There is an oasis Downriver, on the west shore of Grosse Ile. Westcroft Gardens is a nursery and botanical garden owned and lovingly managed by Denise de Beausset. Westcroft (meaning West Farm) is the oldest farm in Michigan that is still owned and operated by the same family.
Westcroft Gardens is part of the original Macomb estate that was purchased from the Potawatomi Indians on July 6, 1776. Fur trader William Macomb bought his brother Alexander’s share of the island (Grosse Ile) in 1791, after Alexander had moved to New York City and began speculating in lands. William died in 1796, leaving the property to his widow and children.
In 1848, John Anthony Rucker II purchased the property that is now Westcroft Gardens from William’s grandson (and his own cousin) David Macomb. Rucker constructed the house known as the Rucker-Stanton House and in 1873 sold it to his cousin Robert Lee Stanton. Stanton bought the property to use as a family farm, and he brought his widowed mother Alexandrine Macomb Stanton—granddaughter of William Macomb’s brother Alexander—to live there. Robert Lee Stanton raised hay on the family farm to supply to the horses that pulled Detroit’s streetcars.
With the coming of the automobile in the early twentieth century, though, the market for hay collapsed. Robert Lee Stanton’s son Ernest began transitioning Westcroft from a hay farm to a plant nursery. He raised turkeys on the farm during World War II, but his family has continued the nursery to the present day. Denise de Beausset, represents the seventh generation of the family to own and run the property—a property that is as old as the United States itself.
Westcroft specializes in azaleas and rhododendrons, and grows their own annuals, perennials, shrubs, and wildflowers. They also offer herbs, vegetables, and trees. There are also 4.5 acres of botanical gardens that are open to the public daily. Admission to the botanical gardens is free, but donations to assist in its maintenance are welcome. Westcroft has had a makeover recently, and is looking lovelier than ever. Westcroft is hosting public events all season, including a farmers market each weekend of the season. The farmers market benefits Gardens of Hope, “an urban agriculture opportunity of education and feeding those in need.”
Operating hours for the month of May at Westcroft Gardens are: Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Botanical gardens are open from dawn til dusk daily throughout the year.
May events at Westcroft Gardens:
May 17: Grand opening of Market at the Farm farmers market from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
May 18: 3rd annual Garden Party. Food, drinks, live music, and more. Tickets are $10 and available in advance or at the event. 5-8 p.m.
May 24: Market at the Farm from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
May 31: Market at the Farm from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Check back with the Downriver Community Examiner for monthly articles about each month’s events at historic Westcroft Gardens.