DETROIT: Breaking Down Borders

21 May

art 082 (1)

There are places, pockets, that exist outside the mainstream, under the radar, that go completely unnoticed until some event, a happening, comes along inviting us to take a closer look. Today we’ll attend two such gatherings and find some surprises along the way.

art 060 (1)

art 016 (1)art 013 (1)

art 025 (1)

 The Porous Borders Festival takes place (mostly) along Carpenter Street, the border between Detroit and Hamtramck; the usual offerings are there: art, music, food, t-shirts, but in a completely different way. The Jeep is parked on Gallagher, we walk the short distance to Carpenter, looking around we wonder where all the activity is. I grab a map from the information hub in the parking lot, my attention is diverted by the sound of cheering voices, a ball being hit and laughter; we cross the street to watch a group of young men learning to play Cricket. Heading westward we intercept a car cruise; earlier in the day participants created their own wire vehicle in a workshop led by the Wire Car Auto Workers Association of Detroit (WAWAD), suddenly musicians from both sides of Carpenter raise their instruments and begin to play as they chase the tiny cars down the street. Looking closely at the map and schedule I realize it is merely an idea of what you may see, many of the activities are random, unexpected, participant driven.

art 029 (1)art 030 (1)

art 026 (1)

art 036 (1)

Walking past long forgotten businesses, empty homes and buildings, the cities are mirror images of one another; a make-shift tank is parked on broken concrete, weeds grow between the cracks, a boat sits on a trailer in a patch of grass. The door to Turtle & Inky’s, a local bar is open, it’s quiet inside, there’s a break in the action; a large figure of a man, beer in hand, sits way up high on the chimney. We duck into Record Graveyard, the air conditioning a welcome respite from the mid-May heat wave. The new location sports the same green walls as the old building, continuity, I like that. Oren Goldenberg’s installation, The Portal, fills the front window; the scene is of water, a pink geometric shape and a giraffe, anybody walking down the sidewalk becomes part of the scene, you can attempt to swim or splash around entertaining shoppers inside. Further down a residential garage-turned-music studio invites us to stop in and make some noise. Hand-held instruments, drums, and a microphone dare to bring out the rock star in us.

art 050 (1)

art 053 (1)

art 054

art 046 (1)

On the Detroit side a seesaw sits in a beautiful field of green, wildflowers (or possibly weeds) are blooming as the sun blazes overhead. A pair of girls glide up and then down, a sign nearby reads “take a seat, make a friend”, looks like it worked. We arrive at the WAWAD workshop, wire cars are parked in the street, each one is different, some look vintage, there’s a truck, a police car and a dragster complete with headers. Somebody has built diminutive versions of abandoned houses in the area. Around the corner we wander into Popps Packing, a cool art gallery. The pieces on display are modern, the former slaughterhouse has been re-imagined into a great space, Kris likes the multicolored windows. Deeper into the neighborhood a backyard has been transformed into a vineyard; I wonder what kind of wine they’ll make.

art 070 (1)art 081 (1)

art 080 (1)

art 088 (1)

Time for a snack. In 2012 Lisa Ludwinski’s Sister Pie began as a Cottage Food business; hard work, lots of dancing and winning the 2014 Hatch contest culminated into the opening of a quaint storefront at the corner of Kercheval and Parker just a few weeks ago. The building is from the 1920’s, large windows look out onto the streetscape where positive changes are taking place. Inside we are greeted by the aroma of buttery goodies baking in the open, professional grade kitchen.

pie 024 (1)

pie 017 (1)pie 016 (2)

pie 001 (1)

Directly in front of us, under glass domes, are the stars of the place—the pies! Today the selection includes Honey Lemon Meringue, Chocolate Coconut and the signature Salted Maple…….enough said. Kris orders his Salted Maple heaped with fresh whipped cream, I take the Chocolate Coconut as is. Sitting at the large community table we dig in, the salted maple has the consistency (and look) of pumpkin pie, the crust, made from high fat French butter, is tender and flaky, the filling is full of maple goodness balanced out perfectly by a little saltiness, you’ve got to try it! The Chocolate Coconut is delicious, soft chocolate filling is chewy at the edges, long shreds of coconut throughout give it a nice flavor and texture, yum! Pies are available whole or by the slice, savory items are available as well, eat in or carry out, you’ll be glad you did.

pie 003 (1)

pie 013 (1)

Blocks away, we park in front of a gray-painted building on Bellevue that was originally a pickle factory. The Atlanta-based non-profit Dashboard Co-op has turned the building into a temporary art gallery. Dashboard sent folks out to Detroit in search of vacant property to use as exhibition space. They zeroed in on the Pickle Factory, invited several Detroit artists to create works that ‘respond or enhance the uniqueness of the city’ , threw in  a few national artists asking them to create a piece depicting their initial impression of Detroit, put it all together into a contemporary collaboration called Detroit Boom City.  

art 113 (1)

art 111 (1)

art 092 (1)

art 103 (1)

Approaching the entrance we stop for a look at After Aris a lined mural by Mitch Cope on the side of the building. Inside we are as interested in the building as we are the art; the space was last used by an automotive surplus company as storage. All of the artwork was created from items found in the building or the surrounding area; much of that being automotive, the Detroit connection is obvious and immediate. In front of us is a miniature parking lot, we recognize the wire vehicles, the artist Chido Johnson, is the creator of WAWAD. The space is cool, windowless, items such as the time clock remain; it still works! Wandering from piece to piece, we can identify many of the items used: fenders, oil filters, hoses, bumpers, very cool. Narcissus Inc by Scott Hocking is the most ambitious of the bunch, the office-like area looks like it could still be in use today. Huge swordfish and bookshelves cover the back wall, paintings, clocks, wheel covers and record albums are incorporated into the setting. Chrome pieces are stacked high creating sculptures on each side of the room. Popps’ Mobile Sauna, a 1989, yellow and orange striped van turned mobile sauna is parked in the courtyard, it even works. The gallery is open Saturday and Sunday from 1 pm to 7 pm until June 12.

art 109 (2)

art 101 (1)art 104 (1)

art 102 (1)

DETROIT: I Got Rhythm….

13 May

music 068 (1)

It’s 2:00 on a Sunday, with no reason to rush out the door we’ve slept in late and are now in search of food. Why is it anything with eggs or maple syrup tastes even better after noon?  Craft Work in West Village is said to have a great brunch, we’re here to check it out. Located on the ground floor of the Parkstone Apartments, the restaurant is integrated into the neighborhood perfectly. That’s one of the things Kris and I really like about this area; restaurants, cafes and shops are intermixed with single family homes and apartments making it very walkable. Mature trees, gorgeous architecture and well-kept homes create a charming district.

music 013 (1)

music 009 (1)

music 004 (1)

Housed in a space that was originally a pharmacy, then occupied by the Harlequin Cafe, Craft Work has kept the old-world charm alive and well. Dining room tables are full when we arrive, there’s plenty of room at the community tables in the bar area. Everything on the menu sounds appealing; we choose one sweet and one savory dish to split. Before long, large plates piled high with breakfast foods arrive at the table. Lets start with the savory; tender bacon fat biscuits are literally smothered with house made sausage gravy nicely seasoned with tender chunks of sausage. Next to the biscuits are two perfectly fried eggs; I put mine on top of the biscuit, eggs Benedict style. Cutting into it, golden liquid yolk drips down the biscuit and combines with the gravy, delicious! Golden french toast made from eggy, tender, slightly sweet challah is stacked high, pats of butter melt slowly and eventually slip down the stack, a cup of syrup shares the plate, Kris is in his glory, it’s exceptional.

music 131 (1)

music 126 (1)

music 120 (1)

Now for the entertainment portion of the day. Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church (JAPC) is hosting “A Gershwin Rendezvous” as part of their free concert series. The building itself is stunning, designed by architect Wirt C Roland (Guardian Building) in the English Gothic style, it was completed in 1926. The interior is a medley of wood carvings, plaster castings, stained glass windows and stone carvings. The Sanctuary itself is elegant, understated, with colorful stained glass windows, simple chandeliers and stepped buttresses. The Skinner pipe organ is one of only three, large, four-manual instruments that remain in their original form.

music 116 (1)music 115 (1)

music 090 (1)

music 070 (1)

We park in the lot behind the church and follow the other attendees inside. Wooden chairs have been set up in rows facing the black piano, volunteers are busy setting up refreshments to be served at the conclusion of the performance. After placing our jackets on the back of our chairs, we have a look around. There are several lovely rooms in the Parish House; stone fireplaces, leaded glass windows and decorative plaster adorns each of them. The church has a very welcoming feel to it, members are friendly and chat eagerly. Though this is not my neighborhood or my church, I feel a part of the community gathered here today.

music 080 (1)

music 112 (1)music 088 (1)

music 082 (1)

Back in Dodge Hall we take our seats as the concert is about to begin. Penny Masouris will be performing many Gershwin favorites today; pianist and vocalist, she will also weave in a bit of Gershwin history and stories between songs. A number of reproduction paintings rest on easels, our hostess introduces each of George’s paintings and tells us a little about them. She’s a wonderful lecturer and fascinating to listen to. It’s evident she has studied the composer and pianists life and career extensively. Taking her seat at the piano she kicks off the afternoon with Gershwin’s first big hit (1919) Swanee. Penny shares stories of George and Ira’s early days in New York, how George became the composer and Ira the lyricist, then she plays and sings some more.

music 066 (1)

music 110 (2)music 093 (1)

music 098 (1)

We are sitting in the back row with the vantage point of being able to see the physical reactions audience members have to songs like “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”. Some close their eyes and sway, others mouth the lyrics. Once in a while there is a joyful gasp, a body sitting  a little straighter in the chair, a tapping foot. Music has that effect on people. “Rhapsody in Blue” is probably the piece of music most associated with Gershwin, it’s hard to believe it came out in 1924, it’s magnificent. George wrote pieces for stage and screen, American in Paris (1928), Porgy and Bess (1935) along with Jazz, opera and popular music. George Gershwin died when he was only 38 years old during surgery to remove a brain tumor. His career was short but brilliant, filling the pages of the American songbook.

Time has passed quickly, the concert comes to an end. Enthusiastic applause shows our appreciation for the performer.   The concert series continues through June with performances on Sunday afternoons at 4:30 pm. Be sure to check out the website for all the musical programs at JAPC. It has been a wonderful afternoon, Detroit-style, I can hardly wait for next weekend!

DETROIT: Tiki Time

6 May

music 021 (4)

In the 1930’s a young man from Louisiana traveled by sailboat through the South Pacific. Intrigued and excited by what he saw he changed his name to Donn Beach, moved to Hollywood CA and in 1934 opened the first Tiki/Polynesian themed restaurant in the US called Don The Beachcomber. The restaurant was decked out in rattan, bamboo and thatch, it served Cantonese cuisine and tropical drinks dispensed in coconut shells, tiki mugs or huge bowls meant to share, oh, don’t forget the little umbrella. Donn is credited with creating the tropical drink genre of mixing flavored syrups and fresh fruit juices with rum. Three years later Trader Vic’s opened in Oakland CAPost WWII, interest in the South Pacific swelled, Tiki infiltrated music; artists such as Les Baxter, Martin Denny (Quiet Village) and Arthur Lyman (Yellow Bird) created a whole new genre called Exotica. Songs conjure up images of tropical rainforests, Hawaiian luaus, Tahitian villages, beaches and palm trees. Tiki bars sprang up from the California coast to the Atlantic coast; the Tiki culture of mid-century America was born.

music 014 (1)music 015 (1)

music 013 (1)

Detroit  joined the Tiki bandwagon with a Trader Vic’s downtown, Chin Tiki on Cass (featured in the movie 8 Mile) and the ultimate in Polynesian grandeur, The Mauna Loa. As a young boy Kris actually had dinner at the Mauna Loa, the place was so spectacular it remains a vivid memory of Palm trees, waterfalls, gurgling streams, foot bridges, giant Blowfish lanterns and tall torches. It is said to be the most expensive restaurant built east of the Mississippi at the time, $1.6 Million dollars in 1967. Though none of the buildings remain today, stories, photos and memorabilia of Detroit’s lost Tiki palaces keep the memories alive and well. Today Zenith at the Fisher Building is hosting a Tiki Brunch, I’m so excited!

music 007 (2)

music 021 (1)

When we arrive the Tiki party is in full swing; tables are filled with diners noshing on the likes of cornbread french toast, huevos montulenos, chicken and waffles, candied mango bacon and grilled biscuits. Roland Remington and Johnny Ukulele are serenading patrons with the relaxing sounds of mid-century Exotica tunes such as Blue Hawaii, Hypnotique, Henry Mancini’s Moon River and Tequila. Roland is classically dressed in jacket, tie and Shriner’s hat as he plays the xylophone. Johnny is a little less formal in his print shirt, he switches between the electric organ and the ukulele. The Tiki mood has been set, tropical flowers are arranged near the performance area, smoke filters out the mouth of a tiki, leis are draped over the ukulele case, very swanky.

music 022 (2)

music 012 (1)

music 030 (1)

We are seated at the bar in the lounge area, this section is steeped in Tiki style from the bamboo furniture and hula girls to the tropical flowers painted on the walls; the lamps are pretty awesome too! We love the brunch here, at Zenith Poutine is a MUST, today’s version goes like this: crispy french fries topped with scrambled eggs, shredded cheddar, jalapeno hollandaise, scallions and 4-pepper gravy, it’s worth every single minute you spend on the treadmill. Then there’s the Red Velvet Waffle, served with a slightly tart pomegranate sauce, tamed by the cream cheese icing, it’s delicious!  We finish our brunch right as the musicians take their break.

music 034 (1)

music 018 (1)

music 017 (1)

At 2:00 pm members of the Detroit Area Art Deco Society arrive for a tour of the space in celebration of Detroit Modernism Week; being members ourselves, we join the group. Owners Melissa and Robert Jasper have been collectors of all of the fabulous stuff we see here for the last 30 or so years. Gathering in the Tiki lounge, Melissa points out specific pieces, she explains the significance of the item, where she got it or what she likes about it; the fountain is new since our last visit. Kris and I have been to a least a hundred flea markets, antique stores and vintage shops all over the south and mid-west, this is some of the coolest stuff we’ve seen.  In the very front of the restaurant facing W Grand Boulevard is the “paint by numbers” room, you guessed it, individual paint by numbers from western scenes to animals and sailboats to the Eiffel Tower decorate the walls.

music 044 (1)

music 042 (1)

music 046 (1)

The space the restaurant occupies was originally a bank, our hostess leads us downstairs, through the gates to the old safe-deposit-box-room-turned-lounge area, super cool! Next to that is the performance space now known as the Wrectory, a heavy metal karaoke nightclub. The decor is a mix of religious items and adult themed posters creating a humorous contrast. Back upstairs the music has resumed, we reclaim our seats at the bar and sip on tasty tropical drinks made for a lazy Sunday. If you’re looking for a bit of the good life, the next Tiki Brunch is May 17—we’ll see ya there!

music 059 (1)

music 052 (1)music 063 (1)

music 051 (1)

COLUMBUS, OHIO: German Village

29 Apr

columbus 166 (1)….

We are in the lovely, historic German Village neighborhood just south of downtown Columbus Ohio. Spring has already sprung, the temperature today is supposed to reach the low 80’s, luring us outdoors, on foot, through neighborhood streets. The first order of business is breakfast, there is a wonderful mix of small businesses nestled among charming homes in this area. Walking down 3rd St we approach a superb little bakery called Pistacia Vera, cute cafe tables are drenched in morning sun, customers sip on coffee and tea while eating fresh-baked pastries. Inside, a tantalizing array of baked goods await us, for me it doesn’t get much better than a buttery, flaky croissant, well, unless you add chocolate, pain au chocolat it is! Now we are ready to continue our expedition.

columbus 137 (1)

columbus 142 (1)1a 044

columbus 148 (1)

The Village, settled by German immigrants, was mainly developed between 1840-1914, with a majority of the structures built in the last quarter of the 19th century. The jewel of the neighborhood is Schiller Park; it is the gathering place, the activity center, a place for festivals, picnics, reunions. This is where folks walk their dog, soak up the sun, take respite from a hectic day, sit by a fountain and read a good book. A sizable bronze statue of Friedrich von Schiller, the famous German poet for which the park was named, stands proudly in the park, some of his quotes are chiseled into the granite promenade near the statue. Today the roughly 23 acres are full of action; dogs race after frisbees, joggers are getting in swim-suit shape, Canada geese and ducks paddle around in the compact lake.

columbus 120 (1)columbus 124 (1)

columbus 262 (2)

columbus 263 (1)

The Huntington Gardens are coming to life, everything is lush and green. Square in shape, the park is bordered by some of the village’s finest homes. After walking the entire perimeter we take a seat on a bench facing the Umbrella Girl fountain; I think this is my favorite spot. The original Umbrella Girl mysteriously disappeared, Columbus sculptor Joan Wobst is responsible for the statue we see today of a young German girl in a dirndle carrying her shoes and holding an umbrella. Village native Phil Kientz designed the octagonal pond that surrounds her, if you look closely you’ll notice the designs in the sandstone resemble those found in doors and cornices throughout the neighborhood. 

columbus 250 (2)

columbus 248 (1)

columbus 240 (1)columbus 242 (1)

Not far from the park is Barcelona, a Spanish fusion restaurant with one of the best patios in the city. We have timed our arrival perfectly, we have our choice of tables. The space is perfect. Flower pots are brimming with colorful pansies, leafy ferns bask in the sun, water flows gently into the above ground Koi pond, blue umbrellas shield us from the warmth of the afternoon, perennials are making their return. We sip on glasses of ice water as we check out the Siesta Fiesta menu, feeling famished I think we ordered half of the menu! The plate of crusty bread and dip of olive oil and some kind of sun-dried tomato mixture disappears instantly. The parade of small plates begins. Patatas Bravas, delicious chunks of twice fried potatoes, garlic aioli and spicy tomato sauce, next, a perfectly ripe avocado stuffed with goat cheese served with a handful of mixed greens, a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette is drizzled over top of everything, then the chilled spiced peach soup, if you like peaches, you’ll love it. Then there’s the Costillas, braised beef short ribs in a Spanish blue cheese mushroom sauce a little green olive aioli and fried leeks, the meat just falls apart—- had to get more bread to soak up the amazing sauce; did I mention the Sangria…… The meal was outstanding, the atmosphere delightful, the service excellent.

columbus 090 (1)

columbus 102 (1)

Time to walk. When we come to German Village we just wander, today tulips and daffodils are in full bloom, giant bumble bees gather by the dozens in weeping cherry blossoms. Homeowners have been busy filling urns and window boxes with pansies, violas and Gerbera Daisies. Each house is unique from the wrought iron gates to the stained glass windows. There’s a strong sense of community in the Village, residents walk down the street stopping to admire a neighbor’s yard, greetings are exchanged, compliments given. Die-hard gardeners work diligently creating manicured lawns and picture perfect landscapes; in one yard there’s a statue of a woman tending her lupines, it’s quite beautiful. Roots of mature trees have had their way with brick-paved sidewalks, it’s a good idea to glance down from time to time. This is a designated historic district, the facades of houses have changed little in the last 100 years, isn’t that wonderful?

columbus 128 (1)columbus 131 (2)

columbus 189 (1)

columbus 155 (1)columbus 157 (1)

Jeni’s German Village is a walk-up ice cream shop consisting of a blackboard menu, take-out window and a smattering of colorful patio tables and chairs. With the old brick building as a backdrop, a string of white lights, and the tree-lined street, this sidewalk shop exudes a charm. Kris reads the list of today’s flavors, he smiles when his eyes reach Brambleberry Crisp. With cone in hand we continue our stroll. Like so many other cities or neighborhoods German Village has seen it’s share of hard times; two wars of anti-German sentiment forced changes to street names, they even changed the name of the park for a while, eventually reclaiming the name Schiller Park. This area was home to as many as seven breweries, then came prohibition, the district eventually fell into decline. In 1960 the German Village Society was formed, things started to change; homes were renovated, businesses moved in, they say it is the largest privately funded restoration in the US. It is truly the premier place to live in Columbus.

columbus 176 (1)columbus 239 (1)

columbus 183 (1)

columbus 145 (1)

Our time in the city is running short; we have walked for hours having seen quaint red-brick cottages, grand homes, marvelous displays of tulips. It seems every other person we pass has a four-legged companion; I have enjoyed my encounters with friendly pooches happy to get a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears. Walking in the direction of the Jeep I see the words Chocolate and Coffee on a storefront window, our pace picks up a little. Winans Fine Chocolates and Coffees has been making fine chocolates and candy in the German tradition for 5 generations. Approaching the door a cream-colored canine is napping on the concrete, maybe he needs a shot of espresso. The shop is aromatic, a blend of fresh ground coffee and chocolate, kinda like heaven…. We are pleased to find they have cold-brewed coffee, it’s one of the best we’ve had anywhere. Now for something chocolate, the glass case has rows of amazing looking treats, shelves display boxes and bags of milk and dark varieties, but it’s the dark chocolate Oreo that calls my name.

columbus 150 (1)

columbus 160 (1)

columbus 138 (1)columbus 180 (1)

Contented, we head north via the scenic route. The drive is an integral part of the get-away; Kris has refined the route over the years into a pleasant 2-lane trip through farm country and tiny towns. It has been a great couple of days, though we’ve only traveled a couple of hundred miles, it feels as if we have been somewhere far away. 

Columbus Ohio: A Breath of Spring

22 Apr

columbus 080 (1)

About this time every year Kris and I jump in the car and head about 3 hours south to Columbus Ohio to get a little head start on Spring. You wouldn’t think there would be much of a difference 200 miles south of here, but there is! We head out of town under a perfectly clear blue sky, by the time we reach Columbus the temperature is in the 70’s. Last time we were in town we read about an upcoming exhibit on the 1950’s at the Ohio History Center Museum, this is our first stop.  Of course the first image most people conjure up of the 50’s is poodle skirts, juke boxes and Happy Days-like scenes. The pop culture, music, art, literature and design of that decade defined our country; the influence of that time is still apparent today.

columbus 005 (1)

columbus 042 (1)

columbus 002 (1)

The exhibit is titled “1950’s Building The American Dream”, to the right a shiny silver Airstream is hooked up to beautiful copper 1957 Chevy Bellaire. Just inside the exhibit a reel mower rests along the fence of a perfectly manicured Astroturf lawn belonging to a  real, full size, completely furnished Lustron home. This is what we came for. After WWII 12 million soldiers returned home, there was a housing shortage, prefab houses were seen as a quick solution to the problem, thus the Lustron home was born, er, manufactured. The steel houses were made like cars in a former aircraft plant in Columbus Ohio. Flatbed trucks would deliver the porcelain enamel-coated steel panels to the concrete foundation the home would sit on. Panels were assembled with nuts and bolts, the whole process took about two weeks. Radiant heating was installed in the ceiling, china cabinets, book cases, cabinets and shelves were built-in. Houses were one-story ranch style, you could choose from three floor plans and four color combos.

columbus 073 (1)columbus 077

columbus 018 (1)

columbus 010 (1)

Cardboard cut-outs of the ideal family greet us at the front of the home; dad looks dapper in his overcoat and hat, while mom looks lovely in her matching red coat and hat, holding her baby daughter in one hand and a homemade pie in the other. Just inside the front door we enter the authentically furnished family room; Nat King Cole croons from the nearby record player, period newspapers and magazines rest neatly on an end table, I think my grandmother may have had a jaguar lamp like the one on top of the television set. The house is full of visitors like us, signs encourage us to make ourselves at home; little girls play dress up and walk about wearing hats and dresses from back in the day. A boy about 8 is putting on the old adjustable metal roller skates to give roller skating a whirl. Down the hall we pass a full bathroom complete with tub/shower, every detail has been seen to right down to the Stag after-shave powder.

columbus 014 (1)

columbus 034 (1)

columbus 075 (1)

The next room belongs to the little boy in the family, the Roy Rodgers inspired curtains and bedspread are awesome. A young boy sits on the floor playing with Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys, they don’t even need batteries. At the end of the hall is the Master Bedroom, I feel like I’ve just walked into my grandmothers bedroom; the vanity is built-in, vintage jewelry, hat boxes and a brush and mirror set are laid out for us to see. Closet doors slide open and closed, one is open to reveal what mom and dad would be wearing. This is a hands-on exhibit, we are welcome to try things on, sit on the furniture and play. In the main living area the dining room table is set for dinner, a cart acts as a portable bar complete with liquor bottles, ice bucket and glasses. The kitchen is a world all its own; magnets hold recipes to the metal walls, cabinets are filled with cool vintage dishes, a single-handle white Frigidaire keeps the food cold, the most interesting appliance is the combination dishwasher—-washing machine. Yes, that’s right folks, with the turn of a dial you can go from washing your dirty clothes to cleaning the dinner dishes! We pass through the laundry room complete with a clothes wringer and ironing board on our way to the backyard. 

columbus 036 (1)columbus 039 (1)

columbus 050 (1)

columbus 056 (1)

This was the ideal of what every backyard was supposed to look like in 1950; a picnic table and bbq are in the back corner, Jarts and Hula-Hoops encourage family fun and then there’s the hatch leading to the bomb shelter…. Lustron built homes from 1948 until 1950 when the company went bankrupt, a total of 2,498 were built, few remain, which is why it is such a treat to be able to see the real thing in person. We walk through the rest of the exhibit with its examples of life in the 50’s; tricycles, rocking horses, a coke machine, cigarette machine and juke box, have I mentioned aprons were a big thing? One vignette shows what a bride and groom would wear to their wedding along with examples of gifts they would receive. It has been fun traveling back in time.

columbus 060 (1)columbus 053 (1)

columbus 049 (1)

Kris drives us over to the German Village neighborhood where we have booked a room for the night through airbnb. This is where we will be spending the rest of our time in Columbus and it is absolutely the most quaint part of the city. Our host has arranged everything for our arrival including a parking permit that allows us to park right by our door, hooray. The house is located on Schiller Park, we are mere steps away from the tranquil setting and within walking distance to restaurants, shops and cafes. Our room is lovely, the home was built in 1814 and retains its historic charm, the fresh roses and chocolates make us feel welcome.

columbus 111 (1)

columbus 106 (1)

columbus 193 (1)
It’s late and we have yet to have dinner. After freshening up we head out on foot in search of food. We meander down uneven brick streets, leaded glass windows glow with light from within, gas lanterns and lampposts illuminate many of the old-fashioned homes, flowering trees perfume the air. When we reach Mohawk Street we head to The Old Mohawk (naturally).  The building has operated as a tavern since 1933, the current owners have been here since 1977. This is definitely a neighborhood joint, patrons all seem to know one another as well as the staff. The interior is cozy with its brick walls, tin ceilings and horseshoe-shaped bar. First out of the kitchen is an order of corn nuggets: dollops of creamed corn deep-fried and served with house made salsa, I love these! The burger arrives soon after, a half-pound patty topped with sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, served with a side of fries. It doesn’t take long for the food to disappear.

columbus 238 (1)columbus 234 (1)

columbus 227 (1)

columbus 196 (1)

We step outside to a mild night resembling summer more than spring. Walking through German Village the patio of Lindey’s is still lively; patio tables are lit by candles, a fountain trickles in the distance, cocktails anyone? Crossing through the patio gate we take a table fountainside, cocktail menus are delivered along with glasses of ice water. I sip on a chocolate martini, Kris savors his Old Fashioned, it’s 10 pm on a Friday night in April and we’re sitting outdoors having drinks, life is good.

columbus 204 (1)

columbus 221 (1)

columbus 213 (1)

DETROIT: Just Another Sunday…..

14 Apr

cinerama 008 (1)

My mom used to tell me stories about going to Cinerama at Music Hall in Detroit, she made it sound so exciting; the huge screen, the realistic feeling it provided, as if you were really there. Years later, Kris and I were on a theater tour of Music Hall, our guide told us all about Cinerama, how folks would dress up, opening night tickets could sell for $60, seating was reserved, the film would transport you to far-away places you could only dream of visiting; it was a big to-do in 1952. Never, did I ever imagine that I would get to experience it for myself. Today Kris and I are going to do just that! Music Hall is hosting “The Cinerama Festival”, a 5 hour marathon event that transforms the auditorium back to the days of the famed wrap-around screen. Films, panel discussions, memorabilia, even an old-fashioned concession stand; what are we waiting for? Let’s go!

cinerama 023 (1)cinerama 016 (2)

cinerama 004 (1)

cinerama 002 (1)

When we arrive people are seated in the center of the center section of seats, they must know something. A massive, cove-like drape hangs above the stage, a slide show recalling the history of the format is in process. The original system used 3 interlocked 35mm cameras to create the film, in theaters movies were projected from 3 projection booths arranged in the same crisscross pattern as the cameras. Screens consisted of more than 1000 strips of perforated plastic arranged like the louvers of a gigantic venetian blind. The films we are seeing today have been remastered into digital format. The event opens with “This is Cinerama”, in black and white Lowell Thomas explains the wide-screen process with technical details designed to impress audiences of the day, suddenly the image expands and is in living color, we are on a roller coaster ride, complete with mechanical sounds of climbing the hill, we nose over the edge then swoop up the next hill, I swear I can feel a rush of air. Next we are watching the Temple Dance in Aida, then to Niagara Falls, off to see the Vienna Boys Choir, we glide down the canals in Venice and witness a bullfight in Spain. It must have been an amazing thing to see in the 50’s.

cinerama 017 (1)

cinerama 011 (1)

cinerama 019 (1)

The intermission is an interactive time between the audience and the panel, questions are asked, stories are told, memories relived. We stretch our legs and wander into the bar area where old programs are available to peruse. We poke our heads into a swanky lounge area complete with a wood panel ceiling and piano, sweet! The lights are dimmed and the next film begins, Cinerama Holiday, here we follow the adventures of two couples who swap continents, an American couple travels to Europe while the Swiss couple land in St Louis MO for an adventure across the US. We vicariously experience a wild ride on a bobsled, ski down a mountain, travel via Vista-Dome across the western US, everybody is having a good time. At the break Kris and I make our exit; Art X Detroit is in full swing and we have a performance to catch.

cinerama 065 (1)

cinerama 047 (1)

cinerama 026 (1)

If you’ve never attended any of the Art X performances, don’t worry, there’s still time, the festival runs until April 26. Events include dance, literary, musical and theatrical performances, along with film screenings, visual arts, installations and workshops, tons of things to do! We’re seeing Britney Stoney in “Save Yourself” an original musical on stage at the Garden Theater on Woodward. Built in 1912, designed by that genius of theater architecture, C Howard Crane (Fox, Fillmore, to name a couple), the building sat vacant for a long time. The current owner has worked wonders and brought this entire block on Woodward back to life, it is a pleasure to take in a show in this building. House lights are down and the show is in progress, the main floor is crowded so we locate the stairs and make ourselves comfortable in the balcony. From here we look out across the large space, walls are a combination of exposed brick and plaster. They saved as much of the ornate plaster as they could, creating an interesting urban feel; the chandeliers look as if they could be original. The actors on stage sing and dance, the star of the show, Britney Stoney, was born and raised in Detroit, she’s a singer, songwriter and guitarist who got her start at local open mics, she’s wonderful. 

cinerama 039 (1)

cinerama 056 (1)

cinerama 036 (3)cinerama 058 (1)

At the end of the performance we leave the building in search of dinner. As we drive around midtown we notice people sitting at picnic tables, drinking beer in front of Jolly Pumpkin‘s new location on W Canfield. Only in its second day of operation we thought we’d take our chances and see if we could get in. It seems the crowd has dwindled and left several open tables, we take menus, sit at the table of our choice and begin the decision-making process. Making my way back to the counter I place our order, pick up my Furry Black India Pale Ale at the bar and set my order number on the table. We sip on our drinks and take in the large space. The open ceiling leaves the duct work exposed, floors are terrazzo, walls are covered in reclaimed pallet wood, quite attractive. Vintage glass light fixtures illuminate the room, the flat screen TV is behind the bar and unobtrusive, nice. Then there are the 32 taps………

cinerama 068 (1)

cinerama 077 (1)

cinerama 084 (1)

The Chopped Salad is delivered to our table; a mix of lettuce, salami, ceci beans, olives, peppers, mozzarella and basil dressed in a red wine vinaigrette; very good. Our Meatball pizza soon follows; charred tomato sauce, caramelized onions, olives, mozzarella, Parmesan, basil and miniature meatballs all atop a thin crust, tasty! Known for its Sour Beers, the Detroit location is Jolly Pumpkin‘s third Gastro Pub, looks like it’s already a success. 

cinerama 081 (1)

cinerama 090 (1)

DETROIT: The Colony Club

7 Apr

colony 061 (1)

They say, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, they’d be right! There are so many beautiful building interiors in Detroit hiding behind ordinary facades. Today we are visiting The Colony Club on Park Avenue. Let me set the stage. It was the Roaring 20’s, the United States was experiencing economic prosperity never seen before; electricity, automobiles, radios and telephones were attainable by the average working man. Charles Lindbergh made his first solo, non-stop, Trans-Atlantic flight from NY to Paris, Duesenberg’s Model J was unveiled, Jazz music blossomed, movie stars and sports heroes graced magazine covers. Women joined the work force and were given the right to vote. Here in Detroit, women were keeping pace with the changing times; four women’s clubs opened within four blocks of each other providing a place for women’s functions, recreation and socializing. The Colony Club opened in 1928.

colony 065 (2)

colony 003 (1)

colony 008 (2)colony 013 (1)

Kris and I haven’t been in this building for almost two decades, we have arranged a special tour with Director of Sales and Marketing, Nicole. The red brick, Georgian-style building was designed by the Smith, Hinchman and Grylls architectural firm (think Buhl, Penobscot & Guardian Buildings). At seven stories tall the exterior is simple, limestone and iron grill-work add a touch of elegance. The lobby is stunning! An artist by the name of Victor is responsible for the gorgeous restoration paint work. The lovely peacock pattern is not original but fits the time period perfectly; gold and silver dance off delicate lacy designs. The black and white marble floor gleams, years of being covered with carpet protected the finish.When the building opened in the 20’s, three small shops were located on the ground floor, today, these are used as reception areas. We ascend marble stairs to the third floor, the ballroom.

colony 031 (1)

colony 017 (1)

colony 018 (2)

colony 021 (1)

Done up in Louis XVI style, lavish, opulent, resplendent and grand are just a few of the words I would use to describe this space. Decorated in Versailles cream and gold gilt with a splash of bronze, Victor has done his magic once again! Original crystal chandeliers sparkle in the sunlight, plaster details are impressive, huge arch-shaped mirrors make the room feel so open and airy. Delicate wall sconces are also original, pale blue inserts appear to be Wedgwood, iron grill-work creates faux balconies. It’s easy to imagine Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly gliding across the dance floor. Speaking of the floor, it’s unique in the sense that it’s wood and not carpet, re-laid about a month ago, it too is splendid. Twin stairways lead to the next level, I’d guess many a bride have stood on these steps for photos. From here we have a panoramic view of the breath-taking ballroom. The 4th floor was the original dining room, a commercial kitchen resides in the same place as the first kitchen. The dining room itself has been transformed into another rental space for smaller gatherings; today it is set up for a wedding ceremony. Soft yellow, peach and more dazzling gold cover the walls and plaster details, quite stunning. Chandeliers and sconces are brand new, made special for the space. 

colony 016 (1)colony 039 (1)

colony 045 (1)

colony 049 (1)

Back in the day men were not allowed above the ballroom level, it was a women’s club after all. There were 16 sleeping rooms on the 6th floor, card rooms, salons, squash and badminton courts on the 5th, even a solarium on the roof (currently being restored). The Depression brought economic hardship, the building fell into foreclosure and the women of the club disbanded. Occupied by several businesses, the UAW purchased the building for its Detroit headquarters in the 60’s, after that, Wayne County Community College had it for a while. Preservationist Charles Forbes bought the building in 1984, thank goodness! It was leased to the Detroit Police Department to be used as its Police Academy (this is the time period we were here). With Superbowl XL on the horizon, Forbes management began an extensive restoration of the club, ESPN used the building for Superbowl functions. Today Colony Club has become a popular venue for weddings, dinners and special events.

colony 097 (1)

colony 083 (1)

Moving forward in time to 1936, we are having lunch at Elwood Bar & Grill, another of Chuck Forbes buildings, it seems a natural choice. If you’ve lived in the metro Detroit area for a while, you may recall in 1997 the Elwood was relocated, as was the Gem/Century Theatre which moved 1,850 feet to make room for Comerica Park and holds the Guinness World Record as the heaviest building (2,700 tons) ever moved on wheels. Today the cream and blue enameled steel Art Deco diner resides on Adams Ave behind the Detroit Tiger’s left field. The swanky interior has been completely restored. Today the whole area is bustling with activity in preparation for opening day.

colony 092 (1)

colony 081 (1)colony 076 (1)

colony 073 (1)

Sitting in a booth window-side we take in the details of the diner, walls are painted green in a textured technique, narrow chrome strips orbit white globe lights , two-toned wood  makes up the bar. The most unique feature is the mural street map of Detroit that fills the circular recess in the ceiling, it details the path of movement the Gem and Elwood took to their new permanent locations. A large plate of food is set on the table, we are sharing the Blackened Chicken Melt: Cajun-spiced chicken breast grilled and topped with pepper jack cheese, tomato, Dijon and mayo served on egg-dipped grilled sourdough bread–delicious! Alongside the sandwich is a side of tasty cole slaw and a pile of fresh hand-cut fries, yum! Detroit is filled with treasures such as these. These days it seems more and more buildings are being restored and re-purposed,  that’s good news for all of us!

DETROIT: Joe Louis Arena

31 Mar

JLA 059 (1)

Today we are taking you on a tour of Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings. I guess I should start with the team itself. The Wings originated as the Victoria Cougars of the Old Western Hockey League, the roster was sold to Detroit in 1926 and became the Detroit Cougars. That first season home games were played in Windsor Ontario, they moved into the brand new Olympia Stadium for the 1927-28 season. The name was changed to the Detroit Falcons in 1931, in 1932 James Norris Sr purchased the team, changed the logo to the Winged Wheel we all know today and called the team the Red Wings.  One of the original 6 NHL teams, the Wings have won eleven Stanley Cups…eleven; the first came in the 1935/36 season, the most recent in the 2007/08 season. In December 1979 the Wings moved to their current home, Joe Louis Arena. The Norris family sold the franchise to current owners Mike and Marian Ilitch in 1982.  The team has made the playoffs in 28 of the last 30 seasons and has the longest current streak of post-season appearances in all of North American professional sports.

JLA 007 (1)

JLA 016 (1)

JLA 009 (1)

We enter the arena at the West Press door, a crowd of people are gathered just inside. It feels as if we have entered a private world, a city operating independently inside the building. Out on the main concourse it becomes clearly evident this is much more than a building tour, it is walk through Red Wing history. Our guide Stanley (I’m not kidding, that’s his real name!) leads us to statuary hall, here 3 larger than life bronze statues capture the true spirit of Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Ted Lindsay; our group takes turns posing for photos in front of the statues.  Vintage black and white photos have been blown up to banner size and hang from the ceiling throughout the concourse. The winged wheel logo is everywhere, old photographs connect the past to the present. Conversations within our group reveal the distances folks have traveled to be here; 4 women have driven 8 hours from Wisconsin, there’s a group of 3 from the Vancouver/Seattle area, a young couple has come all the way from Australia, Kris and I are the only locals.

JLA 022 (1)

JLA 027 (1)

JLA 042 (1)

JLA 040 (1)

While making our way inside the arena itself, Stanley tells us about Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe, the original ‘production line’, he explains the tradition of throwing the octopus onto the ice which began in 1952, he throws out names like Red Kelly, Steve Yzerman and Scotty Bowman. We get our first look inside, we have a complete view of the ice, 20,058 seats and the rafters……. Banners hang like clothes on a clothesline, really, really good clothes, one after another representing division championships, Stanley Cups and retired sweaters. American and Canadian flags dangle side by side; it’s quite a sight. We are at Suite level, there is little space between rows of seats, we shimmy along until we reach the Press Box, this too is a very narrow space, just enough room for a long counter and a row of red upholstered stools. Tags mounted to the counter identify who will be sitting where, Kris spots a funky old contraption that appears to control the scoreboard. Out of the press box we pause at the far end of the ice, smiles are plastered to the faces in our group, Stanley speaks with pride of the team and organization.

JLA 050 (1)

JLA 058 (1)

JLA 055 (1)

JLA 056 (1)

There is much going on at the Joe today, the Wings are in the building for practice, a youth tournament is about to begin, there are meetings and groups throughout. We reach Super Suite D and all file in, pretty fancy! The suite is spacious and includes two rows of seating, high top tables, a TV and the best part, a private bathroom, no waiting in lines. We take the elevator down to ice level, doors are cracked open to huge rooms with giant machinery, furnaces, that kind of thing. The tour can be re-routed at any time depending on where the players are; we see the visitors locker room but the Wings locker room is in use. An old street sign for Olympia Stadium is mounted to a wall, sweet! We take a wide hall out to the ice passing the Zamboni garage along the way. We are ushered into the players box area taking seats on the bench as we watch the Zamboni refresh the ice. It’s pretty cool to be sitting here, cameras and smart phones are capturing the moment. The Humane Society is also here, various players are posing with dogs, there is a great deal of whispering and finger-pointing taking place, it’s an awesome feeling being here.

JLA 065 (1)JLA 063 (1)

JLA 066 (1)

JLA 078 (1)

When the ice is finished a group of uniformed boys take the ice, the tournament is about to begin; I wonder if they feel the significance of skating here or if that’s something that only sinks in later in life. Stanley has been most generous with his time and we have all enjoyed the opportunity to wander through this amazing building. For me, hearing the names of the old-timers takes me back to my childhood, my parents would speak of Gordie Howe as if he were a family friend, I think that might be a Detroit thing. Our sports heroes become household names, we address them casually, Stevie, McCarty, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, we feel we know them. The thing that surprised me most was the connection people from as far away as Australia have to this building and this team; seeing their excitement made our experience even more fun. The Red Wings move to their new arena for the 2017-18 season, so there’s still time to check out The Joe.

JLA 094 (1)

JLA 092 (1)

JLA 091 (2)

Lunch is next on our agenda, 24 Grille is located on the ground floor of the Book Cadillac Hotel just a couple of blocks away. The restaurant is cozy and attractive, decorated with lots of wood and black accents. The lunch crowd has diminished, we have our choice of tables, Kris chooses a window-side table facing Washington Blvd. Our server is friendly and helpful. A quick scan of the menu and we place our order. Before we know it lunch arrives, the Wedge salad is nearly half a head of iceberg lettuce smothered in tasty blue cheese dressing sprinkled with crumbled bacon and chopped tomato. The veggie burger is huge! The house made patty is delicious, it sits on a brioche bun and is loaded with tasty toppings, served with a side of pasta salad it’s definitely big enough for two to share. 

 

DETROIT: The Fillmore

25 Mar

Fillmore 129 (1)

Picture this: Detroit, 1928, Saturday night. You are dressed up, walking down Woodward Ave with a group of friends to see a movie; theaters seem to line the streets, marquees are dazzling. You pass the newly opened Fox Theatre followed by the State, entering Grand Circus Park, the Madison, Wilson, Capitol, Adams, United Artist and Michigan Theatres all compete for your 35 cents, the cost of a ticket. For that 35 cents you will see a newsreel, a cartoon and feature film, if you’re lucky, you may even see a Vaudeville show. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton dominate the big screens, Disney’s Steamboat Willie premiers, making the official introduction  of Mickey Mouse, Janet Gaynor stars in Street Angel, for which she will win the Oscar for Best Actress, Greta Garbo stars in the Divine Woman. The smallest of these theatres, the Adams, seats 1,770, the largest, the Fox seats 5,041, that’s a lot of popcorn!

Fillmore 020 (1)

Fillmore 027 (1)Fillmore 086 (1)

Fillmore 059 (1)

Our deep affection for 20th Century architecture is clearly evident in the photos alone contained in DetroitDvotion. The ultimate objects of our affection are old theatres; the designs drip with the ornate, indulge in fantasy. We are taken to far away places that may or may not exist. Every day folks were surrounded by beauty and fine things: enormous chandeliers, marble columns, murals, grand staircases; the reality of daily life shelved for a few hours. Today we are joining Preservation Detroit for a tour of the State Theatre, now known as the Fillmore; designed by C Howard Crane, who also designed the Adams, Detroit Opera House, Madison, Orchestra Hall, Fox, United Artist, Garden Theatre, Majestic, Bonstelle and Olympia Stadium, thank you Mr Crane. The State opened in 1925 with 2,967 seats. At the time of its opening, the State was one of America’s grandest film palaces featuring oversized chandeliers, paired ionic columns, rich draperies and an elaborate ceiling dome. The theatre operated continuously from 1925-1981, in 1937 the name was changed to Palms-State, then The Palms in 1949. Thankfully, Charles Forbes, a pioneer of Detroit historic preservation purchased the building in 1979, (He also saved the Fox, Gem, Century, Colony Club and Elwood Grill)  it re-opened as the State once again in 1983

Fillmore 084 (1)

Fillmore 083 (1)Fillmore 037 (1)

Fillmore 094 (1)

Our tour begins in the lobby of the Palms Building, it was common in those days for a theatre to adjoin an office building, that way if the theatre did not succeed, the office building covered the expenses of the building. This section was modernized in 1960, a few original Beaux-Arts touches remain such as the gorgeous elevator doors, one elevator is still original too. We make our way through the State Bar into the outer lobby of the theatre, here the ceiling is coffered, burgundy, green and gold cover the walls and plaster details, gold leaf adds pizzazz. Moving toward the auditorium, a beautiful, curving, marble staircase leads to the mezzanine level, above it the entire ceiling is an oval medallion of design. We ascend the staircase and find ourselves in the inner lobby, a barrel-vaulted ceiling rises overhead, the original 1925 chandeliers are aglow, walls are decorated in high detail from top to bottom, giant mirrors reflect beautiful images, original sconces cling to the walls. On ground level side exit doors are stained glass framed in dark wood, at this moment they are lit up by afternoon sun.

Fillmore 053 (1)

Fillmore 107 (1)Fillmore 123 (1)

Fillmore 116 (1)

We proceed into the auditorium itself, walking all the way to the front of the house and onto the stage, the uninterrupted view spectacular. There are three levels, the main floor has been converted to cabaret-style seating as has the mezzanine level, the balcony retains theatre seating. At first my eyes are drawn all the way up to the dome ceiling, it feels stately and serious, further down the walls semi-circular grates rest upon pairs of columns, below that are more archways. A scallop design defines the mezzanine level it appears as if individual box seats fill this level, the facade highly decorated; we get a sense of the immense seating arrangement.  From this position we are in close proximity to the knights decked out in full armor guarding stage right and left, they appear at the ready if the need arises. We make our way back to the Main Floor, walking toward the back we turn and face the stage to take in the proscenium, it’s spectacular, the green and gold color scheme carries over into the theatre, an eagle rests on the highest peak. From here we notice huge stained glass ceiling panels, the off-white glass pieces are embellished with a spider web design, high on the walls grates are backlit in red, the original organ pipes are still tucked away in these walls. As we make our exit we take notice of the framed rock and roll posters clinging to the walls, fitting now that Live Nation leases the theatre.

Fillmore 048 (1)Fillmore 119

Fillmore 122 (1)

Back in the State Bar & Grill the last group begins their tour, leaving plenty of open tables, we choose one near the front windows and order lunch. The State Bar opened in 2000 and features rescued architectural remnants from Detroit landmarks such as Downtown Hudson’s and an eastside church, the space is quite attractive. Directly across the street is Comerica Park, I imagine this place is pretty busy on a game day. We order the Spicy Western Burger; a half-pound burger topped with BBQ sauce, deep-fried jalapenos, pepper-jack cheese and onion rings, served with a pile of homemade chips, we split the burger and an order of cheese sticks, yum! There was more than enough food for the two of us. It has been another great afternoon in the D, we walk away from the building with a feeling of contentment. The building has withstood the test of time, for the last 90 years people have been entertained in this theatre, the current tenants have been thoughtful caretakers of this palace, we appreciate that.

Fillmore 126 (1)

Fillmore 139 (1)Fillmore 137 (1)

Fillmore 133 (1)

YPSILANTI: Redux

18 Mar

ypsi 103 (1)

 As DetroitDvotion nears its 4th anniversary, Kris and I thought it would be fun to go back to one of the places we wrote about in the beginning. Today we are revisiting Ypsilanti, just 35 miles west of Detroit, 6 miles east of Ann Arbor, it’s a short drive and always makes for an interesting day. Ypsi is probably best known as the home of Eastern Michigan University, here are a few other notable facts: The B-24 Bomber Plant was located here at Willow Run, later, that same plant produced Kaiser Frazer automobiles, followed by production of a number of GM vehicles and their Hydramatic Division. In 1960 Tom Monaghan founded Domino’s Pizza as DomiNicks Pizza at 507 W Cross St. In 1929 Miller Motors Hudson opens, it is now the last remaining Hudson Dealership in the world and our first stop in town.

ypsi 060 (1)

ypsi 137 (1)ypsi 120 (1)

ypsi 122 (1)

What used to be Miller Motors is now the National Hudson Motor Car Company Museum located within the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum; automobiles from each of Hudson’s five decades are on display. The museum tells the stories of Kaiser Frazer, Tucker, Hudson and General Motors Willow Run. You need not know anything about cars to enjoy this museum, between the beautiful automobiles, attractive displays and great stories, you’re sure to be entertained. Vintage signs hang from the ceiling, photos and drawings line the walls, engines and transmissions are on display, showcases are packed with memorabilia; the vehicles themselves are the star attractions. Hood ornaments are serious attention-getters, dashboards are gussied up with chrome details, Kaiser models look ready for a roadtrip, the cargo area is varnished wood. 

ypsi 092 (1)ypsi 132 (1)

ypsi 074 (1)

ypsi 057 (1)

A pale blue 1952 Hudson Hornet #92 is a visitor favorite; a NASCAR champion driven by Herb Thomas, his story is the inspiration for the 2006 Pixar film “Cars”. Hudson Hornets won 27 out of 34 NASCAR Stock Car races. We move through the decades from open carriage vehicles right through the 1970’s with a cool green 1974 GTO. One area features the Tucker story, Preston Tucker lived about 4 blocks from the museum, the home has been restored and you can drive by it and take photos. The 1946 Tucker touted safety features such as a rear engine, center headlight and pop-out windshield. There are great photos of the family and props from the movie Tucker: The Man and His Dream. 

ypsi 083 (1)

ypsi 088 (1)

ypsi 085 (1)ypsi 081 (1)

Up in the loft area we see a personal view of Ypsi; a showcase is filled with jackets, jerseys and trophies won by local sports teams sponsored by Hudson dealerships. Mechanic’s overalls, plaques, scale cars are all nestled into the small space. We overlook the main floor, a banner announces the new Terraplane, once popular names such as Rambler, Nash and Essex are recalled. back downstairs, there’s a sleek black Essex Terraplane 6, the 1929 Hudson Roadster in the Showroom is stunning. Throughout the space old gas pumps, neon signs and banners add to the atmosphere, a white 1954 Kaiser Darrin and a red Corvair are parked lengthwise against a row of Kaisers.

ypsi 067 (1)

ypsi 096 (1)

ypsi 059 (1)

Hydramatic transmissions fill the front room, operations were moved to the Willow Run plant after fire destroyed GM’s Detroit Transmission Plant in Livonia. Hydramatic manufactured automatic transmissions for 11 automobile companies outside GM’s own divisions, including Rolls Royce. In 57 years, 82 million automatic transmissions were built there. During the Viet Nam War M16 Rifles and aircraft cannons were also manufactured at that site. Willow Run Assembly produced the Corvair from 1959-69, it also manufactured Nova, Ventura, Omega, the 1974 GTO and other models for Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile and Chevrolet, I told you there was some amazing history here! On a sad note, after GM’s restructuring, the plant closed in 2010…..Ugh.

ypsi 044 (1)

ypsi 053 (1)

ypsi 043 (1)

ypsi 065 (1)

Over on West Michigan Ave we’re going to look at some more old stuff at Materials Unlimited, an architectural salvage store. I could wander around this place for hours. The selection of antique lighting is extraordinary; straight from mansions, ballrooms and historic homes, pieces run the gamut from humble to extravagant. Candle wall sconces, ceiling fixtures powered by gas or electricity and table lamps that range in style from Neoclassical, Victorian, French, Colonial Revival to Louis XVI. Materials are antique brass, wrought iron and cut crystal. I’m a fan of colored glass; blue opal, cranberry, rose and amber are just some of my favorites.

ypsi 015 (1)

ypsi 002 (1)

ypsi 005 (1)

Everything in the store is beautiful! Items are neatly arranged and organized; individual pieces wear tags listing the origin, era and in some cases where it came out of, I stop and read every tag on the pieces I like the most. Glass shades are neatly arranged on shelves, brass door knobs and back plates are lined up in rows. Stained glass is displayed in the large front windows, one piece by Karl J Mueller has a price tag of $24,750.00. Crates of hardware seem endless; bronze mail slots, ice box hinges, pulls, knobs and door knockers can all be found here. Dining room sets feature enormously long tables, crystal wine glasses and decanters are lovely.

ypsi 041 (1)

ypsi 018 (1)ypsi 025 (1)

ypsi 016 (1)

Some areas are set up as vignettes; fireplace mantels and surrounds are decorated with andirons, chenets and beveled mirrors. Bathroom furnishings such as sinks and toilets are available in an array of colors, doors and windows come in every shape and size. Standing, neck craned, reading a tag, Kris comes and finds me to show me a piece he knows I’ll love, a black and white, Italian marble, double sink and vanity that belonged to the Fisher family. The marble is exotic, the faucet and spigot, a work of art. It was purchased for their home in Palmer Woods, they took it when they moved out and now it’s here for sale in Ypsi, check out the photo. 

ypsi 026 (1)

ypsi 034 (1)ypsi 007 (1)

ypsi 036 (1)

All this browsing has made us hungry, just up the street we stop in at Dalat for a late lunch. Both of us like Vietnamese food, but are not necessarily big fans of Pho; the menu here is HUGE, so much more to offer than a big bowl of soup. Our server greeted us quickly with menus and asks us what we want to drink; she returns with a pot of tea, answers our questions and takes our lunch order. We start with a fresh roll served with a tasty peanut sauce. A short while later our entrée’s arrive, since I’m not fluent in Vietnamese I can’t tell you the exact name of the dishes we had, but, what I can tell you is the food was delightful, fresh and tasty. A noodle dish; chopped romaine lettuce, chunks of egg roll, tender strips of seasoned beef and shrimp over steamed noodles. The other was a large, crispy crepe of sorts, yellow in color it was stuffed with shrimp, chicken and stir-fried vegetables. Portions are big but prices are not, each entrée was about $7.

ypsi 150 (1)

ypsi 144 (1)

ypsi 141 (1)

We drive around the city a little bit before heading home, Ypsi is loaded with beautiful architecture, there’s a quirky charm about Michigan Avenue, parts of it look like time has stood still—-I like that. Cities are like people, no two are exactly the same, each has its own personality and that’s what makes exploring them so much fun.

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 256 other followers