Tag Archives: Detroit Vintage

DETROIT: Cabin Fever…

29 Jun

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Thomas Palmer, a Detroit resident, U.S. Senator, American ambassador to Spain and land owner—farming 640 acres of land that included orchards, cattle and Percheron horses, in what is now Palmer Park, married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Pitts Merrill in 1855. By 1885 Lizzie was looking for a place to escape the traffic, noise and crowds of Detroit. Her husband presented her with plans for a rustic cabin, built to her specifications, on land he owned along Woodward Ave, which at that time was considered out in the country; the cabin would be used  for entertaining and as a summer retreat. The team of George Mason (Masonic Temple) and Zachariah Rice (The Grand Hotel and DYC) designed the cabin which was completed in 1887.

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Nearly 130 years later the cabin still stands on its original spot. Eventually Palmer gifted the land and cabin to the City of Detroit, in 1897 the area was officially designated Palmer Park. Once a year the People for Palmer Park and the City of Detroit open the cabin to the public, today is Log Cabin Day. We follow the sidewalk along Lake Frances, a young girl expertly riding a Penny-farthing (or High Wheeler) passes by. We approach the cabin, volunteers are dressed up in 1880’s clothing, we hear musket blasts coming from the Civil War camp in the distance, the 102nd USCT  history group is putting on a demonstration. A policeman sits atop a beautiful horse, visitors have gathered waiting for their chance to pet the majestic animal. Behind the cabin the Saline Fiddlers Philharmonic play American folk, fiddle and bluegrass tunes as Appalachian step dancers perform on a makeshift stage, these high-schoolers are impressive.

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Walking around the cabin we pause to look at the building, it was constructed with trees harvested from the surrounding forest, awnings are made from split logs. The structure is in need of repair, the fireplace exteriors are shrouded in tarps that have seen better days. Cheery flowers have recently been planted in front, flowering shrubs are in full bloom, members of PFPP have been hard at work on the cabin. Inside, historians dressed in period attire speak about the Palmer family, they tell us about the cabin with its stone fireplaces, pocket doors, wooden floors and the indoor toilette–something that was unheard of in those days. The stairway is central in the house, the woodwork is in remarkably good shape, pretty fancy for a cabin. The home had 21 lovely stained glass windows, volunteers demonstrate the expensive restoration process, the remaining windows are protected by metal screens, a donation jar nearby is stuffed with 1 and 5 dollar bills. In another room the Detroit Unity African-American Quilters show off their handiwork, photographs and postcards cover the walls sharing Detroit history and memories. The American Jewel stove is the highlight of the kitchen, from where I’m standing I can feel cold air seep from under the cellar door. A continuous stream of visitors make their way from the front to the back door.

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Outside, a cast of 7 from Project Daydream is performing Cinderella, Guernsey Dairy is handing out scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, kids and grown-ups are hard at work creating hats out of paper bags, scraps of material, ribbons, feathers and beads for the Mad Hatter contest. We see more members of The Wheelman group wearing vintage clothing and riding antique bikes. CJ Forge Blacksmithing demonstrates the craft of creating hand-forged items. We check out the bright yellow International pick-up truck, cool. The Detroit Mounted Police Unit moved to Palmer Park in 2010, we visit the horses, they seem to appreciate the company, leaning their heads against the fence hoping for a pet. Palmer Park is truly an urban oasis with 296 acres of lawns, historic woodlands, Lake Frances, hiking and biking trails. Be sure and check out all of the activities PFPP offers throughout the year.

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Kuzzo’s Chicken &Waffles is just minutes away, we’ve written about them before, but you can never have too much chicken & waffles. We slip in just as a number of tables leave, good timing. Today’s special is Motor City Blues; a blueberry Belgian waffle served with 3 chicken wings or tenders, we love the tenders. The waffle is delicious, beyond delicious if that’s possible; studded with sweet, juicy blueberries, dusted with powdered sugar and a scoop of butter, drizzled with maple syrup, YUM! The biscuits and gravy are a must; flaky, moist biscuits served with a bowl of creamy sausage gravy……enough said. We still have yet to try one of those fancy layered Kool-aid drinks served up in Mason jars–next time.

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Driving down 8 Mile Rd we notice the sandwich board on the sidewalk for Detroit Vintage, we drive around the block, park in back and stop in for a coffee. The building has been in the owners family since 1956 when it was the Paris Inn restaurant, the current incarnation is a whimsical, eclectic, coffee shop/tea room/espresso bar/gallery/boutique. Attractive displays fill the space; antique, vintage, interesting items are stacked, layered and hung. Seating areas are tucked in among the whimsy. Glass-domed dishes contain Italian creme, lemon pound and triple chocolate cakes, cookies and cupcakes look equally tasty. We make ourselves comfy, drinking iced coffee as we take in strings of white lights, large red stars, clocks, sconces and a bicycle that hangs from the rafters. What an absolutely delightful place.

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Here and There in the Metro…

6 Mar


It was one of those lazy Sunday mornings, our only concrete plan was to check out the Royal Oak Flea Market. Although the activity starts bright and early (8am), it goes on until 3pm, giving us plenty of time to get there and browse. You don’t have to be a collector to enjoy a visit to the flea market; contained in the building is a fascinating array of items both new and old. There are things to wear, books to read, toys that bring back memories. Stuff for your yard, gourmet caramel corn and a coffee stand, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg…..

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 We parked in the adjacent lot and took a look around at the outdoor items first, often this is where you will find the bigger items such as furniture. Inside a large array of tables await your arrival; set up into rows and aisles each flaunts it’s own unique display. There’s so much to see, it’s hard to know where to start; it’s  fun to look around, you never know what you might find. Creative types get clever with discarded items, making them into cool things such as lamps and birdhouses. Vintage toys are painted in primary colors and decorated with clown faces; noisemakers and horns look nearly new, I assume this is because at some point parents couldn’t take the commotion and hid them away. Jewelry abounds; watches, earrings, bracelets and rings; their age spans the decades. Camera’s, beer steins, record albums and signs, tea cups, sports cards, antique radios and colored glassware, what’s not to like? Each time you go the selection is a little different, but always worth the visit. 

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While Royal Oak certainly has an abundance of restaurants, today I had something different in mind. Loui’s Pizza in Hazel Park, located on Dequindre between 9 and 10 mile, is  just a short drive from Royal Oak. I grew up on “Detroit” style pizza; it’s square pizza that’s not too thick, and not too thin. The dough is flavorful, the edges are a little dark, and the crust has a distinct crunch, there’s nothing else like it! As you enter the unassuming building you are greeted by framed photos of famous people that have had the pleasure of eating here, there are reviews clipped from newspaper, and artwork done by Loui’s patrons. Step into the dining room and it seems as if you have been transported to a previous decade; the main color of the decor is dark pink…..in a good way…. A large square soffit, painted pink and dusted in glitter, hangs from the center of the dining room, dangling from the edges are empty straw-wrapped Chianti bottles. It is a tradition for customers to “autograph” the bottles and leave them to be hung up for display. Booths line the mirror covered walls, pink miniature lights hang in clusters against the mirrors intermixed with more bottles. The main dining area consists of tables that can easily be pulled together to accommodate large groups.  Probably the two most popular items are the pizza (of course) and the antipasto salad. The salad is served in large glass bowls; crisp iceberg lettuce is adorned with petite cubes of ham, salami, cheese and slices of tomatoes. Louis Tourtois Sr himself came up with the recipe for the house vinaigrette, tossed right into the salad it’s absolutely delicious! The pizza, well, what more can I add to what I’ve already said? Ours was perfectly cooked, slightly charred on the edges, loaded with delicious toppings, then topped off with a nice coating of tasty red sauce. A small is four pieces, there was none left to take home. Louis Sr, Jr, and the III have been serving up their own unique pizza’s for 35 years, if you’re like me, one taste and you’ll be hooked.

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If you’ve ever driven north on Mound Road at Chicago you may have noticed Kuhnhenn Brewing Company on the east side of the road. Originally Lutz Harware, the Kuhnhenn family decided to take a chance and turn it into a brewery when a large chain hardware store opened just a half mile away. Bret and Eric Kuhnhenn were no strangers to the brewing process; they had sold home brewing supplies for years out of their hardware store and were home brewers themselves. The space has been transformed into an 8-barrel micro-brewery and brew-on-premise shop and has earned a loyal following. It was my first visit, something I had been looking forward to for some time. I was surprised the space was so large, the bar takes center stage, high top tables fill the rest of the room. The “menu” is impressive, be sure to click on their link to see for yourself. I had planned on a glass of dark beer, but after the pizza a glass of wine sounded more appealing. I took my time perusing the menu, best known for their German style Hefeweizen, they have a long list of core beers in addition to seasonal brews. I had no idea they offered such a wide variety of wines; Fruit wines, Red, White and Sweet Wines, something for every taste. On our servers advice I had a glass of the Green Apple Riesling, it was excellent! Light and fresh tasting, with a hint of green apple, just what I was looking for. Kris went with the Creme Brulee Java Stout, WOW! is that good, next time I’ll get that. Pizza, cheese plates and Dan’s Sausage are also available. Kuhnhenn’s is a great place to hang out with a group of friends and enjoy some really wonderful beverages.

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