Historic Cleveland

19 Nov

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It’s a beautiful day in Cleveland Ohio. We take advantage of the mild November temperatures and head downtown to do our own architectural walking tour. With the Jeep tucked away in a nearby parking structure we can take our time checking out the city without having to worry about feeding a meter. Our first stop is Marshall Frederick’s Fountain Of Eternal Life, also called the Cleveland War Memorial Fountain, Peace Arising From The Flames Of War, at Veterans Memorial Plaza. The inscription reads: IN HONORED MEMORY OF THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY. This is one of my favorite Marshall Frederick’s fountains; four groups in Norwegian emerald pearl granite 4′ x 12′ represent the four corners of the Earth, in the center a 35′ bronze human figure stands on a ball reaching toward the sky. The water is shut off for the season but when it’s on it makes this an even more incredible sight.  It’s placement on the southernmost end of the Mall affords incredible views of prominent buildings such as Public Square, Key Tower and Terminal Tower.

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Over on Superior we admire the exterior of the Cleveland Public Library main library building. After decades of moving around in and out of temporary and rented spaces, this building was built solely for the Main Library in 1925. It’s one of those magnificent buildings you just stop and stare at; detailed carvings, sconces, leaded glass windows all hint to the beauty found within. Before we go inside here are a few interesting things I’ve learned about the library. This was the first large public library to allow individuals to select their own books directly from the bookshelves, at other libraries only a librarian was allowed to do so. This library was a big deal to the community, by the 1930’s more than 12,000 individuals walked through its doors daily. Today the CPL circulates one of the largest and most extensive collections in the country with nearly 10 million items. After years of decline the building was completely renovated in 1999 to the tune of $24 million. Ok, now we can go inside.

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The entrance hall is flat-out gorgeous! There’s so much eye candy, my eyes don’t know where to focus. Straight up, a terrestrial globe made of pearl art glass glows softly, it’s based on one of the first maps depicting the early Americas done by Leonardo da Vinci. In the lobby, a barrel-vaulted ceiling is decorated with fine stencils representing the arts, writing and learning; looking back toward the door a brass clock is flanked by mythological griffins. Fantastic bare-bulb torchieres illuminate the lobby, it seems everything is marble including the main stairway and balustrade. Brett Memorial Hall is your basic reading room–you know, marble walls, coffered ceiling painted in rose, blue and gold; even the wool rugs match the colors and patterns of the ceiling. Travertine marble makes up the perimeter of the floor, this helps absorb sound echoes. Murals fill the upper walls, The City in 1822 by William Sommer was done in 1934 under the Public Works Art Project (PWAP), others were done in the late 1970’s, the bronze bust of Brett is original to the room.

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On the 2nd Floor the main attraction is a PWAP mural which depicts Cleveland’s waterfront in the 1830’s. Donald Bayard’s Early Transportation is as pretty today as it was in 1934, I enjoy the vibrant colors. The 3rd Floor is home to Fine Arts and Special collections, it’s our favorite floor. Here there are more paintings commissioned for the PWAP, exhibit cases in the corridor are made of wrought iron created by the Sterling Bronze Co. in 1925, we find materials related to the visual arts, musical scores and books and collectibles. The reading room is stunning; blue and gold floral designs decorate the ceilings, bare-bulb chandeliers light the space, doorways are surrounded by marble, doors are leather-covered. Large windows look out over the city, from here we have a birds-eye view of the Fountain of Eternal Life, the Mall, First Energy Stadium, and Lake Erie.

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There’s a lot to look at like the John G White Chess and Checkers Collection; Chess sets are made of delicately carved wood, stone, figures, even Salt and Pepper shakers. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a special exhibit is on display until December 31. The Cleveland Digital Public Library on this floor opened last February; a touch wall, digital lab and Preservation department connect the past to the future; the first commissioned PWAP mural by Ora Coltman, Dominance of the City (1934) hangs here. A giant mosaic tile Globe rests in the 4th Floor lobby, pretty cool. Suddenly music fills the air, as we descend the staircase we find a group of musicians has gathered at the top of the 3rd Floor, it seems they are warming up for a wedding that will take place here shortly. The sound follows us down to the main floor, it’s magical.

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Outside we realize we are just across the street from The Arcade, we pop in whenever we’re in the area. Built in 1890 and financed by the likes of John D Rockefeller, Marcus Hanna and Charles F Brush, this Victorian-era structure is magnificent! Workers are setting up for a wedding so we just do a quick walk-through–this place is an architectural treasure. Built by the Detroit Bridge Co, this is two 9-story buildings joined by a 5-story arcade with a glass skylight that spans over 300 ft, impressive. The detail is mind-blowing, every surface is decorative, it’s elegant, opulent, stunning–this is what an early shopping mall looked like in the US back in those days, and it is one of very few left.

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Our architecture and history tour continues with the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Public Square. Opened on July 4, 1894 this monument commemorates the American Civil War. The grand structure is imposing, awe-inspiring; four bronze groupings on the esplande depict battle scenes of the Navy, Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry. American flags rise up from each corner of the structure, today they flutter in the breeze. A 125′ column is topped with a statue of the Goddess of Freedom, defended by the Shield of Liberty, breathtaking.

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Inside the Memorial Room the names of 9,000 soldiers and sailors from Cuyahoga County OH who perished in the war cover tablet walls. Elegant stained glass windows, exquisite brass chandeliers, intricate marble floors have all been recently rehabilitated. Bronze relief sculptures honor significant moments and people, medals and personal items fill glass cases. A large column wears 6 bronze bands listing the names of 30 battles in which soldiers from this county fought, it’s all very humbling. 

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The day has passed quickly, over in Hingetown we stop for a bite to eat before driving home. Juke Box is one of those comfortable neighborhood joints where you can hang out with friends, grab a bite to eat, enjoy a craft beer and enjoy music from a rotating jukebox selection. It’s late afternoon so the place is quiet, the menu selection offers pierogi, sausage and kraut, the varieties of each are endless. We’re starving, so we decide quickly; you get 3 pierogi for $7 with two dipping sauces. We choose the potato, cheddar and farmers cheese pierogi with sour cream and creamy dill sauces, stellar choice. The special of the day is a sausage sandwich, ours is a beer brat topped with sauerkraut, grilled peppers and onions with spicy mustard on a crusty roll, yum! 

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It’s been a great weekend in Cleveland, we’re always discovering something new. Only three hours from Detroit, it’s one of our favorite places to go for a quick getaway. Now get out there and have some fun!


12 Nov

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Today we are just east of Cleveland in the city of Mentor, Ohio to visit the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. James A. Garfield was our 20th President, one of four assassinated US Presidents, he served only 200 days before his death. Garfield came from humble beginnings in rural Ohio; a good student he graduated from Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, then two years later from Williams College in MA. He married Lucretia in 1858, was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1859, entered the Civil War in 1861 as a lieutenant colonel, and was elected to Congress in 1862. It was in 1876 that the Garfield’s purchased this home and farm, at that time it was a modest nine-room home, by 1880 it had grown into a 20-room, 2 1/2 story structure nicknamed Lawnfield.

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The former carriage house is now the visitors center complete with exhibits chronicling Garfield’s life. We purchase tickets for the next tour then spend time browsing through displays. We follow the timeline from his days of poverty as a young boy to his adulthood as a teacher, principal, legislator, lawyer, Civil War general, congressman and senator-elect. Glass cases contain personal items such as shoes and clothing, documents and photos. We read about his unexpected presidential nomination, his election, view items from the inauguration in March of 1881. On July 2, 1881 James A. Garfield was shot twice by Charles Guiteau while boarding a train in Washington D.C. The first shot grazed his arm, the other pierced his back and was embedded in his abdomen; the bullet could not be located, infection set in. The President died on September 19, 1881 at the age of 49.

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Our tour guide leads us up to the house, Victorian in style it’s quite large, the front porch extends the length of the house. It’s this front porch where Garfield would meet with the public. People came from near and far to hear him speak about his political intentions and important issues of the day; he basically ran his campaign right from his home. Inside we are welcomed by the foyer, a fireplace rests at the back of the room, the furniture is original to the Garfield family and sits in the same place as it did when they lived here. The family kept the home until 1936, then donated it, complete with furnishings, to the Western Reserve Historical Society. In 1980 Congress authorized it as a Historical Site, it is now owned and maintained by the National Park Service. It has undergone a complete restoration. 

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We move through the main floor, portraits hang on the walls, the parlor is cozy. Stained glass decorates the dining room bay window and door, it’s glowing in today’s sunlight. The fireplace is surrounded by tiles hand-painted by the Garfield family, the china used in the White House rests on shelves– in those days you brought your own and took it home when you left. There are pretty decorative pieces throughout the room. James was his mother’s favorite child, she was quite devoted to him and he to her; she had her own suite of rooms on the main floor, photographs of her son adorn her room, a gorgeous stained glass window of the President sits in front of a window catching the natural light.

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Upstairs we enter the presidential library, Lucretia added this wing to the main house after the assassination to honor her husbands memory and store all of his presidential items and papers. The room is magnificent; white oak covers the walls and ceiling, a large fireplace anchors one wall, elegant brass fixtures and a chandelier provide soft lighting, book shelves are packed with volumes; Garfield was an avid reader, we are told there are 1,000 books in this area alone. The room is filled with photographs and memorabilia, the desk Garfield used while in Congress is in the room along with other attractive pieces of furniture. In the back section is the vault built special to hold the presidential papers, a wreath from the funeral has been dipped wax, framed and hangs on the wall; I find being among his personal things both amazing and eerie.

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Continuing through the second floor we peek into the room Garfield used as a home office before being elected President; the room sits exactly as it did the day the family left for Washington, that was the last time he was in this room. The rest of the floor is family bedrooms and servants quarters. The Garfield’s were not wealthy people, in fact when the President died friends and family were worried Lucretia would lose the house and farm. A fund was set up for donations so the house could be paid off; Garfield left a wife and five young children along with his mother whom he also supported. Over $300,000 was raised–we’re talking 1881 here–this allowed the family to keep the house, add the Memorial Library and make other improvements to the property. The family was able to live comfortably thanks to the contributions.

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Outside we walk the grounds and check out the other buildings on the property. It’s pretty amazing to be able to come here and really experience history. Lucky for all of us the family was generous enough to leave the house, the contents and so many of Garfield’s belongings for future generations to see.

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Back in Cleveland we stop in at the Barking Spider Tavern for a beverage and some live music. The tavern is an old carriage house located behind the Case Western Reserve University Alumni House over in University Circle. It’s a little tricky to find, be sure and look at the map before you head over. The building is quaint, the main listening room has wood-lined walls, a fireplace, several tables and a long bar; today strings of orange lights are draped behind the stage. The Spider is known for its live music; 7 days a week you can stop in and listen to musicians playing Jazz, Blues, Folk, Bluegrass and Rock, free of charge. George Foley and Friends are playing Jazz when we arrive; we sit back and chill to the sound of old school tunes.

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Stone Gables Bed & Breakfast is our home away from home whenever we’re in Cleveland, we stop in to freshen up before heading out for a late dinner at Heck’s Cafe. Located in Ohio City the restaurant opened in 1974, the building is an 18th Century red-brick townhouse, it’s just a few blocks from Stone Gables. The front section is a dark paneled pub, the back opens up into a spacious, airy atrium, this is where we sit. The menu has something for everyone; we’re having the Hipster Burger: a house made veggie patty, arugula, tomato aioli and mozzarella on a wheat bun with a side of Heck’s fries, yum! We’re also sharing a house salad: greens, tomatoes, red onions, walnuts, dried cranberries and crumbled blue cheese; a nice combination of flavors and textures. As we finish our meal we finally relax, it has been a day full of fun and adventure.



DETROIT: Woodbridge

4 Nov

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Detroit’s true personality can be found in its neighborhoods. Today we are in Woodbridge, a historic neighborhood of mainly Victorian homes built from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. The district borders WSU, New Center and Midtown–putting it within walking distance to great restaurants, boutiques, shopping, and cultural institutions. Long ago Ty Cobb, David Stott, James Scripps and George Booth walked these streets calling Woodbridge home; more recently Meg White and Sixto Rodriguez resided here. The grandest homes were originally built on Trumbull, as the campus of Wayne State grew, many homes were lost. The neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, that’s when restoration of these gorgeous homes really got a foothold.

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We park on Merrick and begin our walk south on Commonwealth, today the street is picturesque; trees are still hanging on to their yellow, red and orange leaves, large 3-story homes with tiny front yards sit back from the street. It’s Halloween, residents decorate with spooky spider webs, pumpkins line the front steps, pots of mums and even a few annuals enjoy the mild autumn day. Bicycle racks dot front lawns, each a different shape, painted brightly in red, orange, blue and lime. Art is everywhere; sculptures sprout from the ground, paintings hang on exterior building walls making the street an outdoor gallery. A fenced in yard contains huge bicycle sculptures, a brightly colored painting spells out Laredo in yellow letters, rose bushes still bloom. The district embraces the creative, imaginative and artistic qualities of its residents.

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Dual stairways lead to front doors of duplexes, many are graced with leaded glass windows. Homes are well maintained; colorful trim and smooth columns accent fine brickwork. Covered porches shield residents from heat and rain, balustrades create second story balconies, windows of all shapes and sizes bring sunlight indoors. People are out raking leaves, walking their dogs, they stop what they’re doing as we approach, taking the time to say hello. Apartments are only 3 stories high, the architecture is understated with lovely details such as dentil moldings, heavy wooden doors and window pediments. Homes on Avery are almost all single-family, there are some real beauties! Many have steep hipped roofs, recessed porches, bay windows, dormers and round corner towers with pinnacles. On one of the blocks, houses are clapboard sided in a variety of bold colors; fish scale siding, conical roofs and decorative gables  make each one unique.

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In one front yard a Little Free Library has been planted; using Andrew Carnegie’s support of 2,509 free public libraries built in the US around the turn of the 19th to 20th century as inspiration, Little Free Library has a goal to build 2,510 libraries, and then keep right on going. Detroit Little Libraries has a goal of 313 libraries in the city; the organization turned 1 in September and has already planted 100 little library structures, making it the fastest growing Little Library city in the country. The little house-like structure looks right at home here, it even matches the big house it sits in front of. We continue our walk; leaves crunch under our feet, cars line the narrow streets, people come and go from their homes. Residents are diverse; students, professors, young families, servers and long-time residents all live side by side in this charming, appealing, engaging neighborhood.

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We take Merrick to Trumbull and walk a little more, 4759 is the address of The Lorax house, you know, from Dr Seuss. Built in 1900, current owner Alex Pereira has renovated the building into 5 units and a commercial art gallery. While the interior retains its original historic beauty, the exterior is whimsical with a wood-carved Lorax on the front lawn, a quote from the movie is painted on the retaining wall: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Pereira recently finished the “UP” house, based on the animated film of the same name at 4722 Avery, you’ll know it immediately by its cheerful paint job of light blue, yellow, fluorescent green and lilac; he’s currently working on the (Alice in) Wonderland House at 3947 Commonwealth.

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Back the other way more grand homes line the street, art covers walls, garages and alleyways; in one painting Detroit is an underwater city, scuba divers swim among the skyscrapers, the rays of the sun permeate the water’s surface…. awesome. At the corner of Trumbull and Merrick is the Woodbridge Community Garden; raised garden beds, picnic tables, art and sculpture have turned this into a neighborhood gathering space. Woodbridge Pub owner Jim Geary is responsible for the transformation of the garden from 3 city lots filled with overgrown weeds and trash to what we see today.

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Speaking of Woodbridge Pub, it’s time for lunch! The building, originally a general store built in 1926 had sat empty for a good 20 years when Geary bought it; time, money, patience and lots of salvaged wood turned it into the quaint space it is today. We’ve been coming here since it opened back in 2008. Sitting at the bar we scan the menu; one of our favorites, the Veggie Locker, is back, we order that and a side salad, kick back and relax. It starts to drizzle, Wayne State football has a home game today, folks escape the rain and fill the place up. Our meal arrives; we have a side salad with sherry vinaigrette and southwest dressings, we like them both. The sandwich is a combo of avocado, tomato, red onion, cream cheese, jalapeno, mustard and mayo on grilled Detroit 9-grain bread, accompanied by corn chips and a pickle– it’s delicious. 

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This is Detroit. Urban neighborhoods, gorgeous architecture, art, community gardens. Corner pubs, Little libraries, history. And a bright, promising future.



DETROIT: Woodlawn Cemetery

28 Oct

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There’s a place in Detroit where city fathers, industrialists, bankers and politicians reside alongside social activists, writers and musicians–many of which changed the face of our country. A city of sorts, spread out across 140 acres of gentle rolling hills, towering trees, a body of water nicknamed Millionaires Pond; where obelisks reach toward the sky, deer and geese roam the grounds and private mausoleums house families whose names are found on street signs and buildings all over Detroit. I’m talking about Woodlawn Cemetery on Woodward between 7 and 8 Mile roads. Established in 1895, the first burial took place in 1896, to date there are over 71,000 interred here. This is one of the largest collections of private mausoleums in the country.

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Kris and I have always enjoyed walking through historic cemeteries; visiting Woodlawn is a bit like strolling through a local history museum that just happens to be in a beautiful park-like setting; peaceful, serene. In my opinion Autumn is the absolute best time to come, trees are painted brilliant colors, the temperature is just right for meandering. The simple entrance gives no clue to the magnificent mausoleums and gravestones contained on the grounds. Most structures are granite, designed in the Egyptian, Greek or Roman Revival styles of architecture. From the late 19th to the early 20th centuries the monument industry thrived in America.

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We first stop at the Greek Revival style Hecker mausoleum, resting on a  hill this is the only building on the grounds with a marble exterior; Hecker was a railroad car manufacturer, his lovely Chateau-style mansion still sits on the corner of Woodward and E Ferry. Many mausoleums have striking, elegantly detailed, bronze grill work doors, they have acquired the perfect patina over the decades. Stained glass windows are another popular feature, we go right up to the doors and peer inside, if the sun is shining just right the colors glow, lighting up the interior. The Mills mausoleum is an impressive structure, done in the French Beaux Arts style it reflects the wealth the Mills family amassed organizing Detroit Stove Works, the Banner Tobacco Company and First National Bank, he was also Mayor of Detroit in 1866 and 67.

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Traversing the grounds leaves crunch under our feet, geese scatter, squirrels chase one another; colorful hydrangea trees decorate the setting. Each name we read is familiar: Hudson, Booth, Grinnell, Ford, Groesbeck, Pingree. Members of the Four Tops, Miracles, Temptations, Funk Brothers, Winans and Spinners are laid to rest here along with family members of Berry Gordy, Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin. The Egyptian style Dodge mausoleum is guarded by two large sphinxes, four papyrus-topped columns flank the doorway. Brothers John and Horace died 11 months apart and are reunited here. Next door John’s wife Matilda and her second husband Alfred Wilson are laid to rest, the Art Deco style building has amazing entrance doors and a sculptural medallion done by sculptor Corrado Parducci, really take the time to look at the detail.

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The lake is surrounded by European-style garden memorials, the most impressive belonging to the Kanzler family. The plot is 50′ by 50′, reminiscent of an 18th century French formal garden, the sarcophagus is carved from one piece of French marble, so elegant and pastoral. Kanzler worked with Henry Ford at FMC then went on to organize the Guardian Detroit Bank with Edsel Ford; his wife Josephine was the sister of Edsel’s wife Eleanor Clay, and J. L Hudson was their uncle– how’d you like to move around in those circles? Across the way a tall arch topped with an obelisk looks out onto the lake.

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One beautiful memorial after another, they are stately, grand, reflecting the stature of the deceased; clearly I cannot talk about all of them, but here are a few more of our favorites. C. J. Whitney has a distinctly Art Nouveau design, he is credited with bringing the first motion picture projection to Michigan in 1896. James Couzens mausoleum was designed by Albert Kahn, it is one of the largest in the Detroit area and is considered to be a mini-version of the Parthenon. A bronze statue of a woman mourns for W. H. Harrison, her anguish obvious; today fresh flowers rest in her arms. The bronze Bowen gravestone resembles an Italian Renaissance sarcophagus, it has aged gloriously, dripping with patina, pilasters have claw-foot bottoms, it was designed by Paul Phillipe Cret, the architect who designed the DIA. At one time Bowen was president of Cadillac then went on to become president of D. M Ferry Seed Company, his house remains at 5435 W0odward Ave. 

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We enter the main public mausoleum, built in 1941 it has a more Modern/Art Deco look about it inside. In a series of hallways individuals are entombed in the walls, there are small rooms where families are grouped together, their name engraved above the doorway; each a symbol of the personal style of the family with a particular marble, lighting and elaborate stained glass windows. The windows are stunning! Angels, landscapes, religious scenes, colorful patterns and flowers are just some of the designs. Urns rest on marble shelves in glass-windowed cabinets, carpet covers the floors, it’s so quiet in here. In the chapel area pews, lectern and walls are the light-colored wood popular at the time; the Our Father is beautifully carved into panels.

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Again we see more recognizable names like Whitcomb (Belle Isle Conservatory), Mel Farr, Fruehauf. We take a stairway to the second floor, at the end of the corridor Stanley S Kresge is laid to rest, stained glass windows in rich colors are religious in nature. When we are finished we proceed to the basement level, maintenance is in the process of replacing letters that have fallen off through the years. Large gravestones accompany the traditional mausoleum walls. Time has passed quickly, it has been fascinating traveling through Detroit history. 

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Just a short drive away is Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles located on Livernois between 7 Mile and Outer Drive, we arrive just after 3 pm and the place is packed!  Open for less than a year their creative menu of southern comfort food keeps people coming back. The place is very attractive inside; red walls, open ceiling, funky floors, great art, very cool.We are seated at the only open table, I look around to see what surrounding diners are eating–everything looks delicious. Our server drops off our drinks, takes our order and reminds us everything is made to order from scratch, so it takes a little time. The crowd thins out after 3:30 and our food arrives.

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Ok, so we went a little crazy ordering, that’s what take-home boxes are for….Here goes: The Big Red is a red velvet Belgian waffle served with a scoop of cream cheese icing in the center, a side cup of bourbon maple syrup, 3 large, hand-breaded, luscious chicken tenders and a side–we are having collard greens. Every single item is outstanding, and the bourbon maple syrup, well, you’re gonna have to try it for yourself! Biscuits and Gravy are the ultimate comfort food, we got 2 buttery, crispy on the outside-flaky on the inside biscuits and a bowl of chicken gravy, over-the-top good! Then there’s the LALA, it comes with a waffle, this one has tiny little squares that really hold onto the melted butter and syrup, 2 eggs, ours are scrambled and a cup of cheese grits, yum! I can see why the restaurant is so popular.

Scenic Backroads: Autumn Splendor

21 Oct

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Fall has arrived in southeast Michigan; the leaves are changing, the air has turned crisp, darkness comes early. Mother Nature beckons us to spend time outdoors, soak in the warmth of the sun, the aroma of burning logs; we long to walk and hear the swish and crunch of fallen leaves, marvel at the colors that have painted the landscape. Today Kris and I are heading out to Oakland County to do just that! Rochester Rd  travels through cities large and small, once you get north of Rochester, the road changes from hectic to relaxing, a scenic rural postcard. 

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Foglers Orchard and Farm Market sits roadside, in Summer you can purchase a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, this time of year pumpkins and apples take center stage. It’s chilly this morning, roll-up doors encourage the sun to warm the building. White paper Peck bags bulge with freshly picked apples: Empire, Golden Delicious, Gala and Mac’s are just a few of the varieties available, the scent of apples permeates the air. Huge heads of cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts still on the stalk line the counter. A bin overflows with colorful gourds and teeny tiny pumpkins. In the greenhouse area families take on the all-important task of picking just the right pumpkin; out back a tractor takes folks on a hayride around the property. 

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Back on Rochester Rd. Maples add a splash of color, the street begins to wind as we meander into the countryside. A ways up (near 32 Mile) we make a turn onto Predmore Rd to check out Cranberry Lake Farm Historic District. Oakland Township was one of the original 25 townships when the Territory of Michigan was organized in 1827, this particular property was the farmstead of John Axford, he built the Greek Revival house here in the 1840’s. The farm was purchased by Jacob Kline in 1848, the family continued to operate the farm until 1925. In 1939 Detroiter Howard Coffin, an oil company executive and US congressman (who lived in Detroit’s Sherwood Forest) converted the farm to a country retreat; the house was enlarged, a field stone fireplace added, buildings updated. In 1996 the township purchased the farm, it is now on the National register of Historic Places. There are 10 buildings, a garden and orchard on the 16 acre historic district which sits adjacent to the 233 acre Cranberry Lake Park. Let’s have a look.

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We park the Jeep near the beautifully restored Flumerfelt barn, this post and beam structure dates back to 1879. Rusty antique farm equipment is on display, the lush, green grass is sprinkled with leaves. The house is not open, but I can see the fireplace through the windows–very cozy, the buildings are well maintained. In the distance we see a freshly mowed pathway leading away from the farm, how about a walk? Here the trees are already bare, weeds and wildflowers have died off leaving interesting looking seed pods. The sun peeks in and out from the clouds, a strong breeze gives flight to yellow and brown leaves. We are led into the woods, sunlight dapples the dirt trail, low boardwalks keep the feet of hikers dry in rainy periods. The trail takes us in and out of the woods back to the wide grassy trail ending back at the barn. It is here that we spot the Cranberry Lake barn quilt designed by Mary Asmus, it’s quite lovely.

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Continuing on Rochester Rd we veer onto Drahner road, Lakeville Cemetery is just a little west, it’s one of those small, quaint, very old cemeteries you find in the country, this one was established in 1843. Following a very narrow dirt road we park near the gazebo, here the Maples are steeped in color, vibrant reds, oranges and yellows, even a little lime green. We walk the hilly terrain reading tombstones dating back to the 1800’s, many are so worn by the elements I can no longer read the inscriptions. At one time it was common to write out the exact age of the deceased–years, months, right down to the number of days. Evergreen and Pines occupy one section, the ground below thick with long brown needles, it is here we discover the headstone belonging to Minoru Yamasaki and his wife Teruko. The man who changed the face of architecture, bringing us buildings such as One Woodward, Mc Gregor Memorial Conference Center on the campus of WSU and of course, most notably, the World Trade Center, is represented here by a simple headstone, a large rock rests adjacent. Tombstones are each unique in design, personal tributes to those who have passed, the grounds here are gorgeous, it’s so peaceful.

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Our journey continues taking us into Lakeville, vintage cars out for a drive pass us  as they head the opposite direction. We hang a right on Main Street, a few old structures remain, the Mill has been recently restored, painted white with red accents. Back on Rochester Rd the street hooks one direction, then another, it’s hilly here, we twist and turn past attractive homesteads, picturesque barns and splendid Fall scenery. In the northern portion of Addison Township we stop at Watershed Preserve, a 229 acre nature preserve with 4 kettle lakes and inter-connected wetlands within rolling glacial moraine deposits. The purpose of the preserve is to protect and preserve this extremely sensitive watershed and wildlife habitat. The wetlands here form the headwaters for the Belle, Clinton and Flint river systems.

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We start out on a grassy trail, referring to the large map of the preserve we choose the orange trail; leaves are just beginning to color, many are still green. The path narrows, we snake our way through the woods to one of the lakes, a dock allows us a closer look at the clear water. The next lake is larger, beavers have built themselves a mansion near the shore, the water is perfectly still, a mirror image of the sky covers the surface of the lake. Kris makes his way to the dock, getting a better look at Loon Lake. The trail changes in elevation as it curls through maturing second-growth forests and meadows, we loop around finding ourselves where we started.

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Our roadtrip continues, we turn left on Dryden Rd, a Porche club is out on a fall color tour, I lost count after 40 cars.  We are immersed in splendid scenery; silos peek out from dried-up cornstalks, long-standing churches charm us as we pass, Oaks and Maples are showy with color. We stop at High Street Eatery in Metamora for lunch, the taupe and white building resembles a home more than a business. Menu selections are made from scratch, in house, bread and baked goods come from Crust in Fenton. We sit in the front room with a pretty view looking out onto the street.

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The special of the day is an open-faced hot turkey sandwich, we order ours on the Saskatoon Prairie Seed bread, the turkey is moist, there’s just enough gravy. A generous portion of mashed potatoes, stuffing and corn also share the plate. Our Michigan salad arrives at the same time, a heap of greens is topped with apples, walnuts dried cherries and a tasty vinaigrette, everything is delicious. It has been a day well-spent in nature enjoying scenic roads that rise and fall, coiling through beautiful countryside. It’s a delightful time of year to get out and enjoy the beauty.


DETROIT: Art Attack !!??

14 Oct

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These days much of the news coming out of Detroit is positive; new businesses are opening, people are moving into the city, a new hockey arena is being built, neighborhoods are being revitalized, urban farming is a real thing. Midtown and Corktown are often the center of attention. To me Eastern Market is the heart of Detroit, it’s the place people gather to buy their food, pumpkins, their Christmas tree. Folks meet up for breakfast, lunch or dinner, eat at communal tables, have a coffee, a cocktail, view amazing art; it’s the place everyone feels welcome. Recently Eastern Market Corporation, 1xRun and Inner State Gallery invited 45 local and international artists to create large-scale murals all over the district for a 9 day event called Murals In The Market.

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The artists have arrived in Detroit, painting has begun; spectators are welcome. Designated walls are a blank canvas of black or white. Electric scissor lifts have taken over the streets as artists drive them to their specified locations. Walking from one block to the next we see the beginnings of murals taking shape, details are sketched in black spray painted lines, artists are perched precariously on ladders. Curious onlookers include local workers, amateur photographers, and random passersby. At Orleans and Adelaide Patch Whisky and Ghost Beard are nearly finished with their mural, Whisky’s signature character is chasing Beard’s monster on a multi-hued wall. Dozens of aerosol paint cans represent every color of the rainbow–and then some, gallon cans, rollers and paint trays lay on the ground. It’s just the beginning.

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Six days later we’re back in the market, this time for Eastern Market After Dark, part of the 4th Annual Detroit Design Festival. A night of open houses at creative venues in the district, it’s one of our favorite events of the year. In addition to the festivities, we’re checking out the murals. We start the evening with a Chili Mexican from Germack, just outside, at the corner of Russell and Adelaide Hebru Brantley has finished his mural, a super-cool flamed and lowered Caddy is parked in front. Images of a youthful super hero in goggles cover the wall; soon models sidle up to the wall as a photographer shoots photos. In Shed 2 we pass through the Jeep display and couches wearing extravagant paint jobs on our way back to the streets, the sun is already lower in the sky.

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Naturel has finished a piece titled “Teach A Man To Fish”, a colorful ‘fly’ hovers on a textured wall, Denial’s comic-book-style art fills an entire wall with bold colors. “Nothing Stops Detroit” literally stops Kris in his tracks–he recognizes the vehicle in the painting as a Dodge Deora, he points out the fact the actual vehicle was customized by Detroit’s own Alexander Brothers back in the day, I like the way the letters resemble neon, oh and the car too… Ouizi has turned a building on Orleans into a flower garden, I love it! Further on a pair of faces are still in progress, artists have gone home for the day.

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We have wandered as far as the new section of the Dequindre Cut; pavement has been laid, light posts illuminate freshly planted trees. Bridges crossing the Cut are newly paved and open to traffic. Construction equipment is quiet for the night, water towers and old industrial buildings complete the landscape. The mural project has expanded the footprint of the market, drawing people further into the district; good things are happening here. Up the street a huge Great White shark emerges from a sea of red, mouth agape, rows of teeth are frightening; this is Los Angeles artist Shark Toof’s second shark mural in the market. Around the corner the scene is more mellow, colorful shapes and designs somehow remind me of biology. The sun has set, the crowds grow thicker, Ren Cen glows in the distance. Artists continue their work aided by flood lights.

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A week has gone by, we’re back in the market to see the completed murals. A two-story house in blue stands alone in an open field, pretty patterns cover the exterior walls, around the corner, an unexpected image of a Victorian home, a man’s profile, lovely. We take in scene after scene, people with cameras are everywhere, another photo shoot is taking place, this time in front of Ouizi’s flower wall. There are shapes, portraits, landscapes and designs, characters like the striking image of the woman in the black-fringed hat. Murals reflect Detroit, Eastern Market–check out the corner of Riopelle and Winder. A Panda DJ gets our attention, further down the alley Ron Zakrin has created a scene in which children play on swings hanging from an abandoned tank, a peace sign painted prominently on the side, a field of flowers grows nearby, the caption: “Maybe one day”. Street by street we view the murals; we stand in awe, get lost in our thoughts, smile, laugh and become mesmerized by the beauty, creativity and thoughtfulness of the pieces. Art stirs emotions.  Back on Russell Street. Fel3000ft has completed his angel of Detroit, she gently mends the heart of the city, indeed, we are a city on the mend.

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 Just a little bit of ground left to cover over on Gratiot. Jeff Soto and Maxx242 have filled a wall with surreal roses surrounding skulls, a spray can in the center, resting on a beast–I recognize the eye from the first day we were here, it was the only section completed. A pair of canines are split by a waterfall, industrious bees build a honeycomb; you have to work a little harder here to see everything, but it’s worth the walk. Detroit is quickly becoming an exciting, vibrant center for street art, attracting artists and visitors alike from near and far. Come see it for yourself!

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Grosse Pointe: Pier Park

7 Oct

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It’s the last Sunday in September, though it feels more like July; the sky is powder blue, the sun’s rays are strong, warming my skin while dancing on the surface of the water. We are at Pier Park, a waterfront paradise in Grosse Pointe Farms, at the foot of Moross Rd at Lake Shore Rd. The Grosse Pointe Farms Foundation is hosting the 8th Annual Concours d’ elegance; an exhibit of vintage and exotic, domestic and foreign vehicles owned by all Grosse Pointe residents and open to the public. It’s the perfect opportunity to check out the (residents only) park and look at beautiful cars.

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Following the asphalt path we walk along the shoreline of Lake St. Clair, I can’t get over how stunning the lake is today, it sparkles.  Walking, we notice benches tucked under shade trees, there’s a nice view of the Yacht Club to the left. The lake itself is home to numerous species of fish and waterfowl, it is the source of drinking water for over 4 million residents of Michigan and Canada. Freighters carry more than 60 million shipping tons per year of iron ore, limestone, coal and grain, nearly 40 million of that originating in Michigan, across the lake. Interestingly, the lake is very shallow, averaging only 10 feet in depth. 

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We enter the harbor area with 333 mooring spaces for Farms residents, boats vary in style and size; an old wooden Chris-Craft, cabin cruisers and offshores. High at the top of a mast a man is making electrical repairs,while he is totally at ease, watching him makes me nervous. The lake spreads out before us; pleasure boaters revel in the loveliness of the day, kayaks glide across the surface, a freighter heads downriver; through the camera lens we can see the windmills in Canada. Looking towards shore we see the Community Building, lush landscaping surrounds the patio area and screened porch, there’s a bevy of activity on the land and water. We stop in the building which is home to the Parks and Recreation office; the Great Room is inviting with its fireplace, wooden bookshelves and leather furniture.

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Back in the park we meander about, we come upon a sleek 1964 Cadillac Fleetwood in black, look at all that chrome! There’s a swank 1941 Caddy in blue with a silver top, wood panels and a Bakelite steering wheel are luxe, there’s a 1948 Buick convertible just down from that. The Detroit Electric Car was built by the Anderson Electric Car Co, the Houk wire wheels were manufactured in Buffalo, NY, in those days everything was clearly marked as to where it came from. The 1926 Chrysler is sweet; I like the way automobiles reflect the time period in which they were built–much like fashion and architecture.

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A red, Ford-powered, De-Tomaso Mangusta catches Kris’s eye as do the 1969 Shelby GT 500’s; bold stripes, scoops and Cobra emblems make them super-cool. The 1976 Trans Am has a lot of lookers, a customized 1961 Chevy Impala hugs the ground, everybody loves Ford T-Bird’s, this red ’66 is a beauty. Walking around we realize just how large the park is, it offers some of the best panoramic views in the Pointes.

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We head to the Village to grab some lunch, Side Street Diner is tucked away on St. Clair Ave, the restaurant plays tribute to the American lunch counter. Inside, old-fashioned diner lights, black and white historic photos and stool-seating at the counter take us back in time; a row of layer cakes are spread out across the counter top in glass-covered pedestals. Wall colors coordinate with floor tiles in yellow, orange, turquoise, a large fork and spoon hang near the kitchen. The menu is huge, Kris goes right to the breakfast page. Service is fast and friendly– within minutes our food arrives. The traditional Eggs Benedict are delicious; 2 poached eggs, Canadian bacon on English muffins, the hollandaise sauce is outstanding, the homefries are good too. Our server recommends the Apple pancakes, I can see why; 3 fluffy, tender, buttermilk pancakes generously topped with lightly sweet, cinnamon-y escalloped apples, yum! We split both things so it’s a nice combo of sweet and savory. 

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ROMEO: Hay There….

30 Sep

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We are in the Village of Romeo, the Romeo Historical Society is sponsoring a Barn Tour today; this years theme: What Can You Do With A Barn? Let’s see……….

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We purchase our tickets at the Archives building on Main Street, there are 7 sites on the tour, barns were constructed between 1840-1940. Locations range from Romeo to Bruce and Washington Townships, it’s self-guided so we grab our map and go. The first barn is just a few blocks down Main Street, the red arrow on the Barn Tour sign guides us to a charming, white, Greek Revival home, the lawn a lush green carpet, Mums and Sedum steal the show in the landscape. A long driveway leads us to a blue-painted barn, open doors invite us inside. As people mill about we take the narrow stairs to the second floor, here we can see the way the barn was constructed; the home and barn are built of Cedar that was milled right on the premises. Pumpkins and assorted gourds sit atop bales of hay, Autumn has arrived.

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Downstairs the main part of the barn is used as a workshop and storage space for the owner’s vintage automobile; tool boxes, antique lanterns and other old pieces decorate the space, back in the mid 1800’s this is where the family kept the carriage and through a doorway is where the horses stayed. In this space is  a section for garden supplies; Hydrangea hang upside-down to dry out. Wood-working and automotive tools are found throughout the small room, sunlight sneaks in through tiny windows. 

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We drive out to the furthest point on the tour, the drive takes us past beautiful farmland, homesteads, vegetable stands and pastures. There are 2 barns on this stop, the first was converted into the family home back in the 40’s, we leave our shoes on the front porch and step inside. The abundance of wood, exposed hand-hewn beams and brick fireplace give the home a cozy feel; a large, round object is attracting lots of attention. A woman stands beside it asking people to guess what it is, everyone is at a loss; she gives in and tells us it was a light bulb tester, then she opens it up to reveal its current use: a super-cool bar! The home is filled with lovely vintage items spreading the owner’s personality throughout. And then there’s the barn…..

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Music drifts out from the large, open barn, off to one side a gentleman plays guitar and sings for today’s visitors. Smack dab in the center is a customized Edsel, it’s gorgeous–didn’t I just see this car on the cover of DDEAF magazine? The space has been completely opened up from floor to ceiling, rusted and tattered vintage signs adorn the walls, I think the Meyer’s Bar-B-Q sign in the loft is my favorite. An old Ford is parked in a corner, an antique tractor, engines and drive trains occupy floor space; it reminds us of the American Pickers place in Nashville. On the way out we take a peek at an old pick-up parked in its own private slot, sweet.

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Across the road is a complex of old barns redesigned into fantasy buildings; not what we expected to see out here. Each one has a unique design; window frames are unusual as are roof-lines and facades. We begin at the back of the property, the largest of the buildings, it’s easy to make out the original structure; pointed peaks give way to arched entrances, it almost looks forgotten. Inside a shiny red Chevelle awaits its next outing, cars and trucks in varying condition are tucked in here and there. A huge workshop looks as if it holds the right tool for any job. We roam from building to building, an early 60’s T-bird looks as if it hasn’t moved in ages.

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We enter a rust-colored building with Gothic-style windows and find ourselves in a large entertainment space; on the slate-tiled floor a billiard table looks ready for a game, a disco ball mingles with antique light fixtures, up a step, a bar sits empty, wood beams and posts the only reminder of the building’s origin. Interesting faces are carved into trees, ivy has begun to claim an old tin-roofed wooden shed.

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We arrive at a traditional red with white-trim barn on Fisher Rd, a group of banjo players are gathered near the barn entertaining tour-goers. We stop to listen to the group play, it’s the perfect complement to the setting. Inside, the barn houses 2 show horses, ribbons are proudly displayed on the wall, horses are in their stall; they seem happy for the attention. I wait my turn, petting each of them, they’re beautiful animals.

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The next stop was once the old Brabb Family Farm circa 1860, a number of the structures remain, though not in usable condition. A bright red Farmall tractor is parked in front of the largest barn, behind the steering wheel a blonde-haired boy poses for pictures. On the backside we have a look under the barn, Swallow’s nests made of mud cling to the walls. Silos are roofless, stamped into the concrete is “Smith Silo Co. Oxford Mich”, love that kind of stuff! In the smaller barn burlap bags are displayed, companies located in Detroit, Battle Creek and Utica are represented, old photos are on exhibit,the corn crib is to the right, old pitch forks, crates and wire baskets are at rest. The land here is magnificent, green and rolling, surrounded by woods.

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Our last stop is the Jack Frost Auto Museum on Campground Road. We’re told Jack A Frost was an electrical supplier and manufacturer in the early 20th century. He produced lighting and power accessories for the automotive and motion picture industries; his friends included Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. After WWI he built his home and orchard on 70 acres here in Washington Twp, and by the way, he loved automobiles. The current owner shares that same love of cars, he runs a full service auto sales, restoration and repair shop on the premises.

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We enter the first brick building and are greeted by a red Lincoln with a white convertible top, wandering to the next room we are face to face with a variety of vehicles; a couple of old Lincoln Continentals, a Jeep Grand Wagoneer, a Javelin in the restoration process and an eye-catching 1970 AMX in Big Bad Blue. The room is a mix of fluorescent lighting, old chandelier and ancient looking sconces. Making our way to the next area we pass an antique Buick in yellow and black still wearing wood-spoke wheels. The next area is a collage of items; big round headlights, advertisements, machinery, a silver antique Peninsular heating stove and in a showcase ribbons, trophy’s and awards belonging to Mr. Frost. A Victorian music box is wound up and playing for us as we continue to peruse the collection of hood ornaments, lanterns and photographs. Walking up the driveway we check out the old stone barn that was converted into the caretakers house.

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We are having lunch at Brown Iron Brewhouse on Van Dyke in Washington Twp, an American craft brewhouse serving up beer and ciders from coast to coast; they have 60 taps in addition to wine and craft spirits. Food is new American smokehouse style. The main dining hall is huge, the open ceiling and concrete floors give the space an industrial feel, sturdy wood tables and benches encourage community dining. There is a special Oktoberfest section on the menu today. First out are the Crispy Cheese Curds, they are delicious! Beer battered, they are light and crispy, they go perfectly with the house made buttermilk ranch. The Beast Mode Burger is beef brisket fresh-ground in-house, topped with smoked corned beef, applewood smoked bacon, beer cheese and a fried egg, it’s quite a (tasty) mouthful! Served with brewhouse fries, it’s enough for two to share. Time to head home; we’ve had a wonderful, surprise-filled day in the country.

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Along The St. Clair…..

22 Sep

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We are driving up M-29 to the city of Algonac, the water speed capital of the nation. You may not know this but Algonac is the birthplace of America’s supremacy in powerboat racing. The city played a leading role in shipbuilding;  from sailing cargo ships to large pleasure-craft, racing boats and landing craft, including the craft used in the Normandy landing. This is where Chris-Craft was born; in 1927 Chris-Craft was recognized as the world’s largest builder of mahogany-constructed power boats. Between 1921-1932 Christopher Smith (Chris-Craft) and Garfield Wood built 10 Miss America’s in Algonac. Gar Wood established the world water speed record of 124.91 miles per hour in 1932 in the Miss America X.

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Just last summer the Algonac-Clay Historical Society opened a Maritime Museum right on St Clair River Drive in a building donated by Fifth-Third Bank, let’s have a look. The 8,300 sq ft space is loaded with nautically themed displays; several boats are set atop water-like flooring, easels display photos, brochures and newspaper clippings, walls are covered in framed boat designs, photographs and flags. Placards tell the stories of the boats; Winning Ticket was won in a local raffle in 1949–check out the vintage Vernor’s cooler. The Aqua Lady is a cool 19 ft Sports Express Cruiser made by Chris-Craft in 1958 as a kit boat. The inside looks surprisingly roomy; a 2-burner stove, storage and banquettes surrounding a table, pretty cozy! Last Gar is a gorgeous wooden boat with an interesting tale to go with it. Outboard motors, racing boats and a showcase filled with trophies are at our disposal, I learned that Gar Wood won the coveted Harmsworth Trophy 8 times.

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On display is a boat dashboard; covered in gauges, shifters, controls and a steering wheel, visitors take a turns being captain. Further on we find another Chris-Craft Kit Boat, this one built by the Algonac High School shop class, next to it is a boat from 1909, both look brand new! There are model ships, a workbench with tools, more literature and facts on Chris-Craft manufacturing. Engines and replacement parts give us insight on what we cannot see ordinarily, it’s fascinating to be able to see the boats up close, there’s so much detail.

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Outside, we make our way to the riverfront, the 1800 ft long boardwalk offers benches that overlook the lovely blue water. We sit and watch as the City of Algonac ferry transports cars across the St. Clair River to Canada and Walpole Island; pleasure boats zip across the water under the afternoon sun. Time to head north. Back on M-29 we pass the house that Gar Wood once lived in; I like being able to connect the past to the present.

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We are having lunch waterside at Anita’s Riverfront Grille in Marine City. The patio is host to picnic tables with umbrellas that hug a view of the river, colorful flowers and vines topple over the sides of planters, live music is provided by a singer playing guitar. We sip on cold drinks as freighters float downriver, swimsuit-clad boaters skip over the water’s surface in speedboats, smaller boats take a more casual approach, checking out the shoreline as they pass. Our Combo Platter arrives, we waste no time digging in. The wet burrito has a chunky sauce with beans, very tasty, The chicken enchilada and soft taco disappear quickly as does the rice and beans. 

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Today we are visiting the Mariner, a former movie palace built in 1927. The current owner completely restored the building which is now home to the RMS Titanic exhibit and multi-use venue that houses fine models, historical items, antiques and art. A new period marquee welcomes visitors, a 1917 popcorn machine and peanut roaster reside in the lobby area, 46 original 1930’s style mohair theater seats have been installed along with antique light fixtures. The place is pretty amazing. We begin our visit in the galleries; each one displays the finest quality models of automobiles, ships, aircraft and locomotives, the detail is unbelievable. America-themed posters hang on the walls, shelves are lined with books, there’s a jukebox, a transparent clock tower with a bell and a cuckoo clock. Case to case we study miniature war ships, farm equipment, engines and machinery, all are available for purchase. 

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The main attraction, of course, is the exhibit: Titanic – The Building Of An Icon. First a quick review: The Titanic was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, it was the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time. On April 14, 1912 the Titanic struck an iceberg, broke into 2 pieces and sank in 2 hours and 40 minutes. In 1995 the builders of the Titanic approached Fine Art Models (of Marine City) to build the “builders model” of the Titanic. “One very important fact surrounding this model is that by agreement with Harland and Wolff, this model would never be displayed with the artifacts brought up from the Titanic gravesite. Furthermore, the exhibit of this model would never be seen as an effort to profit from this tragic event.” The model has traveled to museums and charitable events across the United States, raising over $5 million to date for non-profits and charitable organizations.

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The 18 ft, 1500 lb Titanic model is housed in a glass case, it is the centerpiece of the gallery. We walk around looking at actual photos of the interior and exterior of the ship, reading placards, getting our fill of information before really examining the ship. Completed in 2002, it took 7 years to build the model; artisans worked directly with the original builders, using original drawings. The decking is real wood, so is the deck furniture, the entire superstructure is constructed of brass, 3,376,000 rivets (yes, that’s 3 MILLION) are all placed in their correct location, it boggles the mind. Looking at the model it’s easy to imagine the excitement the passengers must have felt boarding this remarkable vessel, I can almost picture well-dressed couples, strolling arm-in-arm on deck. The story of the Titanic has captured the attention of people all over the world for decades, what an incredible opportunity this is to see the legendary ship (in miniature, of course) up close, to take it in, knowing its ultimate fate.

DETROIT: Recycled

16 Sep

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Beauty can be found everywhere. From the most obvious places like Detroit’s riverfront and Belle Isle to the less conspicuous alley or neighborhood garden. Today we are visiting places off the beaten path, the nooks and crannies of the city. Lincoln Street Art Park and Sculpture Garden is just a short distance from New Center; murals, sculptures, a fire pit and gardens all reside in the shadow of the iconic Fisher Building. We park on the side of Lincoln St, walk over to the low-cut lawn and have a look. 

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With curiosity as our compass we walk through the park, on the backside of an old industrial building, boarded up windows are decorated with murals, Lincoln is spelled out over several. Graffiti, street art and elaborate scenes cover concrete surfaces, we recognize certain artists work from other places in the city; the owl is one of my favorites. Over to the left a field of painted poppies covers a wall. In a mulched garden daylilies are out of bloom but lovely metal-sculpture flowers bloom year-round.

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The dinosaur sculpture is imposing; a closer look reveals chairs, a cart, step stool and a bevy of salvaged materials used in the construction, he’s huge and seems to patrol the park, keeping watch. It’s like visiting an art gallery, we wander from piece to piece, me going one way, Kris the other; each fascinated by what we see. A rusty metal sculpture reminds me of a rainbow, Kris admires the vintage steering wheel. Discarded items are put together in unusual and pleasing ways, the gypsy with wings, the combination of fluted sheets of plastic and metal rods, old pieces of wood. 

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We walk Lincoln St to the underpass, more artwork by well-known artists. In the center brick pathways lead in both directions along the elevated train tracks, I wonder what they were used for. The golden tower of the Fisher building seems as though it’s only a stone’s throw away, the U-Haul building is visible too. The entire expanse of concrete before us is a collection of colors, forms, letters, designs, all mashed together; the face of the American Indian is captivating. We climb the elevation to the train tracks and get an entirely different perspective on our surroundings; the sculpture park below us looks small, contained. Train tracks stretch out for miles in opposite directions, one way leads to the city, the other looks so rural. Walking further we pass ancient looking lampposts, an old water tower watches over us, we reach the next overpass, cars whoosh by below us on Trumbull, a train rumbles by the next track over, my heart pounds with excitement.

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Investigating the underpasses reveals a wonderful collection of characters; storm troopers, panda’s, a flamingo, a doughnut with a cigarette sipping a juice box. Arches create frames, every surface is considered a blank canvas. Fel 3000 ft has created an amazing scene of buildings, bridges, skyscrapers; a city in motion. An image of a child all in blue on one side, on the other, a letter begins Dear Dad. The next underpass is completely covered in primary-colored cubes, the way the sun is lighting them is extraordinary.

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Recycle Here! on Holden resides in a huge building built by the Warren Motor Car Company in 1909. The company folded pretty quickly, the Lozier Motor Company moved in. During WWI the building was acquired by Henry Leland (creator of Cadillac) for airplane engine production, he then used it in the manufacturing of Lincoln automobiles. Dietrich Inc was the next to inhabit the structure. In 1926 Dietrich was the largest semi-custom production-body business in the country, producing 16-25 bodies a week for customers such as Chrysler, Packard, Lincoln and Pierce Arrow. Though all details are fuzzy there’s a big chunk missing in the timeline after Dietrich left; eventually a grocery distribution company bought the building which brings us to current owner, who purchased the building and turned it into the recycling center.

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Detroit artist Carl Oxley is responsible for the Recycle Here! signature bumble bee, you will see the bee everywhere throughout the premises. The building’s walls are a continuation of the art we’ve seen in the park, artists have used their imaginations creating characters and scenes from silly to scary. The art carries us right inside the building. The interior is like some kind of funky gallery you take your garbage to, sort and dispose of it. Everything here is fair game; walls, dumpsters and vehicles are covered in colorful designs, a portrait of Bozo hangs next to one of a sunglass-wearing Yoda, Mc5 and Elvira are close by.

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Huge cardboard boxes overflow with empty glass bottles, there’s a place for newspapers, magazines, plastics and batteries. A tangle of mufflers and exhaust pipes are the beginnings of a sculpture, paintings hang throughout the center. An endless stream of residents show up with bags and boxes of recyclables, music plays in the background, children are having a blast throwing things into their proper containers, neighbors and friends exchange friendly conversation. Outside used tires are stacked and used as planters, we walk around the immediate area, a manhole cover for the public lighting commission is dated 1916, buildings and bridges look long forgotten, a giant rat made from old pallets is situated on the lawn; artists have left there mark all over the district.

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Tucked inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is Cafe 78, a collaboration between Wright & Company and MOCAD, the dining space serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. We park in the lot and enter the building, people are milling about, an event has just finished. The museum is closed while the work on Woodward continues, the cafe remains open. The bar is the focal point of the wide-open space. We sit at the counter and sip on icy-cold water waiting for our food to arrive. The super creamy Mac and Cheese is served in a small ceramic bowl, corn and thinly sliced scallions are mixed in, a shredded cheese and breadcrumb topping add flavor and texture. The peameal bacon sliders are served on brioche buns with a honey mustard sauce, it’s a great flavor combination. The tomato mozzarella salad was larger than expected; a rainbow of summer’s juiciest tomatoes and red onions sit atop creamy pesto, topped with fresh herbs, sunflower shoots and olive oil–Delicious.

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8 Degrees Plato Beer Company on Cass had their soft opening Friday, we’re checking it out. The bar and bottle shop sells craft beer, mead, cider and has an area dedicated as the tap room. The building was most recently home to Mantra and Showcase Collectibles in the old Chinatown neighborhood; after a great deal of hard work, time and renovation the building looks amazing! The exterior features large windows surrounded by stone, old lettering on the building remains intact, inside they were able to keep the original tin ceiling and terrazzo floors. The reclaimed mahogany tables came from the former Agave restaurant as did the bar top, the bar back was constructed with oak from Cass Tech bookcases, shelving is made from old bleachers and antique bakers racks, old subway tiles and windows all work together creating a quaint, cool atmosphere.

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The 16 tap bar allows for a wonderful selection, we order 3 small pours: Oddside Mayan Mocha, Starcut Squishy and Right Brain Beaubiens Ribbon Farm sour mash red ale. Honestly, they were all great, but the Starcut Squishy semi-sweet cider with cherries really hit the spot, so we ordered another, full-size this time. It’s fascinating to just walk around looking at all the bottles; Michigan Craft Beers, regional beers, imports, Belgians, the list goes on. You can have a growler filled or pick up bottles, cans, 4 packs, 6 packs, cases– room temperature or ice cold. They sell snacks too, think Better Made chips, crackers, jam and jerky. 

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The transformation taking place in Detroit right now is incredible, astonishing. Buildings with impressive history or once beautiful facades and interiors, shuttered for years, are being uncovered, repurposed and used again. The recycling continues……..



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