Tag Archives: Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor: A Manor Christmas

19 Dec

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Earhart Manor rests on the grounds of Concordia University in Ann Arbor. Today the manor is open to the public for a Christmas tour of the home and grounds; all proceeds provide the Concordia Guild scholarship support for the university students. Once a 400-acre dairy farm, the property known then as The Meadows was purchased by Harry B Earhart and his wife Carrie in 1916. H.B. Earhart was the agent for the White Star Refining Company based in Buffalo NY. He purchased the failing company in 1911, moved its headquarters to Michigan and watched the business flourish as the auto industry boomed. He turned the company into a major enterprise that included a chain of gas stations and a refinery in Oklahoma. He eventually sold the business to Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. which later became Mobil; something tells me he did all right. At first the family used the Meadows as a get-away, they moved there from Detroit in 1920. When H.B. retired at the age of 66 he decided to build the home of his dreams on the property, the manor was completed in 1935.

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The limestone home was designed by Detroit architectural firm Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, the exterior is elegantly detailed with a slate roof, copper eaves and stone detailing; they even hand-chisled the limestone to simulate age. Festive garlands with bright red bows adorn the front entrance. Inside we are greeted by volunteers giving details about the home. I expected the interior to be large open spaces but instead find charming, intimate rooms. The foyer is light filled and bright, decorations stream from the ceiling and walls, a built-in cabinet holds an antique record player surrounded by vintage record albums from Bing Crosby, Kate Smith and others. Albums could be stacked for continuous play, what a cool contraption. Each room in the house has been decorated by a different interior designer; I love looking at all the beautiful decorations. Traffic flow is at a stand-still so we take the stairs to the 3rd floor, stopping along the way to admire the Art Deco handrail, newel and balusters. We arrive at the Ballroom, the barrel ceiling with a skylight is pretty awesome; gold and silver stars dangle from the ceiling. The decorating theme is Nativities, I’ve never seen so many different ones. This is where the Earhart’s would entertain; there’s a stage at one end where a band would perform or the grandchildren would put on plays. A movie projection booth is on the opposite side, since there was no sound system they played family home movies on the screen instead of Hollywood films. 

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The second floor is where the family slept. When they moved into the house 3 of their 4 children had already gone off to college, Elizabeth was already in high school; no need for lots of bedrooms. Today the bedrooms are used for offices and conference rooms and are not open for the tour. Descending the staircase gives us a nice view of the main floor, people have dispersed into other areas making it easy for us to move around. At one end of the hall is the Dining Room, it’s gorgeous. Decked out in cream and turquoise, a pretty chandelier, ornate fireplace and lovely architectural details make the room opulent. A pencil tree wears colored decorations to match the room, Christmas figurines stand in recessed shelves. In their later years Mr and Mrs Earhart took their meals at the small table in the breakfast nook. I’ve decided this is my favorite room.

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The Library is next, wood paneling, full bookcases and deep colors give the room a definite masculine feel. Poinsettia-filled urns flank the fireplace, evergreen roping is draped throughout the space. Two Christmas trees are decorated with white lights, silk flowers and wide ribbon. On one side a bookcase has been slid open revealing a ‘secret’ staircase, let’s see where it goes. Concrete steps and brick walls lead us to the basement Billiard Room, sweet! As you would expect the room is decorated perfectly for Christmas; lots of live greens, baskets of fruit, nuts and pine cones. Candles flicker in the fireplace, antique light fixtures give the room a warm glow. This is where H.B. would hang out with his friends.

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Back up in the main hall we poke our heads into the study, we see another secret passage in the wall. The Living Room is the largest room in the house; surrounded by rich wood paneling with a large fireplace it’s actually quite cozy. A grand piano sits at the far end, the Earhart’s were fond of music, a Christmas tree is set up in front of the bay window, I bet that’s the way the family did it too. When the house was built they incorporated the latest technology for the time; air conditioning, showers with ten heads, vented closets with lights that went on when you opened the door. They say Mrs Earhart was never more than 10 feet away from a call button to summon servants.

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We exit through the glass doors onto the patio, a gorgeous Pewabic tile fountain is built into the wall. The grounds are pretty expansive; there used to be a Peony-lined walk, Rose garden and lily pond. We walk past the gazebo and grape arbor to the greenhouse, this was here long before they built the manor house. You can tell it’s really old by the glass panes and mechanisms used to open and close the windows. One section has Christmas trees for sale, you can also purchase Poinsettia plants, flowering cactus, Cyclamen, ornaments and hand-made cards. Decorated trees are on display in the other half of the greenhouse, they were part of an auction held earlier in the week and are waiting to be picked up.

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Carrie passed away in 1940, H.B. stayed in the house, they say the greenhouse was one of his favorite places to sit and be with friends. I also learned that H.B. was the primary creator of the Huron-Clinton Metro Authority. H.B. passed away in 1954 at the age of 83. A portion of the Earhart Estate including the manor was sold to the Lutheran Church in 1961 for the establishment of Concordia University. The private university offers majors in four academic schools: Nursing, Arts & Sciences, Business, Education. The school restored the manor and continues to care for it and the grounds.

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Time to eat! Zingerman’s Roadhouse on Jackson rd has been here for 15 years now. It’s the 7th member of Zingerman’s community of businesses in Ann Arbor. While places like the deli celebrate good food from all over the world, the Roadhouse focuses on really good American food with old-time classics like mac and cheese, fried chicken, corn dogs and Carolina bbq. It’s super-busy when we arrive but the wait is short. I’m so hungry I can’t decide what to get, Kris is in a breakfast mood, an omelette it is. The other good thing about breakfast items is they don’t take long to cook. The omelette is fluffy and filled with tasty items like cheese, bacon and spinach, the homemade biscuit is surrounded by little cups of creamed honey, jam and butter. French fries and cheesy grits complete the meal. That was good! Be sure and check out the nifty collection of antique salt and pepper shakers displayed throughout the restaurant. Before we hit the road I stop at the Roadshow, a vintage Spartan trailer attached to the Roadhouse that offers the convenience of a drive-thru or a walk-up window for carry-out or coffee, I’m here for the coffee. It’s been a really good day.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with fun adventures!

ANN ARBOR: Naturally…

23 Jun

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We’re in Ann Arbor today at Nichols Arboretum to see the largest collection of heirloom herbaceous peonies in North America. Operated by U of M, the 123- acre “arb” is located near the eastern edge of Central Campus. The naturalistic landscape was begun by O. C. Simonds back in 1907; home to natural areas, trails, pathways, specialty gardens, broad valleys and thematic areas, it provides an easy escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. We park in a neighborhood off Geddes Ave and make our way to the entrance; we are greeted by a floral display, a newer iron gate closes the gap between two very old stone posts. Walking straight out we reach the highest point in the arb, they say the escarpment and slopes were created by glaciers, here we have a panoramic view for miles.

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We begin our walk through the main valley following a wide gravel path north and west toward the Peony Garden. The path winds through shaded woodlands, giving us respite from the afternoon sun, wildflowers bloom in purple and white against a lush green background. Leaving the main path, we follow a narrow dirt trail deeper into the woods, a deer nibbles leaves a few feet away. As we ascend the hill we eventually emerge from the woods, the peony garden is below us in the distance, a large grassy area surrounds it. In 1922 Dr. W. E. Upjohn, founder of Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company in Kalamazoo and passionate collector of peonies, offered to donate peonies to the arb, regents accepted his offer, appropriated $2,000 to establish a peony garden, which then opened to the public in 1927. Today each of the 27 beds contains 30 peonies, the garden holds nearly 800 peonies and up to 10,000 flowers at peak bloom.

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Our timing is perfect, beds are bursting with blooms in white, every shade of pink, deep red and burgundy, it’s fantastic! I wander from plant to plant in awe of their beauty, a closer look reveals the difference in varieties; some are shaped like goblets, others are flat and cupped, there are inner petals, outer petals, pistols and stamens, crowns and collars. Placards give detailed information, I love the names: Fortune Teller, Lady Emily, Do Tell, Loveliness, Madame Jules Dessert and Nanette. Some are quite fragrant, I bend at every one hoping to be rewarded with sweet fragrance. Kris joins dozens of others taking photos of these delicate beauties. Up close the colors are stunning, one is all white with flecks of red near the center, multicolored blossoms fade from bright rose to pale pink to white, centers are yellow or gold, petals are ruffled or smooth, wide or narrow. It is an amazing thing to see!

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We choose a wide path that takes us through the woods, mushrooms cover a fallen tree, in the distance yellow flowers top reed-like stems, we come upon a stairway terraced into the hill, it leads us to the bank of the Huron River. We stand in an open area, the sun blazes overhead, two women in  kayaks drift by us carried by the current. Buildings on the opposite side of the river remind us we are actually in a city. We duck back into nature, taking a more secluded trail this time, a Robin sitting on the edge of her nest watches us closely as we pass. Mature trees and more wildflowers surround us as we make our way back, another set of stairs leads us gently up a hill, at the top we take in the vista that surrounds us, and then we are back to where we started.

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By now we are famished, Angelo’s On The Side is a short drive away, I hope we make it before they close. We’re in luck, there’s a space in the back lot and they’re open. The original Angelo’s opened in 1956, serving breakfast and lunch, it is still owned and operated by the same family. This side is a coffee-house and carry-out counter with limited seating for dining in. Chalkboard menus surround the counter, we quickly agree on what to order and take a seat overlooking the street. A wax paper lined tray arrives, upon it sits giant battered onion rings and a mouth-watering California Club Sandwich. A stack of turkey breast, bacon, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and cucumber are piled between two slices of exceptional homemade white bread Thick slices of onion are nestled in crispy batter; we exchange few words, the food is too good to be interrupted with talk.  

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A couple of blocks away on S University we stop in at Mighty Good Coffee Roasting Co. before hitting the road. The coffee shop is located on the ground floor of a mid-century style building, three walls are glass and there’s also a patio. Kris and I drink cold-brew coffee regularly, every shop uses its own method and choice of bean; this is the first time we have encountered Nitro-infused cold brew. This method uses a stronger mix of cold brew concentrate with cold filtered water, they put it in a keg, add pressure and serve it up on a nitro tap. What you get is a creamy, slightly bubbly coffee that’s higher in caffeine. It’s usually served in a pint glass without ice, cream or milk, just looking at it you’d swear it was Guinness Stout. Kris orders one on ice, I stick with traditional cold brew. We relax on the patio drinking our coffee and sharing a chocolate chip cookie; the nitro is outstanding as is the regular cold brew. What a great way to end the day.

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ANN ARBOR: Dinner and a Movie

11 Mar

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The cold spell has finally broken, we are celebrating the freedom to walk about leisurely without fear of frostbite with a night on the town in Ann Arbor. The Michigan Theater is mid-way through their Noir Film Series, playing tonight is The Lady From Shanghai, the 1947 film starring Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. First things first, on-street parking is non-existent on this balmy March night, fortunately there’s a parking structure just around the corner from the theater. With the Jeep neatly parked for the next several hours we head to the Slurping Turtle for some dinner.

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Renowned Chef Takashi Yagihashi opened his second Slurping Turtle restaurant right here in Ann Arbor nearly a year ago. You may recognize his name from such shows as Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters. Yagihashi has successful restaurants in Chicago, including the original Slurping Turtle. He has close ties with Michigan; he operated Tribute in Farmington Hills from 1996 until 2005, in 2003 the James Beard Foundation named him “Best Chef Midwest”. It was those ties and two children in Michigan colleges that brought him back to the mitten. The Ann Arbor location is on the main floor of the old Borders building on Liberty Street.

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The dining room has a bright, clean look to it, matching pendant lights hang above communal tables, there is an open kitchen, counter seating and a few booths. Our server greets us quickly, delivers menus and takes our drink order. There’s a wonderful selection of authentic Japanese Ramen (noodles are made in house), sushi, street food and comfort food. Not really in the mood to Slurp, we choose 4 dishes to share. First out are the Hamachi Tacos: tartare of yellowtail, truffle soy and a taro root shell, really good and a nice starter. The vegetarian Bao is out next, I’m crazy about these steamed bao buns, this one has a tempura mushroom along with other goodies tucked inside, served alongside a tasty little salad; we’d both get this again. The Dragon Roll arrives looking quite tasty; shrimp, bbq eel, avocado, sauce, delicious. Our favorite dish is the Kinoko Mochi; plump tube-shaped rice cakes, a medley of Japanese mushrooms, boccolini, parsnip, sweet bell peppers and Parmesan in a chili soy sauce, fantastic!

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Outside, we cross Liberty and are standing in front of the Michigan Theater, opened January 5, 1928, the marquee looks just as it did then. When the theater originally opened vaudeville and silent films were the regular fare, shows were accompanied by live music from the Barton Theatre Organ which is still in place. During the 30’s and 40’s the theater thrived, movies drew a big crowd, there were also live stage shows and University of Michigan events. Television came along in the 50’s, film audiences declined as more and more people got their entertainment right in their living room from their TV set. In an effort to draw folks back, the Michigan was modernized in 1956; plasterwork was covered with aluminum, polished marble and a false ceiling. The theater stopped operating in 1979 and the building’s future was “uncertain”. Sadly, the Michigan Theater’s story is not unique.

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Folks joined together in effort to save the theater and organ, in the end, the City Council purchased the theater and dissolved the mortgage debt. In 1982 a management team was hired along with a restoration architect to bring the “Shrine to Art” back to life. Classic films, concerts, theater productions and touring shows filled the building, in 1985 the grand foyer and auditorium were restored, heating and electric were modernized, a screening room was added and the balcony was restored to its original 1928 color scheme. Today the Michigan is vibrant and alive, films once again grace the big screen, it is home to the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra and numerous stage productions, the Barton Theatre Organ plays on……

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We purchase our tickets at the ticket window under the flashing marquee, inside, the aroma of fresh-popped popcorn fills the air. With a small popcorn drizzled with melted butter in hand I follow Kris into the Grand Foyer; grand it is! The entire theater is decorated in ivory and gold, here the ceiling is coffered, raised designs sparkle in gold leaf, a dramatic staircase leads to the balcony level, crystals dangle from elaborate chandeliers, a drinking fountain built into the wall is exquisite, the lower portion of the walls are beautiful dark wood panels. From the balcony we have a panoramic view of the auditorium; a red curtain hangs above the stage, the organ is being expertly played, gold leaf geometric patterns decorate the ceiling, a series of arches covered in lovely gold grates flank the side walls. Circular chandeliers with exposed round bulbs light the large space, ornate plaster moldings surround the walls.

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There’s nothing like watching a film on the big screen, especially an old film, this one is black and white. Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth were married when this film was made, her long red hair cut short and dyed blonde for the role, she’s stunning as always. In true noir form, the story has its twists and turns creating suspense and tension, leaving us uncertain ‘who done it’ right up until the end.

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Back across Liberty Street we stop in at Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea for a little post movie chill before driving home. This is the first time we’ve been at this location, it’s quite attractive inside; narrow wood panels are mounted to the walls horizontally, a large mirror behind the counter gives the space a big, open feel, toward the rear, a partial wall is covered in lush green plants. Serving coffee, tea, blended frozen drinks, pastries and light food, there’s something for everyone. Kris gets a cold brew and I go with my longtime favorite, coco cafe. Vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and espresso blended together until smooth, it’s the perfect sweet ending to a wonderful night.


ANN ARBOR: Really Old Stuff….

20 Feb

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We stepped outside into the cold winter air, high up in the powder blue sky the sun was shining; perfect for a road trip. With so many things to see and do, Ann Arbor is always a good destination. I like Ann Arbor on a Sunday; parking is free and it is the least crowded day of the weekend. The air was frigid, so we planned on indoor activities. The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) maintains one of the oldest collections of art in the nation in university hands; collecting for 150 years it has amassed more than 18,000 art works. In 1910 the university built the Alumni Memorial Hall, it was to serve as a war memorial, home to the Alumni Association and the UMMA. As the collection grew, so did the need for more space, in 1966 the museum became the sole occupant of the building. In 2009 the museum space was enlarged by 53,000 sq. ft with the addition of the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and Frankel Family Wing; during this time the original building was also restored, new galleries and a new UMMA store were added.

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Smooth stone and simple doric columns, to me the exterior of the building looks serious. Inside the historic apse has been redone and the skylights restored, light floods the oval-shaped space. At the far end, marble statues rest upon pedestals looking as if they were awaiting my arrival, I am excited to be here. We stroll through the main floor galleries then head up the stairway; a large funky glass light fixture livens up the space. We wander from gallery to gallery, the transition from the old to the new seamless. The new wing is three stories, stairways are tucked away neatly, natural light filters in. Pieces not on display are housed in ‘open storage’ galleries, allowing the visitor to see more of the museums collections; I love the Tiffany glass. There are large amounts of Asian and African Art, a large cabinet displays stunning silver serving pieces covered with intricate designs. Ceramic vessels, tiles and platters from the Middle Eastern Collection catch my eye, Kris likes the Modern and Contemporary galleries best. We look at the American Art, prints, drawings and photos until we have seen it all; but wait, there’s still more to see……..across the street.

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If I had to guess, I would say  most Metro-Detroiters have never heard of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; today we’re going to change that. I think it is fascinating, a place that most people would find very interesting, even if they don’t think so!  Francis W Kelsey was a professor at the University of Michigan, in 1893 he began acquiring artifacts, thinking that they would help his students understand the ancient world. His first purchase was 108 items from an excavation site in Tunisia, that same year he bought 1,096 objects from dealers in Tunis, Rome, Capri and Sicily. As the collection grew, items began to be housed in a gorgeous Richardson Romanesque stone building named Newberry Hall. Built in 1891 as the home for the Student Christian Association, it is one of the oldest buildings on campus today. One of the unique features of this building is its original Tiffany stained glass window, one of two Tiffany windows in Ann Arbor. By 1953 Kelsey’s collections had taken over the building and it became known as the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. In 2009 the museum grew by 20,000 sq. ft. with the addition of the William E Upjohn Exhibit Wing.

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Today the museum houses the university’s collection of more than 100,000 ancient and medieval objects including Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Islamic archaeological artifacts. On the first floor, galleries are white from top to bottom, large glass cabinets line the walls; items here date back to “BC” and Alexander The Great, it’s hard to wrap my brain around that. Statues rest on pillars out in the open, I better watch where I’m going. We see pottery, terracotta figurines and Roman glass. U of M excavated a site southwest of Cairo known as Karanis; between 1926 and 1936 nearly 45,000 objects were uncovered and sent back to Ann Arbor, the largest collection of objects outside of the Cairo Museum. We marvel at a colorfully painted mummy coffin, Greek pottery and Roman sculptures, it’s amazing all of this still exists, even more amazing, it’s right here in Ann Arbor! Jewelry in both delicate and large pieces, ‘magical’ amulets from the ancient Near East are beautiful. We take the stairs to the second level, pieces hanging on the wall relate to ancient sailors. Upstairs is more colorful, walls painted in gold and russet display items and photographs of excavations. A replica of the famous Villa of the Mysteries mural from ancient Pompeii is done in 5/6 scale; I look at the faces of the figures, it seems as though they are looking right at me, their eyes follow me. The museum holds the largest collection of Latin inscriptions in the west, we see ancient coins, Egyptian Tomb sets and Greek papyri, and it’s all real……..It’s a lot to take in. We are definitely planning on coming back.

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The museums are located on State Street across from one another, it is only a short walk to E William St and the Original Cottage Inn, lunch, here we come! Back in 1948 when Cottage Inn opened, it was the first restaurant in Ann Arbor to serve pizza, really. Outside, the orange brick building is decorated with painted ivy climbing the walls, the old-fashioned sign jutting from the entrance let’s us know we’ve arrived. Inside it smells wonderful, a mix of fresh-baked bread, spices, olive oil, and maybe a bit of pepperoni…The menu is filled with Italian and Greek dishes, and most importantly, PIZZA. Kris and I have been coming here for over 20 years, though the space itself has undergone expansions, renovations and redecoration, the food has always remained the same delicious way. We started with the antipasto salad; meats, cheeses,olives, so good. Our grilled chicken pizza arrived piping hot, mozzarella stretching all the way from pan to plate. Grilled chicken, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and artichoke hearts, the crust is just as good as I remember. Few words passed between Kris and I as we ate, we had some serious eating to do.

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I believe there is some sort of gravitational pull that exists in Ann Arbor, it will always lead you to Zingerman’s! Making sure to save room for dessert, we find ourselves surrounded by sweet goodness at Zingerman’s Next Door; cakes, tortes, cookies, brownies, chocolates and gelato, it is dizzying. The February special was Mississippi Mud Pie; a chewy brownie layer topped with soft, dark chocolate ganache, toasted meringue and chocolate drizzle, need I say more? Paired with house roasted coffee for me and espresso for Kris, it is dessert nirvana. 

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ANN ARBOR: Food, Flora and Farmland

6 Nov

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We found ourselves in Dexter on an errand; having gotten off to a late start, it was already time for lunch when we finished. With so many offerings available in nearby Ann Arbor, we took advantage of our location and followed scenic Huron River Drive into the city. Where does one begin in a city bursting with great restaurants? Well, for one thing it is a Saturday, which means the city is packed with visitors, in that case our mind wanders more to, “where can we find parking?”. We were looking for something quick and tasty so we headed over to Ray’s Red Hots on E. University; to our delight we found easy parking on the street and no line at the counter. The menu seems endless (especially when you are super hungry),  a Chicago Dog is a must, they do it right, all the way to the celery salt and poppy-seed bun. The Slaw Dog was a less obvious choice, but the guy behind the counter highly recommended it; a redhot dog, melted Swiss, BBQ sauce, raw onions and homemade coleslaw, I have to admit it was really good! The Diablo Dog was our final pick, a grilled all beef dog stuffed with jalapeno peppers and cheddar cheese, also served on a poppy-seed bun; we both liked it, the flavor of the dog highlighted by the grilling process, yum. Hot dogs are served in plastic baskets with tissue liners, be sure to grab lots of napkins. The place does a brisk business, as we sat at our high-top table the line continued to grow; patrons ranged in age from the very young to the very old, everybody loves a good hot dog!

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The sun shone brightly in the blue Autumn sky, we thought we’d head over to the east side of town and do a couple of activities. Matthaei Botanical Gardens on Dixboro Rd is always a wonderful place to visit. Find a parking space that suits you, remember your number, walk to the pay station near the building entrance and deposit your quarters, that’s it, there’s no additional admission fee. The complex of buildings was  designed by Midland’s own Alden B Dow; the conservatory and auditorium were completed in 1965, the look is definitely mid-century. In the lobby people are milling about, the garden store shares the space and invites you to browse.

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We enter the conservatory and notice the change in temperature and humidity, this is the Tropical House, leafy green plants dominate the large room.  A raised pool is the first thing to greet you; fish swim about, Lilly pads grow on the surface, water gently trickles over the sides. With the exception of the Orchids, few plants on the main floor are currently in bloom, when you see a splash of red, purple or hot pink it really catches your eye. Stairways line both sides of the original building, be sure and go up one side and down the other. From this height I get a panoramic view, walking further on we find ourselves in the Desert House. I remember watching re-runs of Lost In Space as a child, this could be the set for one of the episodes. The room is all glass from wall to ceiling; giant plants rise from the ground, one in particular is variegated green and yellow, the edges of the leaves look as though they could cut you. More than that, it looks like the lengthy leaves could turn into arms and grab you and pull you within, ok, maybe I watched too much Lost in Space……Cactus come in every shape and size, they look right at home on this sunny day basking in the light. We cross over, taking the other side back, passing a seating area that reminds me of summer; a patio table and chairs offers visitors a little respite. On the other side a waterfall pours over an orange brick wall into a shallow pool, the sound soft and relaxing. We see splotches of color in Flamingo Lily, bromeliads and Scented Geraniums.  The outdoor gardens were closed off by orange fencing for the time being, giving us something new to see the next time we come.

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Our last stop for the day was Domino’s Petting Farm. We have been coming here for many years, all the way back to the days when Mr Monahan owned Domino’s and he had an incredible museum filled with vintage cars, bicycles, Detroit Tigers memorabilia, and an area dedicated to Frank Lloyd Wright. The petting farm opened in 1984 and was originally a traditional working farm owned by the Zeeb family. The barn itself was built in 1925 and now houses pigs, sheep,bunnies, goats, donkeys and ponies. From time to time the farm rescues animals and later finds them new homes. 

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After I petted all the animals I could, we walked out the back to the rest of the farm; a birthday party was taking place and guests were loading into a hay filled wagon pulled by a tractor for a ride. We walked out past the pond to where the cattle were grazing; I have never seen so many different colored cows in one place, black, brown and white, they were speckled, spotted and striped. Highland cows look badly in need of a haircut; how do they see through all that hair? As we approached the llamas they hurried over to the fence, as curious about us as we were about them. Each animal sports its own unique haircut, they are friendly and act as if they are posing for the camera. I come across more goats, their fur a colorful pattern that resembles a sweater; some enjoy being scratched, others are just looking to see what kind of food you brought them! After we had made the rounds we got back in the Jeep and drove over to the section where the Watusi live, have you ever seen a Watusi in person?  They are beautiful animals and those horns, wow! We just sat and watched them for a little bit, not wanting to disturb them; they looked content standing in the lush green grass. 

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Help ! My wallet is on fire !!

22 May

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Name almost any item, chances are you can find someone who collects it. If you are a regular reader of DetroitDvotion, you are aware of our fondness for old things. Today I’d like to share with you two events that highlight some of our favorites. Lets begin in Ann Arbor; every April the Washtenaw County Fairgrounds become home to one of the largest classic bicycle shows and swap meets in the nation……really. We pulled into the fairgrounds around 10am, the scene was unbelievable; a line of cars driving over grassy areas looking for parking, moving trucks, vans and pick-ups stacked high with old bikes, grown men riding mini bikes through the swap area and of course, thousands of antique and classic bikes available for purchase or your viewing pleasure.

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One of the hardest things about coming to an event like this is deciding where to start; we began outside in the swap meet area. It is impossible to describe; the sheer volume of bicycles and other vintage items is astounding. Along with complete bikes ranging from pre-war to BMX  style, there were pile after pile of tires; raised white letter, balloon, white side walls, and striped. Mounds of handlebars rest on tables, some still in the original packaging. Looking for a headlight, saddle bag, rear-view mirror or a basket to hang on your handlebars? They’ve got it! Fenders, reflectors, shifters, horns, forks and banana seats can be yours for the right price. Along with bicycles there was an assortment of other vintage items; toys, games, fire extinguishers, GI Joe and pedal cars; for anyone who likes antiquing this event is a treasure trove of childhood memories.

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Once we finished the swap spaces we headed over to the buildings; more of the same items as outside, but these tend to be a little nicer, and a little more expensive. Aisle after aisle we saw familiar brands such as Columbia, Schwinn, Raleigh, Huffy and Murray. Department store brands like Sears and JC Penney sat side by side with  less familiar names; JC Higgins, Auto Cycle, Vista, and Ross. Have you ever seen a a Huffy Radio Bike, how about a  Hopalong Cassidy?  There was a display with five or six of them in perfect condition; complete with holsters and cap guns dating back to the 50’s. I like bikes from the late 60’s to early 70’s, you know, hi-rise handle bars, banana seats and sissy bars. They come it great colors, the paint often metallic or candy apple. Some have that drag racer feel like the Slingshot, Chopper or Dragstripper. Sporting a 16 inch front tire and a 20 inch rear slick they came with cool chrome shifters and colorful decals. Through the years bicycle design often copied popular automotive design of the period.

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The main building is home to the Show Bikes; 50-75 bicycles are entered into one of 11 categories, the public votes for its favorites, awards are presented to first-place winners.The Classic Bike Of The Year Award is the only judged category; it is usually made up of the finest, rarest and most sought-after models, all from private collections. Bicycles such as these can be worth thousands of dollars. Also on exhibit was a brand new bike from the Detroit Bicycle Company called the Madison; painted black with copper plating it’s quite eye-catching! You can’t help but enjoy yourself walking around the grounds; bicycles have a way of bringing back fond childhood memories. Did you ever have a paper route? How about the bike Santa Clause brought? Was your first bike new from the store or a hand-me-down? It’s not too late to get the bike you always wanted as a kid, just mark your calendar, I’ll see ya next April!

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Back in the car, we needed to get from Ann Arbor to Southfield for the Michigan Modernism  Exposition, but first we needed to stop and grab lunch. Not far from Southfield is the modest city of Berkley; home to an ever-increasing number of restaurants and cafes, we thought we’d try something new. Graced with another beautiful day filled with sunshine and a clear blue sky, the patio at Amici’s Living Room was the perfect choice. The space itself is surrounded by ivy covered walls, gardens, pretty pots of flowers and garden art, all very charming. Service was quick, which was good since we were in a hurry. We ordered the Caribbean Spicy Jerk Chicken Pizza: Spicy jerk chicken, peanut ginger sauce, pineapple and mozzarella cheese on the whole wheat crust. All pizza’s come with their unique whole wheat pesto breadsticks…these are seriously good. They arrived fresh from the oven all warm and delicious, served with a side of chunky tomato sauce, we could have made a meal out of them! Next came the pizza, definitely unusual, but a great combination of flavors, all piled on the same delicious crust as the breadsticks. With no time to linger and enjoy the patio, we were back in the car on our way to the Southfield Pavilion on Evergreen Road.

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Hosted annually by the Detroit Area Art Deco Society, the Michigan Modernism Exposition attracts dealers from around the Midwest ; it’s worth the price of admission just to walk around. Pieces on display range from the streamlined look of the Art Deco era to the funky colorful items of the mid to late century; we like ’em all. The show area is one large space divided into different booths or rooms, several times I would have loved to point and say “I’ll take that room”. The Art Deco articles are highly detailed, lots of stainless steel and shiny black surfaces; there were a number of clocks that were amazing. Decorative items such as coffee servers, light fixtures and sculptures made wonderful eye candy. As we walked around we traversed in and out of decades; one space featured a complete Heywood Wakefield dining room set making it seem like we walked right into 1950. We saw white shag carpet, kidney-shaped tables, tulip chairs and brightly colored plastic. There was lucite and polished chrome, colored glass and bakelite. Colors are vibrant; orange, red, turquoise and bright blue. All the names you would expect to see are there : Eames, Knoll, Herman Miller and Panton; I find the knock-offs equally appealing. You could completely re-do your home with the furniture and accessories for sale at the expo. The vintage jewelry is exceptional, I’m not picky, diamonds or rhinestone, I adore them equally. The variety of artwork this year was wonderful; from paintings and photographs to huge posters, any wall would be happy to display them. Coming here reminds me of when I was a kid and my parents would take me with them furniture shopping; I would look at each room display and try to imagine myself living there. I could be happy living in any one of these!

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Ann Arbor: For kids of all ages !

29 Jan


In the Winter months we like to catch up on our visits to local museums, on Sunday we drove out to Ann Arbor to do just that. The Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum is located right downtown in an old brick firehouse; with over 250 exhibits in 9 galleries, it is 4 floors of activity and fun! The museum welcomes adults as well as children; their mission is simple: Inspire people to discover the wonder of science, math and technology. As we came in the door we were greeted with the sounds of children and parents at play, moms and dads coax the kids to do this or that while taking a picture with their i phone. There’s so much to do in every direction, we started at the top and worked our way down. Upstairs in the Lights and Optics area is a string-less harp, pluck invisible strings with your fingers to hear beautiful harp tones created by a laser, walk into a small room and your movement is converted into a shadow of rainbow colors, teenagers have a blast with this. The Discovery Room is all about Michigan; examples of our native animals, plants, flowers and lake fish are all on display.  The Country Store is a recreation of a 1920’s era store, complete with tin ceiling, vintage looking lights and wood plank floor you can put on an apron and work behind the counter or pretend you are a customer picking up your weekly supplies; either way it is a big hit with the kids.  There is a Pre-School Gallery specially designed for children age 4 and younger, we watched through the window for a little bit as the kids and parents played together, nothing but smiles there.

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Another exhibit shows how a building is constructed; One side wall takes you through from studs, to insulation to the finished wall and roof.  I liked the World Around You Gallery, they have piano keys on the floor you walk on to play a tune, just like in the movie “Big”, you can also climb a rock wall here. The first floor was the noisiest with activity; here you will find a water table that kids simply cannot get enough of, what is it with kids and putting their hands in water?  They have a full size ambulance you can climb right into, learn how a traffic light or electric motor works. The building has solar panels located on the roof, follow the process of how the sun warms water for our everyday use. Block Party is made up of hundreds of red foam blocks that allow you to construct your own creation; build something small on your own or work with a few friends to make a house. The exhibits are very well done, no matter your age everyone can learn something here. The basement is made up of a series of rooms that can be used for birthday parties, I saw more than one cake being brought in,what a great idea for a child’s  birthday. The museum was getting more crowded as the day went on, it’s good to see people getting out and visiting, we should all take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy such things.

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If you’ve been to Ann Arbor chances are you’ve been to or at least heard of Zingerman’s.  What started out as a deli back in 1982 has grown exponentially into a food paradise. The deli is still housed in the original charming brick building; here you can shop for gourmet foods like  farmhouse cheeses, estate bottled olive oil, smoked fish, varietal vinegar, salami, hearth baked breads, mustards, jams, jellies, coffee and teas…whew! Whether it is cheese from their own creamery or a Vermont cheddar, vanilla from Madagascar or one of their own brownies, Zingerman’s sells only the best. When you walk in the door you are surrounded by food; on the right are loaves of bread, bagels are slid over wooden dowels in stacks, brownies and cookies are also available. To the left is the refrigerated section, glass cases are filled with the finest meats and cheeses; liverwurst, peppered ham, breakfast sausage and Montreal smoked meat, cheese that comes from cows, goats and sheep. Zingermans deli has an aroma all its own! This is where you place your order  if you are having a meal, menu boards hang from the ceiling, each one dedicated to a particular category; it’s nearly impossible to decide. I always enlist help from one of the friendly employees taking orders, I simply tell them what I am in the mood for, you know like roast beef or turkey and let them take it from there. Today Kris and I were going vegetarian, the woman who was helping us suggested a grilled sandwich with cheese, avocado, tomato, and green chilies for a little kick. For a side we picked a pasta salad and on her suggestion a salad with dark greens, radicchio, dried cherries and a shredded cheese. I paid at the register and we shopped around the tight quarters grazing as we went; a piece of bread with olive oil, a sample of tea, apricot jam, etc. There is no longer seating in the original deli, for that you either go outside when weather permits or you head to Zingerman’s Next Door.

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The main floor of Next Door provides tables for dining and retail sales of coffee, desserts, candy and gelato with an incredible selection of each. We took the stairs to the second floor to the dining areas and waited for our food to arrive, which thankfully didn’t take long. The sandwich was huge, I took a first bite and delighted in the mixture of flavors, the crunch of the bread, the creaminess of the avocado, the rich cheese  and the heat of the green chilies, yum! The pasta salad was delicious, the noodles were cooked just right. I’m so glad we took the suggestion to order the green salad it was extremely tasty.  Zingerman’s Next Door can be a bit of a madhouse, but it’s always worth it to stop in. Here you can sample their incredibly creamy gelato, buy one of their gourmet chocolates, have a fantastic espresso drink or an extraordinary dessert; eat it here or take it home, we’ve never been disappointed. Kris grabbed an espresso to go and we were off to our next destination.

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The University of Michigan  Museum Of Natural History  is located on campus in the lovely Ruthven Museum Building. Completed in 1928 the exterior of the building is constructed of brick and stone, step inside to the view rotunda with its beautiful plaster ceiling, marble floor, and wrought iron railings. The museum showcases Michigan’s pre-historic past, wildlife, anthropology and geology with 4 floors of exhibits.  We took the stairs to the fourth floor to begin. The geology area has an extensive display of rocks and minerals, I love looking at the samples and always marvel at the variety of colors and textures.  This floor also features artifacts from human cultures around the world. Down the steps we went, the third floor is all about Michigan; great lakes birds, native mammals, reptiles and amphibians are all here displayed in showcases.  From the wolverine and squirrels to mallards and an entire family of possums. It’s interesting to see the detail of the animals up close but sometimes I wonder where they all came from….I try not to think about it too much. The second floor is the Hall Of Evolution and focuses on pre-historic life.  Fossils, whale skeletons, and dinosaur bones, this museum hosts the largest display of dinosaurs in Michigan.  Here you can get up close to a real Mastodon skeleton, it is enormous! When you look around, it is hard to believe these gigantic beasts once roamed the Earth. We made our final decent to the main floor where we came in. One more look around the rotunda and it was time to go. Ann Arbor has so much to offer from culture to dining, it’s close by and easy to get to, check it out!

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Scenic back-roads: Ann Arbor to Hell

26 Oct

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 In Michigan you have to take advantage of every nice day that comes along, so when presented with a beautiful Autumn day jump in the car and take a drive. The Ann Arbor area has some of south eastern Michigan’s most scenic roads, so that’s where we headed.  First stop lunch. Located on S Division at Packard( Krazy Jim’s is now located at 304 S Ashley St) is a tiny unassuming little storefront with a bright red awning. You’d never know by looking at it that this place has been serving up some of the best burgers around since 1953. This is the home of Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger, the burgers have won numerous “best of” awards for years and was even featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” back in 2008. There’s a reason for all of this attention: these guys know hot to make burgers, they even grind their own meat.

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There are certain rules to ordering here, which of course, we were not aware of. If you aren’t doing it right, they’ll let you know, and being a first-timer is no excuse. You order cafeteria style, each patron is give a tray that you slide along the counter, stopping at each station, or cook. First up, the fryer; what will it be? Fries, onion rings, or a pile of mixed veggies battered and deep fried. Next, tell them how many patties you’d like; 2, 3, 4, or 5, you must also choose your bun at this point. After that is your choice of grilled items, I went with onions, hot peppers, and mushrooms, the list of options is long and you have to think fast if you don’t want to be scorned. Cheese on your burger? Finally, choose your toppings, such as olives, tomatoes, or pickles, followed by condiments. Finally the whole burger is wrapped up in one of those wax paper sheets; the bun gets steamed from the warmth of the burger and the cheese gets gooey and slides out from under the bun. We took our tray loaded with 2 burgers, fries and a pile of veggies over to the window seats and dug in, now I know what all the fuss is about. We finished lunch and headed North on Main street to Huron River Drive , the road starts just as Main is merging onto M-14 , don’t blink or you’ll miss it .

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Huron River Drive is one of the prettiest roads around, it hugs a portion of  the Huron River as it twists and turns through 5 counties and 13 Metro Parks and State Recreation Areas. The river travels a total of 136 miles to the mouth of Lake Erie and is the only state designated scenic river in south east Michigan. We left downtown Ann Arbor and headed north west on Huron River Drive, the scenery is picturesque, especially this time of year. Canoes and kayaks paddle along the calm water, groups of cyclists hold tight to the shoulder as swans float along gracefully. Large windowed homes watch over the activity from their perch up on the hilltops. The view changes with each curve of the road and it’s wonderful. The speed limit is low, 35, and there are no stop signs in this section so you can truly enjoy the ecologically diverse surroundings. Huron River Drive ends in Dexter,  from there we hung a left, cut through town and continued on to Jenny’s Farm Market.

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Jenny’s has been one of our favorite places to visit in Autumn for years. You enter the market area through a covered patio, here you will find glass jars filled with items like sweet hot pickles, a variety of salsa’s, jams, pickled vegetables, maple syrup and apple butter. Walk up to the counter to purchase a gallon of cider and Jenny’s delicious pumpkin donuts, check out the homemade pies and pumpkin bread too. Make your way back outside to visit the animals; donkeys, horses, baby cows and goats all vie for your attention (well, ok they may be looking for food). The animals are friendly and you are close enough that you can pet them too, they’re all so cute. Other activities include a straw maze, hayrides and pony rides for kids, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves here. If you’re in need of decorative items for your home, look no further; cornstalks, mums, and of course an abundance of pumpkins are available.

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From the market we took lovely Dexter-Pinckney Road north; this stretch of road winds through the countryside passing small lakes, charming homes and marshy areas. We made our left on Darwin Road and knew we were going straight to Hell, Hell Michigan that is.  With a name like Hell you have to make the most of it, and the owners of Screams Ice Cream and Miniature Golf have done just that! Inside Screams every day is Halloween; decorations, costumes, and scary masks. There is also a great variety of “Hell” T-shirts, to let everyone know you’ve been to, well…..Hell. We passed on the ice cream and played miniature golf instead.  When it comes to miniature golf, except for the rare miracle shots where I have gotten a hole-in-one I suck, my husband on the other hand plays well, and always wins. The 18 hole course continues the campy Halloween/haunted theme, it is clever, and a lot of fun. Outside there are several large sheets of plywood painted with scenes and a devil or Big Foot with the face missing, just waiting for you to insert yours for those awesome souvenir photos. To one side of Screams runs Hell Creek where there is a small dam, the Dam Site Inn restaurant sits here in case get hungry on your travels. If you find yourself with nothing to do on a gorgeous Autumn day, go to Hell.

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Ann Arbor; Kerrytown, Kosmo, Barton Dam

5 Aug

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Ann Arbor is one of those cities where you never run out of things to see and do. We took a drive out on Sunday, but didn’t have a lot of time to spend in town. It was already near lunchtime so we went directly to the Historic Kerrytown District. Kerrytown Market & Shops has a lot to offer; one large building divided up into many individual spaces. It’s fun to ramble the hallways and check out the shops; There’s a lovely antique shop on the second level, vintage items are laid out in eye-catching displays, many have been re-purposed. A children’s toy store bustles with activity, items arranged in the window draw in kids of all ages, and you can smell the spice store even before you see it! The lower level is all about food; a seafood market offers the freshest fish and homemade chowder, if you’re really hungry have a seat at the counter and enjoy a meal. An oil & vinegar shop allows you to sample both in flavors you have never dreamed of, I wonder if they would mind if next time I brought a nice baguette for dipping.The wine shop stocks a great variety of bottles and the prices won’t give you sticker-shock.  Sparrow market encompasses a large area that sells fresh produce, gourmet and organic goods.The market area is a bit cramped, which to me makes it all the more interesting; when you are inspecting the shelves be sure and scan from the top, all the way to the floor. The bakery always has something tempting in their showcase, if you see a Whoopie Pie, buy it!  

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Enough shopping, time to eat. We like to have a seat on one of the colorful stools along the stainless steel counter at Kosmo. That way we can eat and do some people watching at the same time. This tiny Korean-inspired spot is always busy, with low prices and good food it’s easy to see why. The menu is located on the wall behind the counter, colorful hand-drawn graphics and descriptions help you decide. After you place your order scope out the cool muraled ceiling, and wait for your order to arrive via the robot’s mouth…….really. Our favorite is the Bi Bim Bap; served in a large metal bowl over rice, you choose the vegetables. We like the zucchini, mushrooms, daikon and tofu, and true to form it is topped off with a fried egg. As soon as it arrives I like to take the serving spoon and break up the egg, warm yellow yolk coats the brown rice and veggies. It is served with their own Korean hot sauce, thick and red this sauce has a bit of a sweet side to it. For a side you have to try the Twigim; fresh vegetables such as onions, green beans, sweet and white potatoes cut into chunks. battered and deep fried, think tempura with a kick. The batter is light and crispy, be careful it arrives hot. They make a sauce for this too, also on the sweet side, people can’t seem to get enough of it, soft drinks are served in cans. We find the wait staff very friendly, and the atmosphere fun.

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When we are in the A2 area a trip down Huron River Drive is mandatory. The road runs along the Huron River, mimicking its curves. There is a bit of elevation change here and many exquisite homes take advantage of it; perched up high they have an incredible view. There is no shortage of parks and trails, the river provides the perfect natural environment. We stopped in at the Barton Nature Area to have a look at the dam. Originally constructed in 1913 as a hydroelectric dam, at nearly 35 feet high, it is extremely impressive. We parked the car and walked the short trail to the dam, a stairway leads you to the top where you can overlook Barton Pond. What a sight; Splendid homes line the perimeter of the pond, benches allow you to relax and enjoy the view. There is a metal walkway that bridges the dam, it’s kind of a spooky feeling to be standing at the top looking through the open metal grating as thousands of gallons of water rush beneath you. It was another hot day and the mist off the waterfalls was refreshing. The dam still produces hydroelectric power today and generates 4.2 million kWh a year. A great piece of historic engineering worth a visit!

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