The Flat Rock Smith Hotel

When the land office opened in Detroit in 1818, Soloman Sibley purchased 33093 Acres of land In 1824 it was sold to Michael and Jacob Vreeland. The Villages of Vreelandt and Smooth Rock were platted on part of this acreage. In 1836, when representatives of the Gibraltar and Flat Rock Company bought this piece of property several lots were reserved, because they had already been sold Lot #19, where the Flat Rock Hotel was built later, was one of these In 1838 the Gibraltar and Flat Rock Company recorded the Village of Flat Rock. The Michigan Gazetteer of 1879, however, states that there was a settlemen4.2.7t here in 1817 The first mention of any settlers at Flat Rock was made by a French Priest named Father Jean Dilhet. In describing his parish in 1798, he included “Grosse Roche,” which referred to a settlement named after the outcropping of limestone rock on the south side of the Huron River, near where the old stone quarry is This is close to the Vreeland Cemetery.
When Freeland Garretson came to Flat Rock in 1817, David Wallace had a residence, grocery and general store on the corner where the Flat Rock Hotel later stood, Somewhere between 1837 and 1896 a Mr Walters must have bought the store In June, 1896, the hotel man, Lawrence Ferstle, moved his family into the Wallace’s residence, ,and tore down the Walters store to build a brick hotel In October, 1896, the hotel was finished.
The hotel is a beautifully styled and detailed Italianate block. In the early 1900’s, Frank and John Marks bought the building, and it was managed by Pat Diekman. In 1906, Oscar Smith, his wife and daughter came from Detroit by horse and buggy and bought the hotel Mr Smith and his wife, Gertrude (Bergmooser), grew up in Carleton, but moved to Detroit after they were married At that time there was a wooden porch and balcony spanning the front of the building. Behind the building was a livery stable, and behind that an ice house. The well was located next to the porch of the attached white house, which housed the office for the livery and feed stable. A livery stable was an important part of a tavern in the early days salesmen would get to Flat Rock, stay at the Flat Rock Hotel overnight, then hire a horse and buggy to reach their next stop. Later bus service was provided to Rockwood, which ran from Detroit to Toledo. In those days Flat Rock also had train service.  The hotel originally had eleven bedrooms. The front room, on the north side of the building, on the main floor, was the family parlor.  Meals were served in the dining room behind it, with Breakfast available tor the occupants of the hotel. Dinner was served at noon, and supper in the evening—these were open to the public. There were no bathrooms upstairs in the original building, although bathrooms were installed after water came to Flat Rock in 1924.  Men who have worked under the building think there was a cistern under the southwest corner, but later this was converted into a coal bin. There is a ladies’ room at the end of the hall from the front door, and a men’s room off of the bar. At one time, Mr. Smith put a partial basement under the building.  The hotel once sheltered the Brownstown offices, and many of the fraternal associations of the community were formed there. In 1926, some residents met and started a community band.  When Oscar Smith died in January 1945, the hotel was left to his two children, Esther [Smith] Lezotte and Walter Smith. In 1952 the porch and balcony were removed to allow for the widening of Telegraph Road, which drastically changed the appearance of the hotel.