Former home of Fred and Patti Smith for sale, owners pluck the musicians' son to sell it

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
The former home of Patti Smith and Fred "Sonic" Smith will hit the market Monday.

 A local Realtor has been recruited to sell a house that happens to be his childhood home in St. Clair Shores.

He’s not just any local Realtor, though, and this isn’t just any east side home. Jackson Smith is the son of rock musicians Patti Smith, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and the late Fred “Sonic” Smith, guitarist of influential rock group the MC5. 

The Smiths bought their castle-like, canal-front home at 22501 Beach in 1980 and raised Jackson and his sister, Jesse, there until just after Fred’s death in 1994.

It was in this house, which is believed to date back to the early 20th century and may have been involved in rum running on Lake St. Clair, that Patti Smith wrote the 1988 album “Dream of Life,” which Fred co-produced and performed on. 

“She tells a story on stage about how my dad came up to her … she was peeling potatoes in the kitchen. He called her Tricia, he said ‘Tricia, people have the power’” said Jackson Smith, referring to the album’s lead single “People Have the Power.” “That song was written there. It’s been covered by U2 and Bruce Springsteen.”

The former home of Patti Smith and Fred "Sonic" Smith will hit the market Monday.

Smith, a musician and also a Realtor at Johnstone and Johnstone in Grosse Pointe Farms, says famed photographer Annie Leibovitz once shot photos inside, and the house is also featured in Steven Sebring’s 2008 documentary film about Patti Smith.

Besides being a piece of rock and roll history, the house is one of the most unique properties in the lakeside suburb. Smith says he's selling the house for the family that bought it from his mother in 2015.

"It's weird in some ways, because I did have a lot of love for that place," said Smith, who lived there as a kid until 1996 with his mom, and then again as an adult 2000-05.

"Also, I feel really lucky that I had a chance — the owners were so nice — I had a chance to see them really turn it into something spectacular, because what they put into the home is far nicer physically than it ever was when I lived there.

"They didn't change the character of the home, which is why it's really special," he said. "When I walk in there, it still looks like the same house I grew up in but everything has been lovingly cared for. The house has the same life to it that I remember as a kid."

The former home of Patti Smith and Fred "Sonic" Smith will hit the market Monday.

Besides the castle-like brick exterior with a turret and peaked wooden door, the house has another unique feature: a secret passageway in a living room bookcase that leads to a second part of the basement. Smith believes this may be connected with hiding booze smuggled in through the canal during prohibition. 

"I had always heard stories of rum running attached to that house," he said. "When my dad bought the house in 1980, he said the house was built in 1918 which never made total sense to me at the time because ... why would you have put a secret room in before prohibition? But I didn't realize until today that Michigan had state prohibition starting in 1917." 

The house at 22501 Beach goes on the market Monday for $499,000, Smith said, and an open house is planned for May 4. Interested buyers can visit for more information.

Twitter: @melodybaetens