The Burbs: Hidden Treasures

13 Apr

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It’s the first Saturday of the month, we’re driving down 26 mile in New Baltimore we turn onto N Bay Dr, cars flood one parking lot in particular, we don’t need to see the address to know it’s the Stahls Automotive Foundation building. The contents of the building belong to one man, Ted Stahl, executive chairman of GroupeStahl which specializes in heat printing on fabrics. About 25 years ago Stahl began collecting vintage automobiles, outgrowing his previous space, his current ‘garage’ is a 45,000 sq. ft. building in Macomb County. The idea behind opening the doors to the public is to “build an appreciation for history.” “Each car was chosen based on engineering achievements that made it an important part of the evolution of the automobile.” There are over 80 vehicles on display, some are more than 100 years old. Let’s take a look.

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The lobby is home to an unexpected collection of music-playing devices. Juke boxes and a gorgeous, inlaid wood, Victorian Porter music box share the room with an amazing Hupfield Phonoliszt-Violina which plays 3 real violins along with a beautiful Mortier 87 key cafe organ in an Art Deco style cabinet dating from 1930. I’ve never seen anything like the Mills Violino-Virtuoso or the Wurlitzer PianOrchestra, they are all restored, operational, and works of art to look at, not to mention the beautiful melodies they produce. All of a sudden a loud, happy tune explodes into the air, it’s coming from the other room.

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We are now in the main section of the building, the music and all of the activity puts me in the mind of a circus. The music draws me to the largest instrument in the Stahl collection, a 1924 Wurlitzer theatre organ built for the Wurlitzer family mansion in Cincinnati. There are 1524 pipes ranging in size from 16′ high to the size of a pencil, an organist sits in front of the keyboard, his fingers dancing across the keys, people sit in folding chairs tapping their toes and smiling. Vehicles are arranged in chronological order, the oldest being a 1899 De Dion-Bouton Tricycle. There’s something to look at in every direction, signs, banners and flags hang from the ceiling and on the walls, vintage neon and porcelain steel signs from the 1920’s to the 50’s delight visitors. Gas pumps with fancy glass globes wear names like Polly, Gilmore and Sinclair. Memorabilia covers walls, sits in shelves and fills display cabinets, a Route 66 theme is carried out throughout the space.

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The cars, yes, those stunning mechanical works of art are the main attraction, get this, there are no ropes surrounding these incredibly valuable vehicles, you can walk right up to them, they even have towels draped across the top of the door so you can peek right inside. Hoods are up, tops are down, placards tell us about the vehicle, paint colors span the rainbow. Spoke wheels, huge headlights, wide white walls come on Hudson’s, Packards, Chryslers, to name a few. Special emphasis is placed on the cars of the 1930’s and 40’s, the Depression and Art Deco eras. The oldest is a 1886 Daimler prototype, the newest a 1967 Pontiac GTO Convertible, and of course there’s everything in between. Brands found here : Oldsmobile, Locomobile, Oakland, Ford, Chevrolet, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, Cadillac, Willy’s.

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Row after row of polished chrome, fancy hood ornaments, spectacular grills and leather interiors leave us in awe. Cars from movies such as The Great Race, The Reivers, the Whoville family sedan from How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Tucker look perfectly at home. Kris’s favorite is the magnificent deep blue 1932 Chrysler CL Imperial but I think he’d take any one of the American luxury cars from the 30’s, the details are incredible inside and out.

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We amble up and down aisles, all of a sudden the 1924 Mortier 97 key dance organ comes to life. Completely restored, this organ traveled through Belgium providing music and entertainment at 17 different fairs every year. It’s absolutely beautiful, the cream-colored cabinet is elaborately painted with landscape scenes, ornamental details are colored in pearly pastel colors, I just love it. In the corner is a life-size diorama of a Bob’s Big Boy complete with a soda fountain, like being back in the 50’s. Stahls Repair Garage pays tribute to the old-fashioned service station; you couldn’t get nachos or a slurpee, but there was a guy who actually pumped your gas, checked your oil and could even repair your car–ahhh, the good old days!

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 The whole time we’re here I have to keep reminding myself, this is some guy’s garage–and what a garage it is. It’s quite generous of the Stahl family to allow all of us a glimpse of his collection. There is no admission fee. The building is open every Tuesday from 1-4 pm and the 1st Saturday of the month from 11-4 pm. We encourage you to visit.

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From here we take 26 Mile into Marine City. We’re having lunch at Blue Pike Cantina on Water St. It’s a winery and smokehouse, you can do a wine tasting, buy bottles of wine and have a snack or a meal. After running out of wine at the end of the year, this is the first weekend they are open again. Inside, we are the only customers. The cozy space is fitted with wine racks, dining tables and counter space. Appetizing looking small plates are being placed in the glass cooler for display. We start with a glass of wine, Super Tuscan for me and Black Raspberry for Kris. The Italian Nachos come out first, homemade pasta chips drizzled with alfredo sauce and topped with Italian sausage, olives, pepper rings, green onions and tomato, it’s really good. Our smoked meatloaf sandwich is huge. Smoked meatloaf made in-house is sliced and placed on a kaiser roll, cole slaw and bbq sauce complete the sandwich, it arrives in a basket surrounded by housemade potato chips, delicious.

 

One Response to “The Burbs: Hidden Treasures”

  1. Debbie April 14, 2016 at 9:43 am #

    My husband would SO love this! I live in Chesterfield and never knew it existed. Thanks Detroit Dvotion for all the work that you do! 😉

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