December 1, 2009
Something funny happens on Drake road between 11 and 12 mile; the stiff, airy grid streets of Farmington Hills collapse into a dark, knotty road, a valley road flanked by bluffs of boulders and trees. Driving due north from 11 mile, the road dips past a pair of old wooden houses and a stone wall over the river; across the street, a bench in a tiny, deserted park. As the road winds, you pass two palatial mansions on the east side of the street, not the kind you find in especially big, brand-new subdivisions, but the kind you dream about when you are a child — and as children, they were objects of our fantasies, full of servant girls in ruffle-hemmed gowns, noble vassals, horse stables, maybe a sinister count or a dowager duke. You can’t see them unless you squint past the gates and hedgerows, and even though the speed limit is low, the road is narrow and there is nowhere to pull over and gawk. But catching a glimpse of a sprawling country estate through the willows is so much more tantalizing.