Tag Archives: DAADS

DETROIT: Deco Delights

16 Dec

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As more and more businesses set up shop in Detroit, buildings that have sat vacant for years, even decades, become more desirable. Sometimes these forgotten structures become the spark that ignites interest in an area, other times they are the lone hold-out in an otherwise redeveloping district. DTE Energy has been hard at work improving the area surrounding their headquarters; they added a glass atrium at the base of their main building a few years ago and have since continued to improve the campus. Across the street from DTE is the gorgeous, Art Deco, Salvation Army headquarters building; after sitting vacant for years DTE bought it in 2012, renovated it and renamed it Navitas House–Navitas means ‘energy’ in Latin. This evening we are touring the building with the Detroit Area Art Deco Society (DAADS).

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We arrive at One Energy Plaza, a 25-floor, dark brown skyscraper constructed in 1971 of steel and glass  in the International style of architecture; DAADS is hosting their Holiday Mixer in the lobby.  This is our first time in this building; glass walls soar skyward, city lights glow in the distance, marble floors gleam, appetizer stations are set up for tonight’s event. First we eat, then we mingle, afterwards we have a seat in the carpeted lounge area, DAADS is presenting their Preservation award to DTE in honor of the restoration of Navitas House– visible from the lobby in which we are seated. The presentation is finished, photos taken, we head out to 601 Bagley for the tour.

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It’s dark outside, LED lights trimming the building illuminate it in a changing wash of pink, purple, blue, green and yellow; indirect lighting accents architectural features. We enter through the front doors, a few steps up and we’re in the lobby, we all stop, look around and smile. It’s beautiful; from the terrazzo floors,terracotta block walls, floral patterned grills to the exceptional Art Deco railings, trim and molding–all original. This 3-story, 32,000 sq ft building was constructed in 1938 as the Detroit headquarters for the Salvation Army, which closed the building in 2004. Hamilton Anderson Associates was the architectural firm on the project, they were able to preserve much of the interior elements while making the building energy-efficient for the 140 employees in DTE’s IT department that work here.

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The old auditorium has been converted to work space, offices sit on what was once a stage, decorative panels above the door have been preserved as well as recessed corner columns. We spend the next hour traversing stairways, hallways and work spaces viewing a clever mix of old and new. Lounge areas feature modern furnishings and a great view of the city. In the stairway it’s still 1938, then we pop through a door and enter 2015. Black and white photographs pay homage to old Detroit, authentic building plans are framed and hang on the wall. Original radiators, railings, marble walls and grills intermix with energy-efficient lighting, colorful conference rooms and modern technology, very cool. It seems no expense was spared, this is DTE’s first LEED certified building, we’re so glad to see it alive with purpose again.

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Over on Park Ave. Centaur Bar is tucked into two floors of the Iodent Building. Built in 1923, the Iodent company went from renting a floor to purchasing the structure sometime after WWII–this is where Iodent toothpaste was made, in addition to other toiletries. The Iodent is now home to Centaur, Hot Taco and 11 luxury lofts. The exterior of the building has a few Art Deco elements, it’s the large Centaur (part human, part equine) jutting out near the corner of Park Ave and Montcalm that grabs your eye. The elegant interior has a definite Deco feel, lighting is dramatic; the grand chandelier dips down through a hole from the second floor to just above the bar. Tall narrow windows look out onto the city, in the summer the windows open out onto the sidewalk. High-top tables dot the perimeter of the main floor, liquor bottles rest on shelves of a mirrored wall behind the bar.

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The mezzanine level is home to a pair of billiard tables and several cozy seating areas, here again, you have a great view of the city. We sit on ground level sipping cocktails and chatting with the bartender. There’s a flat screen TV off to the side, they show nothing but old movies; tonight’s feature stars Elizabeth Taylor, the volume is kept off , making conversation easy. The bar and kitchen are open 7 days a week from 4 pm to 2 am, convenient both before and after a show or anytime you feel like chilling out in lovely surroundings.


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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