Birmingham Beauty

18 Nov

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As long as this beautiful Autumn lingers we’ll be outside enjoying every minute of it. Today we are in one of our favorite places to go for a walk, Birmingham. Everybody  knows about the great dining scene, trendy boutiques, cafes and shops, but few know the quiet side of this affluent city. C’mon, we’ll show you around. We park our truck on Lakeside Dr, just north of Maple and west of Old Woodward; we’re at Quarton Lake, one of Birmingham’s hidden jewels. Tucked into a prosperous neighborhood the lake is surrounded by Quarton Lake Park with a walking trail that follows the perimeter.

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Walking south we encounter joggers, babies in strollers, leashed dogs with their owners, friends carrying Starbucks cups catching up on the week’s events. It’s a truly glorious day; the sun shines in a medium-blue sky, colorful leaves still cling to towering trees, elegant homes stare out at the lake. Following the gravel trail we come across native plants and flowers gone dormant for the winter; large pods have split open, their seeds carried by the wind. The fishing pier leads us out into the lake, the water is still except for the tiniest ripple, the surrounding beauty reflected like a mirror on the surface. The combination of nature and magnificent homes along the shoreline create a spectacular view; it’s easy to forget we’re only blocks from a thriving city.

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Quarton Lake is fed by the Rouge River, remnants of an old gristmill powered by water from the mill-pond are acknowledged by a plaque; the wooden mill served local farmers for 83 years. We reach the waterfall, some of the grandest homes overlook this spot. We cross the Rouge River pedestrian bridge finding ourselves in an open, grassy area complete with benches and sculpture. When the trail ends we follow the sidewalk along Maple Rd then duck back in the neighborhood on Lake Park Dr, the other side of the lake. Residents have replaced flowering annuals with hardy mums; pumpkins and haystacks join the Autumn decor. Leaves are scattered on the lawns of stately homes; slate roofs, luxurious porches and lavish landscapes are not uncommon. We reach the far end of the lake, an opening in the trees allows us to watch the Mallards as they paddle around, squirrels chase each other from tree to tree. We reach Oak Ave and walk towards Old Woodward.

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If you read DetroitDvotion regularly you know we are fond of historic cemeteries, picturesque Greenwood Historic Cemetery resides over 8 acres on Oak Ave. This unassuming little graveyard is the final resting place for some of Oakland County’s most prominent citizens and early pioneers. In 1821 Dr Ziba Swan purchased a large parcel of land from the federal government, setting aside a half-acre for a community cemetery. In 1825 Polly Utter and her 13-year-old daughter Cynthia were brutally murdered by Imri Fish, a boarder in the family home. These were the first murder victims in Bloomfield Township, they were also the first interments. The burying ground was enlarged several times through the years; in 1946 the City of Birmingham took over the operation. Walking through it today is like reading a history book on Birmingham. 

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We roam among limestone, marble and granite monuments, mature trees provide a colorful canopy today; fallen leaves have blown and gathered into piles of red, chartreuse, burnt orange.  Headstones from the early 1800’s are worn and barely legible, the age of the deceased is listed in years, months and days. Adams, Quarton, Opdyke and Baldwin, lie within these gates, local roads bear their names. John West Hunter was the first settler to live in Birmingham, the library is named after Martha Baldwin, Elijah Willets was the founder of Birmingham; John Daniels, the city’s only American Revolutionary War Veteran is buried here. 

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We amble over to the gravesite of sculptor Marshall Fredericks, (Spirit of Detroit, Cross In The Woods, Freedom Of The Human Spirit) his Leaping Gazelle sculpture rises up toward the sky. The Booth Family plot is anchored by George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth, they established the Cranbrook Educational community; the headstone of each family member wears a symbol that identifies something unique about that person. Pewabic Pottery founder Mary Chase Stratton is buried alongside her husband, architect William Buck Stratton. Each of these people had significant impact on the face of Detroit and the surrounding communities. More recently, legendary author Elmore Leonard was laid to rest.

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We cut back through neighborhood streets, cute brick bungalows and traditional 2-story homes share real estate with newly constructed homes in a variety of styles from concrete modern to manor homes, no two are the same–I like that. As we approach Old Woodward we walk through Booth Park, this is also the start of the Booth Trail. The trail follows the Rouge River through an undeveloped part of the city, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Leaves crunch under our feet as we follow the mulched trail, the river on the left, homes built into the hillside on the right; their view must be exceptional. The trail weaves alongside the river, most of the trees are bare, shrubs are vibrant and green. Amateur photographers take advantage of the scenery, there’s plenty of it, ducks are camera-shy and swim away. Pedestrians and dogs are plentiful today, everybody wants to be outside. This trail connects to the Rouge River Trail. The mild temperature encourages us to keep walking.

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We zig and zag back through neighborhood streets, old and new homes side by side in the long-established city. Old Woodward is a haven for the hungry, so many places to choose from, the patio at The Bird & The Bread looks inviting, lets check it out. The air has taken on a little chill, without the sun to warm us we opt to eat indoors; the front of the restaurant is all windows making it the next best thing to actually being outside. I’m excited to see they’re still serving brunch, I sip on a hot cup of coffee as we wait for the food to arrive.

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The restaurant is huge, it includes a wine bar, tap-room and seasonal kitchen; there’s even a curtained-off area for small groups. Old Woodward is pretty quiet today, only an occasional car or pedestrian. Our server brings our food and a couple of side plates, I scoop out half of the biscuits and gravy as Kris divides the Quinoa pancakes with house made lemon ricotta and orange marmalade. The pancakes are light and fluffy, there’s a slight crispness on the edges, the ricotta and marmalade go perfectly together, it’s high in deliciousness. The tender buttermilk biscuits are smothered in a creamy sausage gravy, what’s not to like? It feels good to sit and relax, mind and body fully nourished. 

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