Robert Taylor bought a New Haven dairy farm built in 1912 to save it from demolition. (Claire Zimmeth)
One of the many pleasures of summer in Michigan is taking a field trip and happening upon an unexpected surprise in the way of a back road country antique shop. That’s exactly what happened when I made a recent pilgrimage to Macomb County’s Lamb’s Tail Antiques, an area favorite, and came across Robert and Mary Jo Taylor and their unusual shop, Antique Haven.
Actually, it’s more like an unusual village than a single shop. The 40-something couple and their family bought the New Haven property, an old dairy farm that dates to 1912, about two decades ago to save it from demolition. At the time, it included the barn, chicken coop, garage and house. Since then, they’ve added a log cabin. Robert is proud to say his daughter helped him with the chinking, which they did with clay and straw.
“I like saving history,” he admits. “Too much is being destroyed.” Besides the original structures, his compound also took windows, the door and other architectural pieces from an 1870 Greek Revival house being torn down in the area to build what he calls Bates General Store, a structure named after a one-time shop in downtown New Haven. He also bought a former caboose that was once used as a bathing house. “I love railroad history. … I can hear the Grand Trunk line from my backyard,” he said. He’d love to add other buildings. “My ultimate goal is (to) have something like a little Greenfield Village. There’s just one problem. … I’m running out of room.”
Most of the buildings are open to the public and filled with items for sale. When asked if he has a specialty, he laughs, admitting that “everything is my specialty … whatever catches my eye.” Wander through the vintage structures and items include salvaged pieces of farmhouses not as lucky as the one he lives in, architectural items and other things that have charmed him and he hopes will also charm others. I left with an irresistible vintage dress form like many I’ve seen in design magazines.
People are amazed at what he’s put together, he says. His passion has prompted visitors to ask if he’s ever contacted television producers to tell his story. “Everyone asks me if I’ve contacted ‘American Pickers,’ ” he says. It’s not hard to see why. The old barn, red pickup in front, various historic buildings and Rob’s passion for history would make compelling viewing. We need more people like Robert and Mary Jo, who, like “American Pickers,” are “telling the history of America … one piece at a time,” as the show’s tagline goes.
He’s considered calling “Pickers,” but so far he’s staying local, hoping his story will inspire others to value things around them and save their own area’s history. He’s not ruling out contacting national TV in the future, however. “Those shows don’t know about me … yet.”
Antique Haven is open alternating weekends (including July 4-6) and by appointment at 57880 Rosell, north of 26 Mile and west of Gratiot. For information, contact (586) 770-3276.
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