Tag Archives: Historic Neighborhood

DETROIT: Wanderin’ Around Midtown…

15 Sep

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Detroit is buzzing with economic activity; every week there’s news of a new boutique, bar or restaurant opening. It’s hard to keep up but we’re happy to do our part! Today we’re on Third Street, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is open for business in a modest brick building that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Gus’s came from humble beginnings over 60 years ago in Mason TN, today we can enjoy that same family recipe right here in Detroit. The menu is simple and straightforward: fried chicken and side dishes. We order the 3-piece plate and add sides of fried okra and mac and cheese. The fried chicken is mildly spicy, the skin is crispy, it’s the juiciest chicken I’ve ever had–how do they do that? ‘Plates’ come with baked beans and slaw, both are delicious, there’s a slice of white bread too. We enjoyed the mac and cheese, the okra was good though I thought it could use a dipping sauce. Meals are served on paper plates with plastic silverware and cups. Service is fast and friendly.

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Across the street is the fabulous 1949 Art Moderne building that was once home to the Willis Show Bar. The neighborhood fell into decline, drugs and prostitution became prevalent; the building was boarded up in the 1970’s. Today the sleek exterior of burgundy, peach and green enameled-steel panels is visible once again.  The bar and a small retail space are still undergoing renovations, Blossoms (same owners as the Birmingham location) a florist, is open for business, let’s take a look.

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Extra large planters decorate the sidewalk, leafy plants cascade to the ground, tall grasses and ornamental shrubs add eye appeal. Inside it’s like walking into secret space, a garden room where flowers bloom, topiary share space with statues, branches and columns. It’s organic, earthy, charming, beautiful; the space is much deeper that I expected. I take my time looking at everything, items are carefully chosen and artfully displayed. Speaking of art there’s a small gallery of art for sale at the back of the shop. Canvases hang on chain-link fence draped over olive-green walls. Today there are landscapes, cityscapes and portraits, all amazing.

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One of our favorite neighborhood streets in Detroit is West Canfield, it’s just a couple of blocks away, let’s take a stroll. The property that is now the West Canfield Historic District once belonged to Lewis Cass, Governor of Michigan from 1813-1831. His daughters subdivided and sold the land, in the 1870’s it became an upper middle class neighborhood of mostly Queen Anne’s with some Gothic Revival, Italianate and Second Empire added to the mix. The neighborhood suffered during the Great Depression, in the 1960’s concerned residents formed the Canfield-West Wayne Preservation Association. The neighborhood was awarded the first Historic designation in Detroit; it became a Michigan Historic Site in 1970 and was placed on the National Register in 1971. Having said all of that, this is one gorgeous street!

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The road is granite pavers, reproduction street lamps light Canfield at night. Large homes rise 3-stories with ornamental chimneys, pinnacles and turrets. Constructed of high-quality brick they feature ornately carved wood, stone trim, roomy porches and leaded glass windows. Intricate paint jobs in pretty pallets of green, brown, orange and gold  adorn pendant trim, pointed head windows, balusters and balustrade. Slate roofs resemble fish scales, some have simple patterns. Recent rains have returned the lawn to a lush green, hydrangea wear large blooms. Homes are meticulously maintained, a labor of love I’m guessing. The picturesque street (minus the cars) looks much like it did in the 1890’s. Embracing the past for the future. A small group of red-brick buildings are clustered on Third Street, the Calvary Love Mission Station; photos in the windows show Third Street at various points in time.

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Not far away on the corner of W Alexandrine and the Lodge Service Dr is City Sculpture, a sculpture park featuring the large-scale work of Cass Corridor artist Robert Sestok. This is one of those really cool things you drive by and say “what was that?” So you have to park the car and check it out. The sculptures are laid out in a grid pattern, the tallest one comes in at 12 feet and weighs 4,000 lbs. Made up of welded steel, bronze and stainless steel, the recycled materials give each piece its own personality. Each sculpture stands on a concrete base, a small placard gives the name and year it was created. 

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I enjoy walking through the park, Kris and I point out different elements we like in each. Time and the elements have rusted the metal, it makes a nice substitute for paint. The art feels perfectly at home in the fenced off lot, homes on one side a busy freeway on the other. Take your time and really look at the pieces, you may recognize items from their intended use incorporated into the art. There are intricate cut-outs, metal is coiled and twirled, some have pieces that stick out like quills. Sestok is dedicated to exposing the public to his experimental sculpture work in Detroit, we thank him for that. Check out City Sculpture Jamboree September 30, 2016.

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Road Trip: Dayton

6 Jan

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Weekends are made for adventures. Often we have only 2 or 3 days at a time to get away, making Ohio an obvious destination. In about an hour we can be looking at Masterpieces at the Toledo Museum of Art, in under 3 hours we can be walking around Westside Market in Cleveland, just over 3 hours gets us to Historic German Village in Columbus where we can roam quaint neighborhoods with brick streets and sidewalk cafes. Today we are headed to Dayton, about a 3 1/2 hour ride from the D; it’s just the first stop on our extended getaway spanning the time between Christmas and the New Year. The Jeep is loaded and ready to go, climb in and come along as we explore southern Ohio.

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We haven’t spent much time in Dayton, we’ve visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, which is pretty awesome; this time we’re hitting the streets of downtown Dayton, first stop 2nd Street Market. Who doesn’t love a market? Local vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, wine, chocolate and handmade items line the interior of this historic block-long building. Built in 1911 for B & O Railroad the former freight house was saved from demolition and renovated in 2001, giving the market a year-round presence. Home to about 50 vendors the rustic space is quaint, holiday decorations make it festive today. We stroll the single aisle, grabbing a peanut butter cookie along the way, checking out Ohio-centric items. Artisans offer goods such as jewelry, leather pieces, Alpaca sweaters, scarves and hats, some good old-fashioned Maple syrup. Light seeps through roll-up glass doors, it must be wonderful to have them open in the summer. Cafe tables are full of diners enjoying a snack or lunch from one of the many food stalls.

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A short drive away is the Oregon District, a historic neighborhood and business district in the heart of downtown Dayton. Art displays and colorful graffiti fill the space between the market and the district. The city of Dayton is on the banks of the Great Miami River, the Miami-Erie Canal opened in 1829 bringing wealth and prosperity to the city. The 12-block Oregon Historic District is Dayton’s oldest surviving neighborhood, homes range from simple the architecture of early German settlers to the mansions of prominent citizens on Jackson Street. It has just started to drizzle, we grab our umbrellas and set out for a walk. Red brick Victorian’s and Queen Anne’s grace the streets along with Italianate, Federal and Greek Revival styles.

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Large covered porches are common, quite lovely. Stained glass windows are surrounded by ornate window pediments, gorgeous wooden doors welcome visitors. Here it is common practice to paint the brick, giving owners a wide pallet to choose from; blue, gray, taupe and red all make an appearance. One of the most unusual was a red-brick-beauty decked out in fanciful white trim, a center section of the house is inverted, kind of like a reverse turret, haven’t seen that before.We make our way to the business district, we stop in at Press Coffee Bar to have a coffee and dry out. The space has an open airy feel to it; light wood accented with a painted tin ceiling adds character. The shop roasts and serves Wood Burl Coffee. We order at the counter, before we know it were back outside, cups in hand, meandering down 5th Street.

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5th Street is the heart of the Oregon business district between Patterson and Wayne. Here historic architecture is brought to life with restaurants, bars, galleries and shops. The vintage glass display in the front window of Jimmy Modern draws us inside, a Tulip table and chairs set, fabulous light fixtures and Mid-Century Modern furnishings bring smiles to our faces. The shop has a wonderful array of lighting, furniture, glassware and accessories. Old-fashioned lamp posts line the street, most buildings are three-stories tall, tables and chairs are holding out for one more nice day in front of a cafe; businesses are locally owned. We traverse both sides of the street, in and out of shops, lingering the longest in vintage stores Feathers, Eclectic Essentials and Clash.

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Back in the Jeep, we drive to Carillon Historical Park, a 65-acre park and museum built in 1940 containing historic buildings and exhibits telling Dayton’s history from 1796 to the present. Getting out of the car we direct our attention to the 151 foot-tall Deeds Carillon, an Art Moderne style carillon tower built in 1942. Ohio’s largest carillon it has 57 bells and from May to October you can catch a live concert every Sunday. Currently it is draped in lights for the holidays, it must be quite a sight when it gets dark. Inside the Heritage Center Museum the history of Dayton unfolds in exhibits featuring the people and manufacturers that developed the city in the early years. One of the first exhibits features old-fashioned cash registers, you know, the kind you see on all those antique and picker shows. These are amazing. Turns out John H Patterson founded the National Cash Register Company right here in Dayton Ohio, he was the maker of the first mechanical cash register. These stunning cash registers are found throughout the museum, I have to stop at each one and marvel at the different cabinet styles, the press down keys, the patterns on the brass, bronze and nickel models; fine scroll, wide scroll, fleur-de-lis and Art Nouveau, they are magnificent!

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I read placard after placard trying to take it all in; I recognize names like Patterson, Deeds and Kettering from street and building names in town. Dayton has a pretty impressive resume, Huffy, Delco, Frigidaire, NCRC all called the city home. Manufacturing was huge; Kramer Brothers Foundry, Dayton Malleable Iron Co., Dayton Wright Airplane Company, General Motors Engine Plant, just to name a few….. The museum is fascinating, so well done, so enjoyable to visit. Full size displays of automobiles, appliances, toys, novelties, bicycles, even a carousel. The Ohio-made Carousel of Dayton Innovation is truly one-of-a-kind, in addition horses you can sit on a cash register-style bench, a bicycle, streetcar or locomotive, gaze at hand-painted murals depicting the Wright Brothers, all to the sound of 1930’s tunes, very cool. 

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DETROIT: Woodbridge

4 Nov

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Detroit’s true personality can be found in its neighborhoods. Today we are in Woodbridge, a historic neighborhood of mainly Victorian homes built from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. The district borders WSU, New Center and Midtown–putting it within walking distance to great restaurants, boutiques, shopping, and cultural institutions. Long ago Ty Cobb, David Stott, James Scripps and George Booth walked these streets calling Woodbridge home; more recently Meg White and Sixto Rodriguez resided here. The grandest homes were originally built on Trumbull, as the campus of Wayne State grew, many homes were lost. The neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, that’s when restoration of these gorgeous homes really got a foothold.

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We park on Merrick and begin our walk south on Commonwealth, today the street is picturesque; trees are still hanging on to their yellow, red and orange leaves, large 3-story homes with tiny front yards sit back from the street. It’s Halloween, residents decorate with spooky spider webs, pumpkins line the front steps, pots of mums and even a few annuals enjoy the mild autumn day. Bicycle racks dot front lawns, each a different shape, painted brightly in red, orange, blue and lime. Art is everywhere; sculptures sprout from the ground, paintings hang on exterior building walls making the street an outdoor gallery. A fenced in yard contains huge bicycle sculptures, a brightly colored painting spells out Laredo in yellow letters, rose bushes still bloom. The district embraces the creative, imaginative and artistic qualities of its residents.

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Dual stairways lead to front doors of duplexes, many are graced with leaded glass windows. Homes are well maintained; colorful trim and smooth columns accent fine brickwork. Covered porches shield residents from heat and rain, balustrades create second story balconies, windows of all shapes and sizes bring sunlight indoors. People are out raking leaves, walking their dogs, they stop what they’re doing as we approach, taking the time to say hello. Apartments are only 3 stories high, the architecture is understated with lovely details such as dentil moldings, heavy wooden doors and window pediments. Homes on Avery are almost all single-family, there are some real beauties! Many have steep hipped roofs, recessed porches, bay windows, dormers and round corner towers with pinnacles. On one of the blocks, houses are clapboard sided in a variety of bold colors; fish scale siding, conical roofs and decorative gables  make each one unique.

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In one front yard a Little Free Library has been planted; using Andrew Carnegie’s support of 2,509 free public libraries built in the US around the turn of the 19th to 20th century as inspiration, Little Free Library has a goal to build 2,510 libraries, and then keep right on going. Detroit Little Libraries has a goal of 313 libraries in the city; the organization turned 1 in September and has already planted 100 little library structures, making it the fastest growing Little Library city in the country. The little house-like structure looks right at home here, it even matches the big house it sits in front of. We continue our walk; leaves crunch under our feet, cars line the narrow streets, people come and go from their homes. Residents are diverse; students, professors, young families, servers and long-time residents all live side by side in this charming, appealing, engaging neighborhood.

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We take Merrick to Trumbull and walk a little more, 4759 is the address of The Lorax house, you know, from Dr Seuss. Built in 1900, current owner Alex Pereira has renovated the building into 5 units and a commercial art gallery. While the interior retains its original historic beauty, the exterior is whimsical with a wood-carved Lorax on the front lawn, a quote from the movie is painted on the retaining wall: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Pereira recently finished the “UP” house, based on the animated film of the same name at 4722 Avery, you’ll know it immediately by its cheerful paint job of light blue, yellow, fluorescent green and lilac; he’s currently working on the (Alice in) Wonderland House at 3947 Commonwealth.

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Back the other way more grand homes line the street, art covers walls, garages and alleyways; in one painting Detroit is an underwater city, scuba divers swim among the skyscrapers, the rays of the sun permeate the water’s surface…. awesome. At the corner of Trumbull and Merrick is the Woodbridge Community Garden; raised garden beds, picnic tables, art and sculpture have turned this into a neighborhood gathering space. Woodbridge Pub owner Jim Geary is responsible for the transformation of the garden from 3 city lots filled with overgrown weeds and trash to what we see today.

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Speaking of Woodbridge Pub, it’s time for lunch! The building, originally a general store built in 1926 had sat empty for a good 20 years when Geary bought it; time, money, patience and lots of salvaged wood turned it into the quaint space it is today. We’ve been coming here since it opened back in 2008. Sitting at the bar we scan the menu; one of our favorites, the Veggie Locker, is back, we order that and a side salad, kick back and relax. It starts to drizzle, Wayne State football has a home game today, folks escape the rain and fill the place up. Our meal arrives; we have a side salad with sherry vinaigrette and southwest dressings, we like them both. The sandwich is a combo of avocado, tomato, red onion, cream cheese, jalapeno, mustard and mayo on grilled Detroit 9-grain bread, accompanied by corn chips and a pickle– it’s delicious. 

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This is Detroit. Urban neighborhoods, gorgeous architecture, art, community gardens. Corner pubs, Little libraries, history. And a bright, promising future.

 

 

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!

Corktown Home Tour, Mudgie’s Deli

10 Jun

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Every June we look forward to the Historic Corktown Home Tour. Unlike a lot of the other historic neighborhoods in Detroit, Corktown is mostly made up of workers homes but don’t be fooled by their modest exteriors , you will be surprised if not stunned by what awaits inside! The interiors are not elaborate, this is not an area you find crystal chandeliers, marble floors, pewabic tile or third floor ballrooms, which in my opinion makes it all the more interesting!

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The original settlers here were Irish immigrants who largely came from County Cork, which of course is how it got its name. As a matter of fact, by the mid 19th century the Irish were the largest ethnic group in Detroit. Corktown is Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, established in 1834, it was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

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Homes here can be very deceiving, from the front many of them look quite small, but look down the side and you will see  that they are also very long. There is a mixture of architectural styles here, some two stories with Queen Ann influences, tiny worker cottages reflecting a bit of the federalist style are also a common sight. Since there are not a lot of interior details each owner can make it their own. Being able to walk through the houses is a real treat, you never know what you will find behind the front door. There are Victorian treasures with lovely tiled fireplaces, the very contemporary with bright red walls, vintage with great 50’s glass works and furniture, and modern with exposed wooden beams and free form counters. It’s an eclectic array of styles and personalities.  VIEW PHOTOS HERE

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Conveniently located on the corner of Porter and Brooklyn is Mudgie’s Deli, the perfect place for us to have lunch. We have known the owner Greg for many years, he does a great job with the place from its cheery orange walls and vintage tin ceiling to the artisan sandwiches, homemade soups and salads. The menu features many local products and vegan selections as well. Our “usual” is the Ivey; a delicious vegetarian sandwich with Greg’s house-made spinach spread, avocado, and an assortment of veggies, topped off with cheese and sunflower sprouts, along with a house salad it’s enough for two. The house specialty desserts are waffles, either the Fudgie Mudgie, or the Sweet Ruth, we went with Ruth. A warm bread pudding waffle, Calder Dairy Butter pecan ice cream melting into the indentations, and decadent caramel sauce, all topped off with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon, lip-smacking good!

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We had finished touring the homes, but had one last stop on the tour; Most Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church. Most Holy Trinity parish was established in 1834 for the large Irish influx of the 1830’s, the current, larger building was built in 1855.  The interior comprises a nave and two side aisles divided by rows of Gothic arches. The rear balcony was added in 1890 and is where the 1867 tracker organ rests, it is the oldest existing organ built in the US, and the oldest still in it’s original location. We were lucky enough to have the pleasure of hearing the organist play as we walked the aisles of the church taking in the stained glass windows and magnificent architecture. Kris even got to go up in the tower and ring the church bells.

Corktown is a vital and stable community, residents are close knit and take pride in their property. In addition to the wonderful homes there are a number of restaurants and bars in this neck of the woods, with more to come in the near future, we’ll let you know !