Tag Archives: Historic home tour

DETROIT: Mid Century

14 Aug

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Detroit’s Historic Palmer Woods is a 188 acre subdivision best known for its lavish homes, winding streets and early residents named Fisher, Van Dusen, Burton, Prentis, Sanders and Briggs. Landscape architect Ossian Cole Simonds is responsible for the rural feel of the neighborhood; mature trees, no curbs, spacious, irregular-shaped lots, no two are the same. From the mid-teens to the late 1920’s this is where the rich built elegant (mostly) Tudor-style homes on streets called Wellesley, Suffolk, Gloucester, Balmoral and Strathcona, very England-like. After the war styles began to change; half timbers, steeply-pitched roofs, mullioned windows and high chimneys were replaced with concrete, pane glass, steel, brass and geometric patterns. Wealthy professionals were still lured to the beauty and seclusion of Palmer Woods, the houses they built distinctly reflect this new Mid-Century Modern design.

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It’s a beautiful July afternoon, we’re in Palmer Woods for the 2017 Home and Garden Tour; this year 5 Mid-Century homes and 8 gardens are open to the ticket-buying public. We pick up our tour map at the check-in station, after a quick look at the addresses we park in a central location and begin. Kris and I love mid-century design; clean lines, glass walls, open floor plans and organic curves. Homes such as this tend to be more horizontal, it’s gorgeous; deep,open spaces, the fireplace is long and low, white interior walls, columns add interest; unique sliding doors separate rooms. Glass walls bring the outdoors in, the pool and garden seem integrated into the house.

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Approaching the next house I point out the Modbox mailbox, it hints at what we will find inside… The interior is mid-century fantastic! It’s a time warp. Room decor and furnishings recreate the era perfectly, the recessed ceiling backlit in rose is outstanding. Blonde wood, slate floors, fabulous lighting, bold wallpaper, original built-in stereo, wow. Then we descend to the basement. Tiki Paradise. Seriously. Where should I begin? How about the exotic lighting, plant groupings, bamboo, thatch, tikis. How about the wall of Tiki memorabilia? More tiki mugs than I’ve ever seen in one place, hula girls, birds, vintage menus from the Kahiki. There’s a bar with cool stools, an awesome table and chairs and of course, a tiki chess set, more fabulous wallpaper, very Polynesian. In the backyard the mid-century theme continues, even the birds live in stylish houses.

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The map leads us past great Modern architecture, down pathways alongside houses into lovely garden retreats. Down the block a newly installed metal sculpture sits on the front lawn of the “Butterfly House” designed by William Kessler in 1956, beautiful gardens surround it. Stone benches, tall grasses, Cardinal Flower, Elephant Ear Caladium and grass pathways give the yard a naturalized feel. One of my favorite features of mid-century architecture is the courtyard; ivy covers the ground in this one, a delicate red maple adds color and interest. A peek through the back glass wall reveals a modern interior with colorful art accents.

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Moving on,  this house is a bit unusual in appearance but there’s no mistaking it’s modern influence. The docent standing near the front door tells us a bit about the home, we learn it was built in the 1960’s by Florine Mark, you know, Weight Watchers, that Florine Mark. We step inside and are awed by what we see. I would guess not much has changed since Florine lived here. Slate floor, dark wood panels, field stone half-walls with built-in planters, decorative aluminum screens and the bar….. This is one of the coolest built in bars I’ve seen, kind of triangular in shape with overhead panels, a column with shelves to hold glasses, even a place to rest your feet. Check out the parquet floor, the modern design of the plaster ceiling, love the corner fireplace. The dining room with the grass weave cabinets, the big brass round surround of the door knobs,how about that Nutone intercom, the double ovens, built-in speakers. The living room and family room are outstanding too, the ceiling fixtures rock;  like I said everything still looks original. One of the docents told us there are scales built into the bathroom floors upstairs, I guess that explains her trim figure.

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As we walk down neighborhood streets  I begin to notice a lot more of the Mid-Century homes, many have distinct features like wrap-around corner windows, fluted glass, teak wood and architectural details.We visit several beautifully landscaped gardens; mounds of Hostas, neatly trimmed shrubs, hydrangeas in full bloom, cozy seating areas, ponds and even a waterfall. The spaces are tranquil, peaceful, urban retreats.

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The last home on the tour is a large brick multi-level house with a huge front lawn. The interior retains many of the original features like the built-ins, field stone fireplace, paneling, indirect lighting, I’m not sure what the knobs in the wall do… Behind a pair of what appears to be closet doors is an awesome bar. Clearly having your own bar was a ‘thing’, this one is pretty sweet, love the mirrors. We exit the back door into a huge yard complete with an inviting in-ground pool. More field stone makes up a back garden wall, I really like the concrete dolphin, I wonder if it’s old or new?

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Our last stop on the tour is the garden at the Dorothy Turkel House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Detroit. Completed in 1956, it’s a 2-story beauty in the Usonian style. We are lucky enough to have been inside the house before, this is our first look at the recently completed gardens. The owners of this home also own Blossoms florist in Birmingham and Detroit so I’m expecting something spectacular—I’m not disappointed. The grounds are lush, art, statues and accents are tucked into the landscape.

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Hydrangeas strain to stand upright, metal-framed spheres add interest to an already beautiful space. Hostas form massive mounds, a pea gravel path leads us to a pond with a low fountain. Turquoise glass forms look like they are growing from the earth, abundant foliage provides a colorful background. Near the house a deer statue is perched on a pedestal. On the patio we study the Lego version of the Turkel House, it seems the builder has captured every detail; it looks like quite a soiree. We roam through the gardens again noticing things we missed the first time; shiny silver balls threaded on metal stakes, the rusty man near the tree. The simplicity of the of the house,  just glass and concrete, make it so visually appealing, it becomes part of the landscape, the way man and nature come together is truly stunning.

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We’re having a late lunch at Alley Taco . After operating out of Marcus Market they have a new space on Willis to call home. Serving up California-style Mexican food from tacos and burritos to tortas and melts they have earned a loyal following. The inside of the restaurant is a combination of reclaimed wood, blacktop counters and wheat-pasted newspaper and poster walls. The menu hangs behind the register, we order then take a seat on the patio. Before we know it plates of Mexican delights are placed in front of us. I try the bowl-ritto first, tasty shredded chicken, beans, tomatoes, cheese and herbs on a bed of rice, it’s really good. We chose the bbq sweet potato, chorizo and crispy fish for our 3-taco combo, each distinctly delicious. There are 4 salsas to choose from including “hot 2 death”.  This casual and flavorful eatery is a great addition to Midtown.

MARSHALL: Cool Old Stuff !

24 Dec

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We are navigating west across the mitten to the charming hamlet of Marshall. Home of the nation’s largest National Historic Landmark Districts, in the Small Urban category, over 850 buildings are included in the landmark; the city has been referred to as “a virtual textbook of 19th century American architecture”, the heart of the Midwest’s “Prettiest Painted Places” and one of America’s “Dozen Distinctive Destinations”, that’s quite a reputation. Money to build such enviable structures came as a result of the Michigan Central Railroad, Patent Medicines Industry and agriculture; did you know Marshall lost out to Lansing as Michigan’s state capital by 1 vote? We have tickets for the 35th Annual Candlelight Walk, there’s plenty of time to explore before then.

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We park on W Michigan Ave, the streetscape is straight out of the 19th Century; buildings are constructed of brick and stone, each one distinct, wires strung from one side of the street to the other support miniature lights and decorative garlands, wreaths hang from light posts; it could be a scene in a Hallmark Christmas movie! At one time 18 general stores lined the main street, 16 of them served liquor by the glass, seems like a good idea to me….. Strolling down Michigan Ave we duck into The Mole Hole, Scott Smith is playing the Barton Theatre Organ, Christmas melodies fill the air, the gift shop is brimming with holiday decorations. Winter villages in showcases resemble Marshall itself, trees are bejeweled with ornaments and lights, snowflakes, candy canes and Santas fill shelves.  Shoppers gather around the organ, it’s fascinating to watch the organist at work; hands fly across the keys, feet pump pedals, resulting in the one of a kind sound that can only come from a pipe organ. A glass pane in the wall allows us to watch the pipes at work. 

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Down the street an old Rexall Drug Store sign piques our interest, a historical plaque informs us that Hemmingsen Rexall Drug Store was founded in 1855 and has provided more than 100 years of continuous service. At another pretty storefront belonging to a dentist, two giant molars are mounted to the facade, we walk into the tiled exterior foyer to look at the old-fashioned dental tools and accessories on display in large windows—my teeth hurt just looking at the stuff! At a little antiques shop, groupings are arranged by color, it’s very eye-catching. Items span the decades from the old metal toy trucks and tractors to the late 70’s, fun!  Serendipity is just the kind of boutique a group of girlfriends would love to shop; gourmet food, original artwork, tea accessories, serving pieces, decorative items, my friends and I could easily fill a few shopping bags. 

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Close by, a trio of blue bar stools are attracting attention in the front window of Amazing Grace, the kind of funky vintage shop Kris and I enjoy investigating. Mannequins are dressed up in interesting attire; clothing, furniture, lighting, accessories, figurines and loads of other unique items are for sale. Up on the second floor we get an up-close look at the stunning tin ceiling, painted white, for some reason it reminds me of a wedding cake. Kitchen items, souvenir pennants, quirky hats, rotary telephones and even a few parasols make this an awesome place to look around. The shopping district enjoys a nice variety of businesses and museums all housed in buildings more than 100 years old, there are 45 historical markers and plaques in the city, preservation has always been a priority in Marshall.

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On the sidewalk ahead a sign advertises the American Museum of Magic, it’s the largest magic museum in the United States open to the public, who knew? The Victorian-style building is gorgeous, inside we pay the $5 admission and begin to wander around; I, like most folks, have always been fascinated by magic, Houdini, Thurston, Blackstone and Henning are all familiar names. From the famous to the obscure, the museum celebrates magicians and their magic. Pale yellow walls are plastered with heralds, hand bills, window cards and show bills. Devices, apparatus, photos and artifacts cram display cabinets and fill floor space. Probably the most popular is Houdini’s “Milk Can” and “Overboard Box”, amazing! Clare Cummings, who was “Milky the Twin Pines Magic Clown” donated most of his magic tricks to this museum as did Blackstone who was from Michigan. We move slowly from one area to another, there’s much to read and look at; crates, trunks, cabinets and costumes used in illusions, they even have one of those long wooden boxes where the magician saws the beautiful assistant in half, it’s so cool to see them up close. We climb the stairs and follow the narrow hall into another exhibit area, there’s a performance space with seating, more cases filled with memorabilia, masks, souvenirs and everyday products that came with mail-in offers for magic tricks, hey, they have Pen & Teller’s suits. Harry Blackstone’s mummy case rests on the floor, a placard explains how the trick worked. The collection does a splendid job introducing us to magicians, illusionist, hypnotists, their tricks, their stories and entertains us as well.

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Marshall is also known as the home of Schulers Restaurant & Pub, a century-old, family owned eatery in a former a hotel, it’s one of those must-go-to places. We step inside the historic building and find it bustling with people; it’s a Saturday in December, this is the perfect gathering place to meet friends and family. A small section is devoted to retail sales of Schuler’s own baked goods and pantry items from other Michigan businesses. We are led to the dining room, handed menus and the infamous cheese and crackers are left on the table. I think it was a tie between Kris and I as to who got to the crackers first! As we nibble we take in the quaint room; checkered cloths cover tables, Poinsettia are placed throughout, a fire roars in the large stone fireplace, historical murals and photographs cover the walls. Throughout the space quotes like “It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives”, “Music is the universal language of mankind” and other famous sayings are painted on the wooden beams; some are witty, others, thought-provoking, it’s wonderful! The fourth generation of Schuler’s currently run the business that turned 100 in 2009, that’s an accomplishment.

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Just as we finish the salad our veggie burger arrives; the patty is made from quinoa, black bean, oats and cilantro, we asked for ours on the homemade focaccia, topped with horseradish mayo, guacamole, onion straws, tomato and fresh greens, it’s outstanding! Truly delicious, it could be one of the best veggie burgers we’ve ever had. Our server asks us if we’d like to see the dessert menu, what the heck. We find two items particularly appealing, ask the server her opinion, then give in and order the Signature Pecan Ball. She’s back in a flash with a large ball of vanilla bean ice cream rolled in roasted sweet pecans, drenched in hot fudge (and on her suggestion) hot caramel. I am taking a slight pause here as I revel in the memory of the awesomeness…………..

We’re just going to sit back and relax for a while before moving on to our next activity. In the words of Bernie Wolf, “Take time to play–it is the secret of perpetual youth”.

Detroit: Historic Boston Edison Holiday Home Tour

27 Dec

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Detroit is home to several historic neighborhoods; through the years some of these neighborhoods have put together annual home tours, one of my favorites is the Boston-Edison Holiday Home Tour. The Boston Edison Historic District is made up of over 900 single family homes encompassing four streets: W. Boston Blvd, Chicago Blvd, Longfellow and Edison between Woodward and Linwood.  Most of the homes were built between 1905-1925, popular architectural styles of the time include: English Tudor Revival, Greek Revival, French Provincial, Italian Renaissance and Prairie style. The location of the neighborhood and close proximity to Henry Ford Hospital made it a desirable place to live, many of the wealthy movers and shakers of Detroit took residence here: Henry Ford, SS Kresge, B Siegel, Horace Rackam, Ira Grinell, James Couzens, Ty Cobb, 4 of the 7 Fisher brothers, Joe Louis, Berry Gordy, and Walter Briggs, to name a few…….They say that Mr. Sanders and Mr. Vernors, who both lived on Boston Blvd,  one day combined Sanders Vanilla Ice Cream and Vernors ginger ale, they liked it so much they decided to name the concoction after their shared street, thus creating The Boston Cooler.

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The home tour is a fundraiser for the Boston Edison association, proceeds go to their general fund, with a portion put aside for beautification projects in the neighborhood. This is a well organized tour; tickets are only sold in advance, you choose your tour time when you order your tickets. The tour begins at Sacred Heart Seminary; here you check in and trade your ticket for a tour book, at your designated tour time you climb aboard an awaiting school bus that takes you to all five homes. Tours are limited to 30 people, you have your own personal tour guide who actually lives in the neighborhood, they can tell some great stories! As the bus travels through neighborhood streets your guide will point out significant houses; The Charles T Fisher house at 18,000 sq ft is the largest house in Boston-Edison, the SS Kresge home built in 1914 in the Mediterranean Villa style is the largest lot in the neighborhood, on your left is the former home of JL Hudson, you get the idea…..the list of families who lived here is quite impressive.

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We had brought along a friend who is working on getting her architecture license, we were sure she would enjoy the homes as much as we would. Our first stop was on Longfellow Ave, a charming 3-story home built in 1920. Purchased only 4 months ago, the current owners have done a lovely job making it their own. The Pewabic tile fireplace surround is superb. Over to Boston Blvd next, first occupied in 1920, the current owners have lived here for two years, this house still has its original built in Frigidaire, and a stunning Pierpont mirror in the upstairs hall.The decorative plaster in the living room is splendid and gives the room a formal feel. Chicago Blvd was next, this home was built in 1919 in the Georgian Revival style, current owners have lived here since 1994. Through the years they have done an amazing job keeping the original features of the home while personalizing it, they have wonderful whimsical collections all through the house. This home retains its original tile roof and window shutters. Just across the street was house #4, a gorgeous English Tudor built in 1928. I have a soft spot for the Tudor style, and this one took my breath away. Heavily textured plaster work  throughout the home, the fireplace mantel and surround in the living room features an intricate design that matches the molding around the ceiling, the dining room boasts 2 sets of french doors and a raised plaster design that forms a ring on the ceiling. The current homeowners  bought the house five years ago. The last home on the tour was on Edison Ave, built in 1914 the current owner has lived here since 2003. While the exterior is an example of American Eclectic style, the interior has definite Arts and Crafts influences, another style I love. I’d have to say the dining room was my favorite room in the house, the Arts and Crafts style prevailed here, from the stained glass light over the dining room table, to the furniture itself and the leaded glass windows. The french doors leading to the living room carry over the same leaded glass pattern as the windows and are enchanting. I was glad to see our friend was as enthused as we were in each home. Many people are unaware of the the array of historic homes and neighborhoods in Detroit.

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After visiting the last home on the tour, our bus took us back to Sacred Heart Seminary; here we could have cookies in the Cardinal Mooney room, and check out old photos of the historic district and it residents. When finished, we walked down the hall to the seminary chapel. Bishop Gallagher had the seminary built in 1924 in the English Tudor and Gothic architectural style. The chapel itself is Gothic and features stunning stained glass windows imported from Munich Germany. The Fisher brothers were chief donors in the building of the sanctuary, I would say no expense was spared. The sanctuary furniture, choir stalls and credence table are all carved from solid oak, the craftsmanship is incredible. The floor from the front pew forward to the wall is Pewabic Tile, I have never seen it so shiny! The sanctuary window above the alter is a true piece of religious art, I can’t imagine how astonishing it would look with the bright sun shining through it.  It’s the kind of place you walk in and the pure sight of it makes you draw in a breath, after staring for a little bit you begin to breathe normally again. I have been in here maybe a dozen times and I still do that.  I like to take a seat near the entrance and watch the look on people’s faces as they enter the chapel, everybody seems to have the same reaction, like they can’t believe what they are seeing. Every inch of the chapel is beautiful, from the ceiling panels and chandeliers to the alter piece and floor.

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The cookies seemed to rev up our appetite, we wanted to take our friend  somewhere she had never been for lunch before, so we chose Traffic Jam & Snug on Canfield and Second. The menu is huge and vegetarian friendly so everybody can find something they like here. Inside there seemed to be a buzz, it was more crowded than the typical Sunday afternoon, then I remembered: Traffic Jam was recently featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. This place is wonderful; the large interior is decorated in an eclectic style, vintage items hang on the walls and sit on shelves. They have their own in-house bakery, micro-brewery, and dairy….they make their own beer, cheese and ice cream! Traffic Jam was actually the very first Brew Pub in the state of Michigan. We were seated in a roomy booth and given the task of deciding what to eat, they have their regular menu and a specials menu, they don’t make it easy do they?

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Between the three of us we ordered the Traverse City Salad, the Tex-Mex Lentil Burger, and the Pork Loin Kamatsu Salad. The Kamatsu Salad was featured on D,D & Dives; it’s a panko encrusted pork loin pan fried, topped with salad greens, arugula, berries and red onion. It is dressed with a fresh herb vinaigrette and garnished with hot sauce jelly beans, it is excellent! The pork loin is fork tender and the combination of flavors really works. The burger was large and very tasty, as was the TC Salad. Kris enjoyed a cocktail and we girls reveled in the house brewed Java Porter. It has that nice deep porter color and flavors of coffee and chocolate, so good! Our favorite Traffic Jam dessert is the Carlotta Chocolatta; a slice of rich chocolate cheesecake topped with the best coffee ice cream I’ve had, all doused in house made dark chocolate hot fudge. Though our mouths said “get it”, sadly none of us had any room to spare in our stomachs. There’s always next time!

Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, Grosse Pointe

30 Nov

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When people are on vacation they seem to develop a certain sense of curiosity and adventure, they visit a museum or two, tour a mansion, they drive around a bit, see new things, maybe even try a new type of cuisine.  I’d like to challenge you to take that same sense of adventure and do something you’ve never done right here in the metro Detroit area. Detroit is home to top museums, we have the second largest historic theatre district in the country, fine dining, art and culture. Men of wealth and power lived here, worked here, and changed the world from here, one of those men was Edsel Ford.

Edsel was the only child of Henry and Clara, he began working for his father at a young age and found the automobile business suited him perfectly. Edsel’s wife Eleanor lost her father at the age of twelve, it was then that her family moved in with her Uncle, J.L. Hudson. The fact that they came from affluent families paid a big part in their sense of appreciation for fine things. They were both known as extraordinary and generous, thanks to Eleanor their home is open to the public so we too can experience the beauty and elegance of the past. On an unseasonably warm November day we visited the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House on Lake Shore Drive.


Construction on the home began in 1926, it took one year to build and two additional years to finish the interior. The home was designed by Albert Kahn; the Ford’s traveled with Kahn to England to choose the style of home they desired, there they decided on a Cotswold style home. Paneling and fireplaces were purchased from manor homes across England, rooms were disassembled, shipped to Grosse Pointe, then the pieces were fitted into the home. The exterior is sandstone, vines cover the walls, the roof is made up of hundreds of pieces of slate. The home sits on 3,100 feet of Lake St Clair waterfront, the view is stunning!


Enter through the front door into the main hall, the ceiling is low, it is plaster with a beautifully carved pattern, the walls are sandstone, it feels cozy. A gorgeous Christmas tree sits in front of a large stained glass window. It is an old fashioned tree, green and flocked as if there had just been a snowfall. Elongated ornaments hang from the limbs, these were custom made for Mrs Ford by Ford Motor Company. The tree is a replica of one of Eleanor’s favorites they had put up for a party years ago, the ornaments are the originals. One of my favorite things about visiting this home is that it looks the way it did when the family lived here. These are their furnishings, dishes, books, the things they used in their everyday life. It is thanks to Eleanor’s forethought that we can visit her home; she put the house in a trust so that it would be open to the public. She was devastated when the nearby Dodge mansion was demolished, and did not want her home to share that same fate.

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As you walk from room to room really look around, the paneling is 16th century oak, the carvings are finely detailed, the linen fold amazes me. The stained glass windows are 14th century, fireplaces are centuries old. The Gallery is the largest room in the home, measuring 25 x 60 feet this is where the family held large gatherings. Here you’ll find another carved plaster ceiling, English paneling and a huge Gothic chimney piece. This is a great time of year to visit, the house is decked out for the holidays, the Christmas trees are lovely and many of the ornaments are original. The Fords had purchased many paintings from significant artists, the ones that were donated to the DIA or were taken by the children have been replaced by reproductions, some originals still hang. Yes, the house is huge, but each room has it’s own feel, the rooms are decorated and arranged in such a way that they feel welcoming and comfortable. I think I like the dining room the most; furnished in dark Pine from a 1740 home in England, it is lit only by sunlight during the day and candelight and the glow of the fireplace in the evening, it is a spectacular room. The table is set for a holiday  meal with Mrs Fords china; an elaborate lace tablecloth covers the wooden table, delicate stemware awaits the evening’s wine. Like many homes, they also had a children’s table, this one sits in front of the window overlooking the grounds.

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The Fords raised four children here, the youngest William was only four when they moved in. Their bedrooms were redone as guest rooms after the children moved away, other rooms were updated as well. The modern room is a great example of Art Deco; done in the 1930’s it is still stylish by today’s standards. Everything for this room was custom made, much of it is built-in and bolted to the floor. The Steinway piano is custom made and one of a kind. If you like ultra modern style be sure and check out Henry’s bathroom; the walls are a grey glass called Vitrolite, it’s really cool.  As you may have noticed by now, photos are not allowed inside the home. You are allowed to photograph outdoors and inside the garage, which is where we are heading next.

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The home rests on 87 acres of land, on the property is the main house, gate house, power house, pool house, garage and the playhouse. If you can, walk around a bit outside, the exterior detail on the house is exquisite; simple things like downspouts and brackets are detailed and elegant. If you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of a passing freighter. The grounds were landscaped by Jens Jenson, he also designed the grounds at Henry and Clara’s home in Dearborn. The man made lagoon once opened out onto the lake, but was closed off for the family’s privacy. Be sure and see Josephine’s playhouse; it was a gift to her from grandma Clara in 1930. It is adorable; everything is scaled down to perfectly fit a little girl, it even has electricity and plumbing!

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Walk a little further to the garage; it was built to hold eight cars, and there’s a turntable so you never have to back out of the garage. One of the most impressive vehicles is the 1941 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet, which was designed by Edsel himself, Frank Lloyd Wright called it the “most beautiful car in the world”. It is still one of the most highly thought of designs of all time. The Cabriolet, 1934 Brewster Town Car and the 1938 Lincoln Brougham were all owned by the Ford’s. Check out the kids go-karts.   People from all over the world visit the Ford house, come see it for yourself.

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For lunch we drove to the area of Grosse Pointe known as “The Village”. On the corner of Kercheval and St Clair is a little restaurant called TN Thai. They have a great selection of sushi on the menu, 35 different sushi rolls alone! We have not had their Thai as of yet, but every plate that went by looked appetizing. In the warmer months we like to sit out on the patio, but those days are gone now. We like to start with their Fresh Rolls, these are some of the best we’ve ever had; rolled tight and packed with delicious fillings like tofu, bean sprouts, noodles and cilantro. They serve a cup of soup with all meals, broth based, with bits of cilantro, it’s really good. We’ve never been disappointed with their sushi, and we’ve tried many varieties, today’s was no exception. I love the Jasmine tea either hot or iced, Kris prefers the raspberry iced tea, either way, you can’t go wrong.

DETROIT; Lawrence Fisher House, Aladdin Sweets & Cafe, Lafayette Greens

25 Aug

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There is no shortage of resplendent stately homes in the city of Detroit; the Lawrence Fisher House certainly qualifies for that rank. It has been quite some time since our last visit, so we were anxious to see it again. Let me tell you a little bit about the history first; Lawrence Fisher was one of seven Fisher brothers who formed the company Fisher Body. In 1910 Fisher Body became the supplier of all closed bodies for Cadillac and Buick, by 1914 they became the worlds largest manufacturer of auto bodies. The story goes that in 1926 the brothers sold the company to General Motors for hundreds of millions of dollars, at a time when there was no personal income tax. Not bad eh?

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Lawrence Fisher was characterized as flamboyant, you can definitely see his personality reflected in his home. Designed in 1927 by famed architect C Howard Crane (think Fox Theater), no expense was spared; the exterior resembles a Mediterranean style villa, the interior: anything goes! As you enter the home you find yourself in a small foyer type space, all at once a multitude of visuals vie for your attention; a Pewabic Pottery fountain with striking red and blue tiles built into the wall, large floor tiles trimmed in real gold, light beams through the triple stained glass windows across from the top of the marble stairway. Opposing walls feature hand painted frescoes of the Italian countryside tucked into columned archways, a sizable striking lantern trimmed in wrought iron and detailed in gold hangs from a chain to light the area. Climb the stairs to the second floor to get a closer look at the carved, hand painted wooden ceiling, it is spectacular!

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At 22,000 sq. ft. and only two bedrooms, this house was built for entertaining; they say Fisher was a bit of a playboy, dating Hollywood starlets such as Jean Harlow, his parties were legendary. The once opulent 2-story ballroom has a balcony where the band would play for days on end as champagne flowed from the fountain on the first floor. Fishers quiet time was spent in his personal library; this room is striking with its carved black walnut paneling, hand painted leather wall covering and large fireplace, the beamed ceiling is a work of art. The palatial living room is impressive; beautiful wood is the main feature from the subtle floor to the breath-taking ceiling, it has a distinctly German feel to it. Three large chandeliers are spaced down the middle of the room, matching wall sconces give it a warm glow. Marvelous glass doors adorn the room, letting in an evening breeze or leading to a balcony that overlooks the grounds. Pass through intricately carved doors to the dazzling music room, Wow! The beautiful turquoise walls highlight the metal ceiling we were told was made of brass, the detail is amazing, the original organ still occupies its space. The dining room is one of my favorite rooms in the house, there is not one inch of it that is not decorative; wood-paneled walls, carved walnut columns, marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and another Pewabic fountain featuring their infamous glazed tiles.

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The bedrooms are more subtle but still gorgeous, what I find most interesting are the bathrooms, seriously! Fisher’s mother had her own room at each of her sons homes, the tile in her bathroom is Pewabic and distinctly feminine. In contrast Mr Fishers bathroom is dramatic; bold blue and black tile trimmed in real silver, you have to see it to believe it. It’s incredible from the built-in towel racks and light fixtures to the enclosed shower, there is nothing money can’t buy. This house is truly a one of a kind masterpiece. In 1975 Henry Ford’s Grandson Alfred B Ford and Elisabeth Reuther (daughter of Walter P.) purchased the home and donated it to the Hare Krishna. Now used as the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center it has taken on a distinctly Indian tone in decor and feel, it is an active temple where people come to worship.

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Though still open for tours, it is not your typical home tour, you must bring an open mind and a sense of adventure with you. I saw a sign that listed tours Saturday and Sunday at Noon, 2:00 and 3:30, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that is accurate. You can try calling ahead, leave a message if there is no answer. We just showed up about 12:30 on a Sunday and asked about a tour, a kindly soft-spoken man said he’d be happy to show us around. They were preparing for a celebration later in the afternoon; a great quantity of food was being prepared as the fragrance of curry permeated the air, a great deal of activity was going on indoors and out. Our tour guide himself worships at the temple, so along with information on the house we learned a bit about the Hare Krishna. We were invited to stay for the party but had to decline. Sadly time has taken its toll on this grand old treasure, the money isn’t there to keep up with the maintenance on such a monumental place. Having said that, it is still definitely worth a visit, you’ll never see another one like it!

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There was only one choice for lunch, it had to be Indian food. We’ve heard about a place in Hamtramck we wanted to try called Aladdin Sweets & Cafe on Conant. We parked right out front and went inside, we were there at an off-time so it wasn’t busy. We sat in the newly added room addition with its brightly painted yellow and green walls, our server was very pleasant as he brought us water and menus. They have a great selection of Bangladeshi dishes; some we were familiar with, others, not so much. It’s always fun to order some type of combination plate so you get to taste many different flavors, we went with #56 the Aladdin Platter featuring a nice selection of meats such as Tandoori Chicken, Lamb Tikka, Shrimp, and Shish Kabob. I must have vegetarian Samosa’s whenever we eat Indian food, and theirs were good! We rounded out the meal with something called Shag Paneer; homemade cheese fried and cooked with fresh spinach, we really liked it. If you’ve never had Indian food they offer a buffet for $7.99 which gives you the opportunity to try several different dishes.

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I have been biding my time waiting for Compuware’s first Urban Garden called Lafayette Greens to open. We took a drive over to the space previously occupied by the Lafayette building next to Lafayette/American Coney Island to check on the progress. To my delight the gate was open and we were allowed in to take a look around; What a sight! This space is gorgeous! Rows and rows of waist-high raised beds abundantly filled with vegetable plants, huge yellow squash dangle from a bed, cone-shaped okra wait to be harvested, cucumber plants climb high above the surface. Flowers are mixed in here and there adding a pop of color to the otherwise lush green plants, different varieties of sunflowers add a bit of personality to the view. The garden is a 3/4 acre oasis sitting right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of downtown. The Book Cadillac is a mere stones throw away, I wonder what out-of-town guests will think as they look out their window onto this lovely green space. This years harvest which includes; lettuce, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, onions and green beans will be donated to Gleaners Food Bank, much of the work is done by employees of Compuware who donate their time. It is so unexpected and refreshing to find such a jewel in the city. The grand opening is right around the corner so watch for it, then be sure to come down and check it out!

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