Tag Archives: Romeo MI

A Little North…..

2 Jun

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We are in the Village of Romeo, there’s an estate sale at the former Prospect Hill Bed and Breakfast at 439 Prospect Street. We’ve always wanted to see the inside of this 6,000 sq. ft. beauty, today’s our chance. We park on the street and approach the hill-top property, curiosity-seekers and shoppers enter and exit through the front doors. The imposing structure is quite lovely, immediately in the entry way a staircase leads us up, we make our way from room to room noticing antique light fixtures, wide moldings  surrounding the ceiling and doorways and the unique feature of inset sinks in the bedrooms. Fireplaces are marble, floors are wood, medallions grace a few of the ceilings. Everything is for sale. 

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Having satisfied our curiosity we decide to take a stroll through the neighborhood. The area now known as Romeo was originally inhabited by Chippewa Indians and called Indian Village, as more and more people moved into the village homes were put up, businesses began to grow; the town was re-named Romeo in 1838. Much of the architecture you see today dates to the 19th and 20th centuries, most of it Victorian in style, including the picturesque downtown. The entire Village of Romeo is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We stroll up and down Main Street, beautiful Queen Anne homes sport lattice, spindles, fish-scale and shake siding. Elaborate paint schemes make the most of architectural details, porches are large and inviting, baskets of flowers hang above. 

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Throughout the neighborhood homes have leaded glass windows, graceful columns, stone is a popular feature whether used for a chimney or the lower level of a house, I like the way it looks. Flowering trees are still in bloom, lawns are deep green and lush. Greek Revival and Italianate styles join the Queen Anne’s with their colorful exteriors. We spy a pale yellow home with the fanciest trim I think I’ve ever seen, from the distinctive columns and window pediments to the third-story dormers and decoration under the eaves, it’s spectacular. The green Second Empire at 240 Sisson is gorgeous, as are so many of these well cared for homes. Romeo still maintains its agricultural history with farms and orchards throughout the city. 

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A short drive and we’re at Blake’s Ciderhouse and Winery in Armada for lunch. Gerald and Elisabeth Blake along with their 13 children started the historic farm back in 1846, they now have over 500 acres of orchards and farmland. The business has passed down through the generations and is one of the most popular cider mills in the area. With the addition of hard cider, wine and beer a whole new clientele is being introduced to the Blake’s family. The Ciderhouse and Winery is housed in a charming, rustic-looking building. The interior is an attractive mix of wood, wrought iron and decorative concrete, a large open fireplace rests in the center of the room. Wood shelves and cabinets hold craft ciders in glass bottles and aluminum cans, wine is sold by the bottle in several varieties.We have a seat at the bar, check out the latest ciders and place our order. I am having the Cransylvania Cider, a mix of blood orange and cranberry, it’s refreshing and delicious. Kris is drinking the Flannel Mouth, a nice, sweet apple-y hard cider. Our bbq chicken flatbread arrives; a sweet tangy bbq sauce is layered with chicken, smoked gouda cheese and sliced red onion, yum! Have to leave room for dessert…..

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Achatz Handmade Pie Company has been making pies using recipes passed down through the generations since 1993, we are at the North Ave location in Armada. If you have seen the name but aren’t sure how its pronounced, it rhymes with jackets. The space is homey, comfortable, shabby chic, vintage items are re-purposed as shelving and displays. You can purchase salsa’s, salad dressing, jam, honey, popcorn and of course pie! The length of the room is one long string of tasty offerings from homemade soups to desserts. There’s a lot to choose from so we have to give this some serious consideration, we finally agree on the Turtle Cheesecake. We order a slice at the counter along with espresso for Kris and tea for me. We take our tray to a seat by the roll-up door. The caramel cheesecake rests on a chocolate crust then is topped with a chocolate ganache and pecans, rich and delicious. We take our time enjoying our sweet treat, the afternoon sun and the breeze coming in through the door. Life is Good.

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ROMEO: Hay There….

30 Sep

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We are in the Village of Romeo, the Romeo Historical Society is sponsoring a Barn Tour today; this years theme: What Can You Do With A Barn? Let’s see……….

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We purchase our tickets at the Archives building on Main Street, there are 7 sites on the tour, barns were constructed between 1840-1940. Locations range from Romeo to Bruce and Washington Townships, it’s self-guided so we grab our map and go. The first barn is just a few blocks down Main Street, the red arrow on the Barn Tour sign guides us to a charming, white, Greek Revival home, the lawn a lush green carpet, Mums and Sedum steal the show in the landscape. A long driveway leads us to a blue-painted barn, open doors invite us inside. As people mill about we take the narrow stairs to the second floor, here we can see the way the barn was constructed; the home and barn are built of Cedar that was milled right on the premises. Pumpkins and assorted gourds sit atop bales of hay, Autumn has arrived.

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Downstairs the main part of the barn is used as a workshop and storage space for the owner’s vintage automobile; tool boxes, antique lanterns and other old pieces decorate the space, back in the mid 1800’s this is where the family kept the carriage and through a doorway is where the horses stayed. In this space is  a section for garden supplies; Hydrangea hang upside-down to dry out. Wood-working and automotive tools are found throughout the small room, sunlight sneaks in through tiny windows. 

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We drive out to the furthest point on the tour, the drive takes us past beautiful farmland, homesteads, vegetable stands and pastures. There are 2 barns on this stop, the first was converted into the family home back in the 40’s, we leave our shoes on the front porch and step inside. The abundance of wood, exposed hand-hewn beams and brick fireplace give the home a cozy feel; a large, round object is attracting lots of attention. A woman stands beside it asking people to guess what it is, everyone is at a loss; she gives in and tells us it was a light bulb tester, then she opens it up to reveal its current use: a super-cool bar! The home is filled with lovely vintage items spreading the owner’s personality throughout. And then there’s the barn…..

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Music drifts out from the large, open barn, off to one side a gentleman plays guitar and sings for today’s visitors. Smack dab in the center is a customized Edsel, it’s gorgeous–didn’t I just see this car on the cover of DDEAF magazine? The space has been completely opened up from floor to ceiling, rusted and tattered vintage signs adorn the walls, I think the Meyer’s Bar-B-Q sign in the loft is my favorite. An old Ford is parked in a corner, an antique tractor, engines and drive trains occupy floor space; it reminds us of the American Pickers place in Nashville. On the way out we take a peek at an old pick-up parked in its own private slot, sweet.

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Across the road is a complex of old barns redesigned into fantasy buildings; not what we expected to see out here. Each one has a unique design; window frames are unusual as are roof-lines and facades. We begin at the back of the property, the largest of the buildings, it’s easy to make out the original structure; pointed peaks give way to arched entrances, it almost looks forgotten. Inside a shiny red Chevelle awaits its next outing, cars and trucks in varying condition are tucked in here and there. A huge workshop looks as if it holds the right tool for any job. We roam from building to building, an early 60’s T-bird looks as if it hasn’t moved in ages.

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We enter a rust-colored building with Gothic-style windows and find ourselves in a large entertainment space; on the slate-tiled floor a billiard table looks ready for a game, a disco ball mingles with antique light fixtures, up a step, a bar sits empty, wood beams and posts the only reminder of the building’s origin. Interesting faces are carved into trees, ivy has begun to claim an old tin-roofed wooden shed.

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We arrive at a traditional red with white-trim barn on Fisher Rd, a group of banjo players are gathered near the barn entertaining tour-goers. We stop to listen to the group play, it’s the perfect complement to the setting. Inside, the barn houses 2 show horses, ribbons are proudly displayed on the wall, horses are in their stall; they seem happy for the attention. I wait my turn, petting each of them, they’re beautiful animals.

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The next stop was once the old Brabb Family Farm circa 1860, a number of the structures remain, though not in usable condition. A bright red Farmall tractor is parked in front of the largest barn, behind the steering wheel a blonde-haired boy poses for pictures. On the backside we have a look under the barn, Swallow’s nests made of mud cling to the walls. Silos are roofless, stamped into the concrete is “Smith Silo Co. Oxford Mich”, love that kind of stuff! In the smaller barn burlap bags are displayed, companies located in Detroit, Battle Creek and Utica are represented, old photos are on exhibit,the corn crib is to the right, old pitch forks, crates and wire baskets are at rest. The land here is magnificent, green and rolling, surrounded by woods.

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Our last stop is the Jack Frost Auto Museum on Campground Road. We’re told Jack A Frost was an electrical supplier and manufacturer in the early 20th century. He produced lighting and power accessories for the automotive and motion picture industries; his friends included Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. After WWI he built his home and orchard on 70 acres here in Washington Twp, and by the way, he loved automobiles. The current owner shares that same love of cars, he runs a full service auto sales, restoration and repair shop on the premises.

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We enter the first brick building and are greeted by a red Lincoln with a white convertible top, wandering to the next room we are face to face with a variety of vehicles; a couple of old Lincoln Continentals, a Jeep Grand Wagoneer, a Javelin in the restoration process and an eye-catching 1970 AMX in Big Bad Blue. The room is a mix of fluorescent lighting, old chandelier and ancient looking sconces. Making our way to the next area we pass an antique Buick in yellow and black still wearing wood-spoke wheels. The next area is a collage of items; big round headlights, advertisements, machinery, a silver antique Peninsular heating stove and in a showcase ribbons, trophy’s and awards belonging to Mr. Frost. A Victorian music box is wound up and playing for us as we continue to peruse the collection of hood ornaments, lanterns and photographs. Walking up the driveway we check out the old stone barn that was converted into the caretakers house.

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We are having lunch at Brown Iron Brewhouse on Van Dyke in Washington Twp, an American craft brewhouse serving up beer and ciders from coast to coast; they have 60 taps in addition to wine and craft spirits. Food is new American smokehouse style. The main dining hall is huge, the open ceiling and concrete floors give the space an industrial feel, sturdy wood tables and benches encourage community dining. There is a special Oktoberfest section on the menu today. First out are the Crispy Cheese Curds, they are delicious! Beer battered, they are light and crispy, they go perfectly with the house made buttermilk ranch. The Beast Mode Burger is beef brisket fresh-ground in-house, topped with smoked corned beef, applewood smoked bacon, beer cheese and a fried egg, it’s quite a (tasty) mouthful! Served with brewhouse fries, it’s enough for two to share. Time to head home; we’ve had a wonderful, surprise-filled day in the country.

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ROMEO: Terror On Tillson !!

6 Nov

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It’s late October, the ghosts and goblins are getting restless. Tonight we are getting into the spirit of Halloween…..One should never face the eerie, spooky or haunted on an empty stomach, to remedy this we are having dinner at The Shamrock Pub in downtown Utica. Sitting at the same Auburn Road address since 1935, the pub has been turning out one of the best burgers you’ll ever sink your teeth into for decades. The interior is long and narrow; exposed brick walls, open ceiling, dark wood tables and Art Deco style bar and mirrors, give the restaurant a quaint, relaxed atmosphere. The menu is simple:  burgers, corned beef, chili, seasoned fries, jalapeno poppers and cheese sticks; everything you could ever want. Waitresses are always friendly, it’s the kind of place you’ll see the same staff members for years. On any given day patrons run the gamut from businessmen to families, senior citizens to girls volleyball teams; everybody’s welcome.

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It’s dinner time, the place is pretty busy; tonight we are joined by a friend who is not normally a burger eater, after listening to us rave about Shamrock, she’s decided to give it a try. Orders are placed, drinks arrive, the heavenly scent of char-broiled beef fills the air; waitresses traverse the dining room and shout out orders to the bartender. The cook says ‘hot food’, ah, time to eat. Burgers are served on paper plates snapped into those red plastic frames long used by families for outdoor dining, a 7 oz. patty sits atop one bun, shredded lettuce and tomato on the other, a pile of dill pickle chips, sliced onion and a couple of peppers complete the toppings; mustard and ketchup are serve yourself. Without hesitation each of us grabs our burger and takes a big bite, it’s so good it makes me smile; top quality beef cooked perfectly, the cold salty crunch of the pickles, a little heat from the onions and the sweetness of the tomato, food nirvana! Looking down at her empty plate our friend murmurs ‘that’s a good burger’, you bet it is!

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Romeo is one of those lovely historic villages that has somehow managed to maintain its mid-1800’s old-world charm. The architecture of downtown has changed little through the centuries, this is also true of the of the gorgeous Victorian homes which, I might add, are the perfect background for Terror On Tillson Street. Every Halloween homeowners drag out the hammer, nails, saws, extension cords and their wild imaginations to create a unique neighborhood attraction that draws folks from all over to Tillson street for a little fun and fright. We’ve been coming for years and look forward visiting every October. 

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Driving down Main Street we see the congestion of traffic forming at Tillson, we go one street over and park on Pleasant; looks like neighbors here are doing a little decorating of their own, cool! Across from us glowing pumpkins line the porch and steps, lights are strung in bushes and windows looking festive. Witches are prevalent, a group of them are gathered on a porch roof while others rock in chairs. Graveyards and tombstones fill front yards, spider webs and bats cling to porch railings, a procession of skeletons hoist a wooden casket upon their shoulders. Walking to the end of the block we turn left, then left again for the main attraction; suddenly the street is alive with pedestrians, howling winds, rattling chains and creepy characters.

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Today a large home becomes the Tillson Theater, scary images are projected onto a screen, skeletal dogs reside on the lawn, there is no line at the ticket booth, the spooky guy behind the window may be the reason. Next door an old hearse carriage has encountered trouble, the casket has spilled onto the lawn, the unfortunate fellow inside sits up to have a look around. In the distance haunting images fill windows, billowy cloths react to the night breeze, black lights make everything glow in an unnatural way. Crowds gather around temporary fences watching the goings-on; a female skeleton in an antique wheelchair comes rushing towards the gate, gasps are released from the crowd. The electric chair is a crowd favorite, personally it gives me the chills when electricity passes through the prisoner and his body trembles. The Tillson castle complete with drawbridge is advertising rooms to rent….anyone interested?

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People are grouped together on the sidewalk, the pace varies according to the displays, we pause to watch as a cauldron is stirred by a skeleton chef, smoke from dry ice wafts over the sides. Cookbooks on a shelf offer recipes for preparing humans, glass jars hold shrunken heads, eyeballs and unidentifiable items. Out of the blue a child screams and begins to cry, everybody jumps, there in a tree hangs a horrifying face with ghastly fangs, more yelps follow. The Romeo High School Football Graveyard is the center of activity, here you can purchase a shirt, hot chocolate, cup cozy or cookbook; proceeds go to a scholarship fund and other local and national charities. Keep in mind these homeowners put this on out of the goodness of their hearts, they do all the work and pay for everything out of their own pocket, it is an amazing feat!

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At the Tillson Playground dolls fill the seats on swings and merry-go-round, A gigantic spider hovers over a radioactive hive, Stinky’s Trucking dump truck is parked nearby, arms and legs dangle from the bed, advertisements on the side include Got Bodies? and U Call I Haul.  Across the street cornstalks fill a front yard, colored lights and tall slender figures give it a spooky feel, an evil-looking figure hangs from the gable. The dead are having fun at the saloon while next door an elegant ball is taking place. The lawn is transformed into a ballroom; pillars are draped in tulle, a crystal chandelier provides light for the dance floor,  a queen of sorts is perched on her throne, distorted humans with animal heads guard the queen closely. The scene is otherworldly; ghouls are dressed in sequined gowns, top hats, they wear masks and beads as they twirl. Off to one side trapeze artists hand from trees getting ready for their performance.

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The captain of a marooned pirate ship looks out over the crowd, chests lie open, their treasure spilling out. Down the block a house is completely shrouded in webs, windows have been boarded shut. Havoc is taking place at Tranquil Estates Cemetery, caskets are unearthed dumping their contents onto the grass. One yard after another offers a slice of the freaky, dark, abnormal and scary; animated creatures moan and groan with glowing eyes, giant skulls fill window frames, sinister creatures lurk in yards. Bizarre and frightening clowns have taken over a house, they pop out of windows and doors trying to lure us in. We reach the end of the street just as it starts to drizzle, it seems a fitting way for the evening to end. Can’t wait to do it again next Halloween!

Halloween in Romeo

3 Nov

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It was another beautiful Fall Sunday, which means we had a chance to visit yet one more cider mill. This time we went north to 32 Mile to Miller’s Big Red, the oldest U-Pick apple orchard in Washington Township. You’ll recognize Miller’s immediately by the giant smiling apple wearing a green hat. We took a walk through the greenhouse first to check out the pumpkin selection, it was the day before Halloween, so the pumpkins that remained were displayed down the center aisle. Families walked about pushing their cart deciding which ones would serve as their jack-o-lanterns. It seems the children always go for size, the bigger the better, dad reluctantly agrees as he loads it on the cart and pushes towards the check out. Next up, the cider mill; they were not pressing the apples but it was still interesting to see the equipment and the cider making process. Miller’s offers a nice variety of goodies; fresh baked pies, breads, caramel apples with nuts, sprinkles, or candies. There are jams and jellies and of course cider and donuts! It’s impossible to leave the building without a warm donut and a cup of cider, for me that is the essence of Autumn. Groups of people were arriving, some heading to the petting farm, others gathered for a hayride, all enjoying the mild temperatures and brilliant colors of an October day in south eastern Michigan.

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Just a short drive away you will find the charming Village of Romeo. The actual downtown and original neighborhood have changed very little from the 1850’s when wealthy timber families were building Victorian beauties up and down local streets. Drive through the village on any ordinary day, the homes are nurtured and well-kept with large trees that line the streets. It is all quite peaceful and takes you back to a time when things were simple and slow-paced. But, drive through in October and things look a little different; skeletons and ghouls reign as front yards are turned into cemeteries, clusters of carved out pumpkins rest on porches, the windows of houses are boarded up, and entire homes are wrapped up in webs of what must be gigantic spiders. This is Tillson Street in October! For over 20 years and counting Terror On Tillson has become one of Romeo’s biggest tourist draws. Beginning early in the month neighbors begin the slow and complicated process of decorating for Halloween, you might be asking yourself, what’s she talking about? It’s Halloween, how complicated can that be? Well, let me first say, these are no ordinary decorations! I would compare it more to a movie set than decorating, scenes are elaborate; from graveyards complete with wrought iron looking fences and clever headstones, to a cornfield complete with scarecrows, and a grand masquerade ball. There’s a castle and a pirate ship, one house even has an electric chair. The creativity is awe-inspiring; fog machines, spooky music, cellar doors clamor and light peeks through as something tries to escape, nearby a hearse is parked on a lawn. It is absolutely amazing, really. If you have small children I would recommend visiting during daylight hours, at night the scariness level goes up a whole bunch of notches, adults gasp as they are startled by special effects.  One house sells T-shirts, a neighborhood cookbook, and refreshments, with all of the proceeds going to academic and athletic scholarships for Romeo High School Students. The homeowners pay for everything, including the candy they pass out to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. They estimate they get about 2000 children! The street is closed off at that time for safety reasons. It is truly a unique event that you have to see for yourself.

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Thee Office Pub & Cookery is located on South Main in downtown Romeo. They say as a small town Romeo is unique because the downtown never suffered a major fire, therefore many of the buildings and their interiors are original, most with ornate tin ceilings. Thee Office Pub is one such example, exposed brick walls, rich dark wood and decorative ceiling give it that historic charm. Opened since 1980 it is a neighborhood favorite, on our visit it seemed as though patrons and staff were all old friends. The menu’s offerings include sandwiches, homemade soups, burgers and pizza. On the suggestion of a friend we ordered a small pizza with our selected toppings and an antipasto salad. The pizza was 8 good-size slices, the crust thin and tender, very good. The antipasto could probably feed more than 2, but we were really hungry. Crisp lettuce, chunks of ham and salami, peppers, onions, tomatoes and shredded cheese, delicious.  All in all we had a great afternoon get away.

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