Wayne County

1919 fire truck on display in Westland

July 18, 2006

BY CLARE PFEIFFER RAMSEY

FREE PRESS SPECIAL WRITER

All that remains of Westland's Eloise complex -- once a bustling city within a city -- is Wayne County's Kay Beard Building and a few scattered structures. Now, those dedicated to preserving the memory of Eloise have a new piece of the area's history that they hope will give people a better picture of Westland a century ago.

 

Wayne County recently donated a shiny, 1919 Model T fire truck that once served Eloise to the Westland Historical Commission's museum. The truck was used until 1932.

"It's an incredible little vehicle. People love seeing it. They love having their photos taken with it," said Carol Larkin, a county executive with senior citizen services who helped orchestrate the donation.

Larkin, who works in the Kay Beard Building, happened to hear from another worker that the truck was in storage at the county's equipment center near Metro Airport, where it had sat for decades pretty much unseen by the public. The county used to wheel the fire truck out for parades.

Larkin wondered whether the "truck would be better used if it was at the museum where people could see it."

People can view the truck, which is on indefinite loan to the museum, in a storage shed there. It doesn't run, but the Historical Commission would like to move it outside during museum hours, 1-4 p.m. Saturdays. Jo Johnson, who works with the museum, said it also plans to put the fire truck on a flatbed truck for parades.

The memory of Eloise is still strong for many people who have roots in Wayne County, Johnson said. She gets several calls weekly from people seeking health or employee records to do genealogical searches.

Eloise opened in 1839 in Nankin Township, which eventually became Westland. Eloise was best known as a mental hospital and poorhouse, but its 900 acres at one time was home to Wayne County General Hospital, a greenhouse, cattle herds, a piggery and a cannery. The complex also had homes for employees and their children.

If you go

The Westland Historical Museum is located at 857 N. Wayne Road, between Ford Road and Cherry Hill. Hours are 1-4 p.m. Saturdays; the museum is closed holiday weekends. Admission is free, but the museum asks for a donation. For more information, call 734-326-1110.