Palmer Woods house was home to Detroit gangster during Prohibition

Oh, the conversations you might have heard in this house – once the home of Detroit gangster Joseph Burnstein.

Joe Burnstein and his brothers – Raymond, Isadore, and Abraham – were juvenile Lower East Side delinquents who grew to be the heart of Detroit’s Purple Gang.

In its heyday, the Purple Gang was “almost invincible to law enforcement because witnesses were too scared to testify in murder and criminal trials,” according to the Detroit Historical Society.

The owners suite includes a bay window, an en suite bathroom and an additional living room for the television.

Prohibition gave the gang its start, according to historical society. In the 1920s and 30s, members hijacked bootlegger boats as they crossed the Detroit River from Canada. They shot the boat drivers and stole the liquor.

Even the infamous Chicago resident Al Capone made peace with the Purple Gang and bought Canadian whiskey from them instead of fighting for territory with them.

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The lower level has an area set up for relaxation, including a TV room, pool table, and fireplace.

All of this is an odd preamble to this graceful Tudor home for sale in Detroit’s Palmer Woods. It’s beautiful, welcoming, and well-maintained by the owners who have held it for 49 years.

And in a great irony of law enforcement, its longtime owners include Mack Douglas – a retired inspector and commanding officer of the Detroit Police Department’s organized crime division.

The dining room has its original deep molding and original wooden floors, which have now been refurbished.

In fact, he could even find his address in old Burnstein-era police files, Douglas said.

Douglas and his late wife Barbara have looked after this house for the past half century. All of its windows and door walls are new. It has a new textured roof with copper gutters. Its two pretty brick chimneys have new chimney caps.

The back view of the Palmer Woods house shows a new deck, new roof, and new tuckpointing.

It has a new back patio and newly sunken brick.

They tore their kitchen back to the studs and came back with new cabinets, new counters, and white tile floors. All appliances are new, brands like Sub-Zero and Miele.

These owners have pulled the kitchen back down to the tunnels and completely redesigned it with new cabinets, counters and tiled floors.

If you count the lower level, the house has four floors. The lower level has a relaxation area around a fireplace. On the top level there is a bedroom and a bathroom as well as plenty of storage space.

The house has four fireplaces. On the first floor there is one in the library and one in the living room. A third fireplace is in the recreation room on the lower level and a fourth is in the owners suite. A screened porch is off the living room.

The library is one of four rooms in the house that have a fireplace.  The others are the living room, the owners bedroom, and the relaxation area on the lower level.

Palmer Woods is one of the neighborhoods in Detroit where a home purchase like this one qualifies for a partial Neighborhood Enterprise Zone tax break.

The location of the house in Palmer Woods is prime – near two of the great Fisher Brothers mansions and across from a park.

“So there’s no house across the street,” said Douglas. “I can go over there and shoot short irons all day.”

This handsome 1920s Tudor Revival home in Detroit's Palmer Woods is the former home of Joseph Burnstein, one of the four brothers who founded Detroit's infamous Purple Gang.  Ironically, for the past 49 years, the house has belonged to the now-retired Organized Crime Commandant of the Detroit Police Department.

At home with history

Where: 1920 Lincolnshire Drive, Detroit

How much: $ 749,000

Bedroom: 6th

Bath: 4 full, 2 half

Square feet: Around 4,000 plus finished space in the basement and on the third floor.

Key Features: Beautiful, classic Tudor home in Palmer Woods is in very good condition including new windows, door walls and kitchen thanks to a 49 year old owner. Former home of Purple Gang member Joseph Burnstein.

Interesting fact: The members of the Purple Gang were mostly Jews. In the late 1930s, the gang was decimated by internal fighting and attacks by new rival Sicilian gangs who took over Detroit’s organized crime.

Contact: Cheryl Davis, Robinson Realty & Management Group, 313-477-4564.

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