Paulette Washburn was chatting with others members of the babysitting co-op at the Rosedale Park June Day in 1984 when she heard that the Music School was up for sale. The Music School was a house a couple of blocks from where Paulette and her husband Ben lived. Like many people in the neighborhood, they knew about the Music School. For years there was a steady stream of voice and piano students in and out of the house, sometimes waiting on the front porch for their lesson. Ben and Paulette already lived in Rosedale Park, but were looking for a bigger home for their family of five where their three children could each have their own room rather than having to share one bedroom. There would definitely be room in the Music School. It also came with a really interesting back story.
From London to a Music School in Grandmont Rosedale
Ben knew the story of the Music School before moving in to the house. As Ben tells it, the owner, “Ida Cordes, was born in London in 1900. When she was 14, she was hired by a couple from Grosse Pointe as a nanny for their children” while the couple was touring Europe. “They so liked her,” Ben explains, “they brought her back to Grosse Pointe. In 1916 Ida used her nanny earnings to buy a lot” in the newly established Rosedale Park. Ida went back to England eventually becoming a “musical voice teacher. After World War II, Ida married and emigrated to the U.S. with her husband who was also a voice teacher, and they came to Detroit” where they built a house in Rosedale Park in 1949, but it wasn’t a typical home. Their dream was to build a musician-in-residence music school “for up to three live-in adult students. Their house had a small office in front, a huge great room which housed two grand pianos, a large group-quarters kitchen, a somewhat separate rear-end apartment for Ida and her husband, an upstairs dorm for three students, a large practice room, and a large basement performance studio.” From the outside, the house does not look much different than the other beautiful homes on the block, but it is unusually deep, reaching considerably farther into the back yard than the other homes.
Just three years after the Music School was built, Ida’s husband died of a heart attack while hunting in the UP. Ida continued on alone, teaching and living in the Music School for the next 30 years, but the Music School never housed live-in musicians. Over the years, Paulette and Ben have met several people in the neighborhood who either took lessons at the Music School, or who attended performances in the basement studio.
Lunch at Grandland Shopping Center
In her later years, Ida often walked to the Sanders that used to be at Grandland Shopping Center for lunch. When she heard that the Music School was for sale, Paulette realized that she knew the owner having met and spoken to her several times at Sanders when she brought her kids there for ice cream. Paulette also knew that in more recent years, Ida was struggling to look after her house. Many neighbors had lent a hand, helping out with lawn care, making sure she was safe on her walk to the shopping center, changing lightbulbs, etc. When Ida died in 1983, her one living relative, a cousin in London, hired a local attorney to sell the home. The attorney sold the house, unseen, to Ben and Paulette. “I looked at the house the first day it was on sale, which was on June Day, right after I was done running the children’s games,” Ben remembers. Ben made an offer the next day and moved in with Paulette and their three children six months later. Their old house was less than half as big as their new Music School home. While Ben and Paulette were getting their new house ready, their kids and many of their neighborhood friends loved to come over and play. Hide and seek was especially great in the Music School. “It was huge with so many places to hide. The kids loved it.” The size of their new home took some getting used to though. “The first night we moved in,” Ben says, “each of the kids realized that they finally had their own room. The next morning we found them all huddled together in the same bedroom.”
A New Family, a New Legacy
The house is something else. There is a separate, extra wide stairway to the basement for large instruments, like harps and kettle drums, that feels very much like the back hallway of a school. The living room looks about as big as a roller skating rink, with two large windows where the two grand pianos once sat. There is cabinetry designed to store instruments and sheet music in several rooms on every floor. The dormitory of three small bedrooms, three side by side closets and a practice room never housed three student-musicians. It is a bit sad that Ida and her husband’s dream of having a musician-in-residence program in Grandmont Rosedale was never realized. They did however, create a wonderful home for one of Grandmont Rosedale’s most active families. Ben and Paulette are not musicians. Their specialty lies more in supporting long-standing community services. They have organized the Christ the King Garage Sale since 1999. Hands down one of the most well-organized garage sales around, the Christ the King Garage Sale raises funds for the continuation of many programs such as Boy Scouts, Summer Youth Programs, St. Christine’s soup kitchen and pantry, and several more.
Ben and Paulette are only the second owners of the Music School, but many people have been to the Music School, whether it was for a concert in the basement, for a lesson in the living room, or just to visit a friend. The stories that many of the homes in Grandmont Rosedale hold are as interesting as they are various. If the walls of this home could talk, you would hear music. You’d also hear the laughter of a fantastic game of hide and seek.
The Christ the King Garage Sale runs for 7 weeks, from Friday, May 17 – Sunday, June 30 at 20800 Grand River. If you’d like to learn more about the Christ the King Garage Sale, call Ben at 313.838.5049 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.