Livonia Officials Aim to Turn a Historic Park into a Holiday Gathering Space

Starting this season, visitors can enjoy hot chocolate and take a socially-distanced outdoor photo with Santa on Saturdays and Sundays.

Laura Herberg/WDET
Laura Herberg/WDET

In Livonia, at Newburgh Road, just South of Eight Mile Road sits Greenmead Historical Park, a farm site purchased by the City of Livonia in 1976 that has since grown to include a collection of other historic buildings that were relocated there. There’s the two-story Italianate farmhouse of a former township official, the 1848 Newburg Methodist Church, the 1912 A.J. Greer general store and other buildings.

 “I keep hearing this is the hidden jewel of Livonia and we shouldn’t hide our jewels, right? We should put them on display for everyone to see,” says Livonia Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Ted Davis.

Click on the audio player above to hear Livonia officials discuss the winter holiday potential for Greenmead Historical Park

This year the City of Livonia has teamed up with the Livonia Chamber of Commerce and other sponsors to light up some of the historic buildings at Greenmead. Residents can drive and walk around the area for free in the evenings through the end of December.

“It’ll be a true attraction for Northwestern Metro Detroit” — Livonia Chamber President Dan West

On Saturdays and Sundays (including December 19 – 20), hot chocolate is served and families can reserve a free time slot to meet and take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus on the porch of one of the houses.

Livonia Chamber of Commerce President Dan West says this is a safe way for kids to tell Santa what they want for Christmas during the pandemic. The meet-and-greet is outdoors and children do not actually sit on Santa’s lap. “Basically, how they distance is that people stay at the foot of the steps and Santa is up on the porch,” explains West.

Laura Herberg/WDET
Laura Herberg/WDET

“What’s been neat to watch is that a lot of families come, they get their picture with Santa, they grab a cup of hot chocolate, and they walk around and check out the village,” says West. “Even for our residents in the city, there’s a lot of people who are checking out Greenmead for the first time this month. It really shows the potential of what we think this can become in the years ahead.”

West and Davis have grand visions for what this space might look like during winter seasons to come. Inspired by a visit to Campus Martius in Detroit during the holidays last year, the two officials see what’s happening this year as a kind of Phase 1 on the pathway toward Greenmead becoming a lively holiday village. In the future, West imagines there could be a heated tent for food and drink, a skating rink, and children’s choirs performing in the historic church.

“We really think we have something special here,” says West, “and it’ll be a true attraction for Northwestern Metro Detroit.”

West and Davis say now that more and more people are beginning to see the potential in the site by visiting it this holiday season, what they need in order to make the vision become a reality is time, money, and feedback from residents about how they’d like to see the space used in the future.

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  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.