Saturday, January 16, 2010

Vanished Rochester: Detroit Silver Fox Farm

During the Roaring Twenties, when the economy was booming and luxury items were in demand, Avon Township (now Rochester Hills) was the home of an unusual type of agricultural operation: the Detroit Silver Fox Farm.

Located on property currently occupied by the Village of Rochester Hills shopping center at the northeast corner of Pontiac Road (later Walton Boulevard) and Dodge Road (later Adams Road), the fox farm was incorporated in May of 1923. Officers were Fred W. Craft of Detroit, president; Arthur J. Anderson of Lake Orion, vice-president and treasurer; and R.D. Colquhoun of Detroit, secretary.

The Detroit Silver Fox Farm raised pairs of the silver gray fox, an animal highly prized for its luxurious coat, in pens that were carefully shaded by trees in order to protect the valuable pelts from damage by the sun. A watch tower loomed over the pens and an armed guard surveyed the area to ward off any intruders. Silver foxes were valued, in those days, at $5,000 to $10,000 per pair.

The company was also known by the name Pontiac Strain Furs, the label under which it marketed its product. One industry publication claimed that Pontiac Strain Furs operated fifteen fox farms and processing facilities in several states and Canada, and was the one of the largest fur operations in the country.

The company's prosperity turned out to be rather short-lived, however. Bills and claims against the firm began to pile up in 1926, after only three years of operation at the Avon Township location. Among the unpaid creditors was Rochester's Dillman & Upton lumber yard, which sought to foreclose a mechanic's lien against the fox farm for more than $5,000 in building material provided to the company in 1924. Detroit Silver Fox Farm went into receivership in 1927, and abandoned the Avon Township property because it could not be sold for a price high enough to pay the claims against it.

This postcard from the collection of the Rochester Hills Public Library shows the office building of the Detroit Silver Fox Farm in Avon Township.

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