 1,000 veterans marching in front of applauding crowds lining Main Street, the Independence Day Parade (usually on the 4th of July) and the Christmas Parade on the weekend after Thanksgiving, which brings Santa to Milford for the holidays and closes out the parade season. Lest you think that is all, we have the Little League Parade, in which the Little League teams all march in their uniforms prior to opening the season; then there are the Milford High Home Game Parades during the fall football season and the Milford High School Home Coming Parade and the annual Martin Luther King March on Main Street.
Those are not the only events to close off Main Street. There is our big summer event – the Milford Memories Street Fair, one of the top-50 rated street fairs in the U.S.; and the annual Sidewalk Sale and of course our big Milford Car Show which features over 200 cars all the way down Main Street. The Car Show takes place on Milford Home Tour weekend, which is an annual tour put on by the Milford Historical Society through 5 of our historic homes on the Saturday and Sunday of the third weekend in September. That is a busy weekend. There is also a Tractor Show out at the south end of town and the annual Rotary Club Rubber Duck Race in Central Park. Later in the summer or in early fall the Milford Crit bicycle races are held on a course laid out to include the downtown area. At Halloween we have the annual Parade of Costumes on Main Street in which the downtown business owners stand in their building doorways and hand out candy to the children in costume as the pass.
Speaking of Central Park; there are events there all summer long, too. Every Thursday night during the summer there is a free concert in the park featuring different groups with different musical styles. At least three times du ring the summer there are free movies in Central Park, too; and there is the annual Community Picnic that is usually in June. There are also free concerts in Center Street Park (right in the middle of downtown) at the Gazebo on Friday nights during the summer and a Farmers Market every Thursday afternoon at the south end of the downtown.
If you are athletically inclined and a runner, there are at least two races each year – a 30K on Memorial Day and shorter 5 & 10 Ks during Milford Memories. There is also the bike path that starts at the Milford library and winds its way out to the nearby Kensington Metropark, which itself has running and biking trails. There are mountain bike trails maintained by the very active Milford Bike Club and riding trails for horseback used and maintained by the local Milford Trail Riders Club. There are also two canoe/kayak liveries locally, so that residents or visitors can take advantage of the Huron River. There is also the YMCA (with workout facility and pool) and the Anytime Fitness club within the Village limits, if getting your exercise is important. There are several baseball diamonds around the Village, too; and the middle school has a soccer field as well as baseball fields. Milford High and has athletic field and a huge swimming facility.
Supporting the needs for the arts are the Village Fine Arts Association, which recently open a studio on south Main Street – the Susan Haskew Art Center, aka. The SHAC. Milford residents also take advantage of the art and music programs and displays of the Huron Valley Council for the Arts, which is located north of the Village in Highland. For education there is the Milford Library, which runs an on-going series of reading and learnign programs and the Huron Valley Recreation and Community Education Program run by the Huron Valley School District, with classes on a variety of topics for children and adults.
Many visitors come to our little Village looking for a good meal. We have some “destination restaurants” that attract people from far away – The Milford House, Coratti’s On Main, Palete and Smoke Street BBQ – and an assortment of eateries for foods of all types. There are Chinese (Lie Ting) and Thai, Mediterranean (The Blue Grill), American Bistro (Gravity), Farm to Table (Palate) and craft beer places (including the RiverSide Brewery), as well as great bars such as the The Bar and The Red Dog Saloon. Family-oriented eateries include Hector & Jimmy’s, Main Street Grill & Bar. We have four Coney places and an array of fast food and pizza places, so there’s never a time when you can’t find what you may desire. We will soon have a new Mexican restaurant in town, too.
Of course all of the major churches are also a part of our Village Lifestyle and they are active with events for the whole community in addition to their Sunday services. You can also find some throwback places that just scream “small town America” when you stumble upon them – the little 2-chair barbershop right on Main Street, the old fashion Milford Feed store where you can buy feed for a great variety of animals and buy a bale of hay for Halloween decorating; the Milford Furniture Store and the Sweet Retreats candy store across the street both harken back to simpler days. There’s also the Milford Historical Museum with its displays of pioneer cabin life and life at the turn of the 19th Century, along with pictures and memorabilia from Milford’s past.
We also have two waterfalls, one right behind the Mill Valley Shopping plaza that empties off an old mill pond and one in Central Park that is beside the old Powerhouse. Yes, Milford has a powerhouse; one that as bullt by Henry Ford in the 1930’s to provide power for the Ford Carburetor Plant that Ford built as a part of his Village Industries project to take manufacturing out to the countryside and put farmers to work. The Powerhouse was designed by famous architect Albert Khan and is opened for public tours during events like the Milford Home Tour.
All of those things provide the physical backdrop of the events that are put on by the very strong community groups in Milford – The Milford Township Parks and Recreation Department, The Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce, The Milford Downtown Development Authority (DDA), The Downtown Businesses Association), the Milford Rotary Club, the Milford Historical Society, the Milford K of C, the local Optimists Club and others. Those local organizations plan and run all of the events that are part of the Village Lifestyle and make Milford such a great place to live.
So, what is the Village Lifestyle? It is having all of these facilities and programs and events to partake of and being able to do most of them by just walking to them from your home. Ask the people who live there and they wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
To learn more about Milford and what’s going in there go to the web sites below –