Tag Archives: Tours

FLINT: Touring..

3 Aug

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Today we are about 66 miles northwest of Detroit in the city of Flint MI for the Be A Tourist In Your Home Town event. You have undoubtedly heard of the water crisis that started in 2014 and is still ongoing. Progress is being made; the city is back on the Detroit water system, lead pipes are being replaced, water is being monitored closely; it’s a process. A century and a half ago Flint was a center for the lumber industry, revenue from lumber financed the local carriage-making industry. As horse-drawn carriages were replaced by automobiles, Buick, AC Spark Plug and Chevrolet all took up residence here. By 1908 Buick became the largest manufacturer of automobiles thanks to William C Durant, founder of GM. The city thrived, beautiful buildings sprouted downtown, lovely neighborhoods were built. Then as it often happened to industrial cities, factories closed, moved away, jobs left; Flint was devastated. Today manufacturing still leads employment with medical and education not too far behind. These days the city is reaching out to the youth who attend U of M Flint, Mott, Kettering and Baker, making it more appealing for them to stay put with a revitalized downtown that includes new retail, coffee shops, cafes, trendy restaurants and breweries. We’re excited for the opportunity to show you the positive side of Flint.

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We purchase a wristband for $1 each, this gets us into historic buildings, bus tours and cultural institutions; a program lists attractions, participating restaurants and bus routes. The 7-story  Ferris Wheel Building is our first stop, built in the late 1920’s the Art Deco structure was the home to Pringle Furniture, Gainey Furniture and most recently Ferris Bros Furs; hence the name. At approximately 40,000 sq. ft. the building has been vacant for nearly 40 years. Now a shared workspace, the building is home to entrepreneurs, inventors, small businesses, a community meeting space and event venue. Foster Coffee Company is located on street level in what is basically the lobby of the building, a large seating area fills the main floor of the adjoining building, tables and counter seating along the front window are in the Ferris space. We order a couple of cold brew coffees, choose a vanilla bean scone and take up residence in the front window; the scone is outstanding and pairs perfectly with the rich, smooth coffee. Kris gets up and takes photos while I peruse the program, there’s a ton of things to see and do!

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A guided tour through the building is about to begin, we join the group. Everything is painted white as far as I can see, work tables and lounge areas are scattered throughout the main floor, black and white photos show the building when it was the fur company, Flint-centric items connect the past to the present. The office of 100K Ideas is to the right, they offer budding entrepreneurs guidance and assistance to take their business from ‘napkin sketch to prototype’, a few examples of success stories are on display. The tour moves upstairs, adjustable glass panels and doors allow tenant space to be reconfigured as needed, rent is paid on a month to month basis, if you don’t need an office you can just have access to the work areas for a smaller fee; currently there are over 40 members of Ferris Wheel. Up a couple of stories floor to ceiling windows provide a panoramic view of downtown, cozy seating areas are set up near front and back windows creating a waiting area for potential customers; a community kitchen is on each floor.  There’s a bit of a buzz on this floor as models race to and fro preparing for a fashion show. We take the stairs back to the mezzanine level overlooking the main floor, a new group of tourists has assembled in the lobby. It’s good to see so many people out exploring today.

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A short walk down Saginaw St. is Cafe Rhema, they are participating in today’s event with a discount for ‘tourists’, it’s lunch time so let’s check it out. This is the former Economy Shoes building, it was the first building to be renovated in the downtown area; there’s a small marquee on the front of the building with the name of the cafe spelled out in free-standing letters above, velvet ropes and a red carpet lead us to the door. Inside it looks like a place right out of the Roaring 20’s; charming seating areas have antique furnishings, vintage lighting, black and white photos complete the decor, it’s so pretty. The cafe serves craft coffee and espresso drinks, bubble tea, baked goods, sandwiches, salads and waffles. We order at the counter, employees are dressed in period clothing–think Great Gatsby, very cool. We sit at a community table with other couples also doing the tour today, we talk about what we’ve seen so far until the food arrives. The Puttin’ On The Ritz waffle is baked with apples and cinnamon, topped with whipped cream and maple syrup, it’s really good. The Prohibition Pig is a panini with honey-roasted ham, bacon, house infused bourbon bbq sauce, cheddar, sweet and spicy mustard on bread from Crust Bakery in Fenton, delicious! On our way out we stop at the counter again just to check out the desserts, they look amazing but we can’t eat another bite. Kris notices the taps, one says Espresso Root Beer, the other Brown Sugar Bourbon, turns out they make their own soda pop too. We try a sample of each, they’re excellent. The cafe is one of those really unique places you feel lucky to have found; from the staff to the menu to the decor, everything about it is well done.

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We walk through downtown, cross the Flint River on a pedestrian bridge to Carriage Town; this is where the automotive industry got its start in Flint. It’s funny how things come together. There were men with ideas, movers and shakers; Durant, Dort, Louis Chevrolet, David Buick, Alfred Sloan. The Durant-Dort Carriage Company, founded by Josiah Dallas Dort and William Crapo Durant, became the world’s largest volume producers of horse drawn carriages, which eventually evolved into automobiles and from all of this General Motors was born in 1908. Ok, that’s extremely simplified but you get the picture. We have arrived at General Motors Durant-Dort Factory One, it’s open to visitors today, let’s see what it’s all about. Originally established in 1886 as the Flint Road Cart Company, this historic Flint GM plant is referred to as the American automakers birthplace. The red-brick building has been completely restored; it’s now home to the Kettering Archive Collection which contains about 100,000 historical documents, photos and artifacts related to Flint’s GM history and the Factory One Conference Center. Statues of Dort and Durant stand close by, keeping an eye on things.

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A National Park Service sign in the lobby dedicates the building as a Motorcities Automobile National Heritage Area, a volunteer shows us which way to go. We’re in a large museum-like room, there’s a lot to look at. Glass cabinets display Flint football memorabilia; programs, trophies, a football and a varsity letter. Framed black and white historic photographs of factory buildings, people and advertisements hang on exposed brick walls. A small collection of items belonging to David Buick are grouped together, antique automotive parts and modern pieces sit side by side, vintage advertisements rest on easels. In the reference area leather-bound manuals fill bookshelves, they even have the mini-carriage used for the Fisher Body logo–next time you’re in the Fisher Building in Detroit look for the logo. 

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In the conference center you really get a feeling for the age of the building, look at those original wooden beams; much of the original structure still exists. Beautiful antique automobiles take center stage, I like the white wheels and tires on the midnight blue Buick, I’m happy they saved the original stone lettering from the Buick factory. You had to have lots of windows to let sunlight in back in those days, the whole room is awash in natural light. A short film is about to start, we take seats at round tables to watch. The film takes us through Flints early days as a mecca of the wagon industry, how David Buick’s plumbing expertise helped him to design his internal combustion engine, how Durant bought up several automakers and brought them together under GM, did you know he lost GM not once but twice? Every time I watch a historical film like this my mind wanders to the local road names, I say to myself, oh, that’s where Dort Hwy came from or I didn’t know there was really a guy named Chevrolet. History is fascinating and we’re having fun at the same time.

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DETROIT: Deco Delights

16 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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YPSILANTI: Neighborhood Treasures

9 Jul

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Ypsilanti is about 35 miles west and a little south of Detroit, most folks know it as the home of Eastern Michigan University. In 1835 the road from Detroit to Chicago (now called Michigan Ave) opened, train service arrived in 1838, allowing travelers easy access to the city. Michigan Normal College, a school for training teachers, was founded in 1849, today we know it as EMU. Flour mills, saw mills and plaster mills along with farming brought wealth to early residents; the city is dense with beautiful, historic architecture. Ypsi is home to the second largest historic district in Michigan. Today we are getting an up-close look at some of the city’s finest homes on the 38th Annual Historic Home Tour. It seems many historic districts share the same story, just as a city landmark is about to be demolished, residents ban together, form a foundation, create a historic district and save the structure; such is the case with the Ypsilanti Heritage Foundation

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The structure I am referring to is known as  The Towner House, it’s where we begin our tour. At one time the First Presbyterian Church of Ypsilanti owned the house and property, wanting to expand the church’s footprint they planned to demolish Towner House, that’s when a group of people stepped up, joined together, formed the Heritage Foundation and saved the house from demolition; today the Towner House Foundation owns the house. Built in 1837 in the Greek Revival style, the renovated exterior is a lovely medium blue. The building stands on its original stone foundation, the original timbers used in construction still bear their bark, we’ve never seen that before, it’s pretty amazing. The interior is gutted; walls are missing plaster, ceilings are open, remnants of wallpaper found on walls rest on a table. Wood floors, a pretty marble fireplace and a portrait remind us of the families who once lived here. Collecting stories from people who once lived in the home or neighborhood is ongoing as the restoration process continues— at 178 years old, that’s a lot of stories

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Just down North Huron Street we find ourselves in front of a gorgeous Tudor Revival home built in 1921, because of its size the front entrance and facade face the south side of the lot. Members of Ypsi’s most prominent families once called the place home. Trees and shrubs create a tranquil landscape, bright red Geraniums fill flower pots, whimsical sculptures are tucked into plantings. Dark wood beams frame stucco, this house uses the pebble-dash method, the amount of exterior detail is staggering. The living room is a sunny yellow lit up by the afternoon sun, built-in leaded glass bookcases line the back wall, original chandeliers and sconces still adorn the home.

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  Across the street a spacious red-brick home is a pleasant blend of Italianate, Georgian and Colonial Revival styles. Built in 1860 for a local haberdasher, ensuing residents were also wealthy; the best known being Danile Quirk Jr, son of the founder of Peninsular Paper Company and the National Bank of Ypsilanti. During the time Ypsi owned the house, the 14th Circuit Court operated out of the library Quirk added in 1927.  The house now contains the offices of Manchester & Associates. As we pass through the reception area we notice many of the original details remain such as splendid fireplaces and exquisite plasterwork.The library is stunning; handsome wood covers the walls and ceiling, built-in bookshelves are crammed tight with volumes, a petite arch leads to a tunnel-like stairway to the balcony, we have a great overall view of the library from here. When we exit we study a large black and white photo that captures the elaborate terraced gardens that once covered the back slope of this hill.

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The next stop on the tour is a former carriage house turned apartment, it sits behind a grand home that is now the Ypsilanti Historical Museum. When the horse and carriage was phased out the automobile took its place in the building; it was turned into apartments around 1930. We climb the long stairway to the second floor, the space is modern and attractive with a wonderful view. We pop into the museum for a look around; all the goodies you’d expect to see in a well-to-do 1860’s home are here: plaster ceiling medallions, winding staircase, fancy chandeliers, ornate plaster moldings and beautiful furnishings. The historical society displays the history of Ypsi in rooms at the back of the house; display cases exhibit old photos, war relics, the stories of Tucker and Elija McCoy, all very interesting.

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We leave the neighborhood taking Washtenaw to the next tour home, a gorgeous brick Tudor built in 1932. I love the exterior brick, an assortment of colors with dark clinker bricks sticking out. The details are extensive inside and out; stonework, leaded glass panels, plaster and fabulous ceramic tile—it still has the original sconces too! The owner is a collector of fine things, the home reflects his good taste.

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Just up the road on Huron River Drive we find ourselves at a farmhouse built in 1841 by the Starkweather family. Built in the Greek Revival style the home is in the process of being renovated into apartments. The current owner has been able to restore some of the original features in the process. The last tour home is a Mid Century ranch built in 1956. The builder lived in a beautiful Gothic-style home, he split the property, built this house and moved in with his family. The exterior appears much as it did then, the interior has been extensively updated. One of the cool things about an old neighborhood is the variety of homes that sit side by side.

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We are having lunch in Depot Town at Maiz Mexican Cantina on E Cross Street. Specializing in Tex-Mex, the food is prepared from scratch daily. Patio tables extend across the sidewalk, chairs are a mix of red, green and white, the colors of Mexico’s flag; it’s a perfect day to sit outside. With a little help from our server we place our order, we gobble up colorful tortilla chips dipping them in spicy salsa and creamy guacamole. Our tacos arrive; flour tortillas stuffed to capacity with tasty fillings like pan-fried avocado slices dusted in cornmeal, flour and sesame seeds, beer-battered cod and vegetable hash. Toppings include spicy slaw, chipotle cream, mango salsa and cilantro aioli, everything is delicious! Side dishes of black beans and corn on the cob are equally tasty. We linger on the patio sipping cold beverages; a steady stream of folks come and go, pedestrians carry ice cream cones and shopping bags. What a perfect summer day. 

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DETROIT: Joe Louis Arena

31 Mar

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Today we are taking you on a tour of Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings. I guess I should start with the team itself. The Wings originated as the Victoria Cougars of the Old Western Hockey League, the roster was sold to Detroit in 1926 and became the Detroit Cougars. That first season home games were played in Windsor Ontario, they moved into the brand new Olympia Stadium for the 1927-28 season. The name was changed to the Detroit Falcons in 1931, in 1932 James Norris Sr purchased the team, changed the logo to the Winged Wheel we all know today and called the team the Red Wings.  One of the original 6 NHL teams, the Wings have won eleven Stanley Cups…eleven; the first came in the 1935/36 season, the most recent in the 2007/08 season. In December 1979 the Wings moved to their current home, Joe Louis Arena. The Norris family sold the franchise to current owners Mike and Marian Ilitch in 1982.  The team has made the playoffs in 28 of the last 30 seasons and has the longest current streak of post-season appearances in all of North American professional sports.

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We enter the arena at the West Press door, a crowd of people are gathered just inside. It feels as if we have entered a private world, a city operating independently inside the building. Out on the main concourse it becomes clearly evident this is much more than a building tour, it is walk through Red Wing history. Our guide Stanley (I’m not kidding, that’s his real name!) leads us to statuary hall, here 3 larger than life bronze statues capture the true spirit of Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Ted Lindsay; our group takes turns posing for photos in front of the statues.  Vintage black and white photos have been blown up to banner size and hang from the ceiling throughout the concourse. The winged wheel logo is everywhere, old photographs connect the past to the present. Conversations within our group reveal the distances folks have traveled to be here; 4 women have driven 8 hours from Wisconsin, there’s a group of 3 from the Vancouver/Seattle area, a young couple has come all the way from Australia, Kris and I are the only locals.

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While making our way inside the arena itself, Stanley tells us about Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe, the original ‘production line’, he explains the tradition of throwing the octopus onto the ice which began in 1952, he throws out names like Red Kelly, Steve Yzerman and Scotty Bowman. We get our first look inside, we have a complete view of the ice, 20,058 seats and the rafters……. Banners hang like clothes on a clothesline, really, really good clothes, one after another representing division championships, Stanley Cups and retired sweaters. American and Canadian flags dangle side by side; it’s quite a sight. We are at Suite level, there is little space between rows of seats, we shimmy along until we reach the Press Box, this too is a very narrow space, just enough room for a long counter and a row of red upholstered stools. Tags mounted to the counter identify who will be sitting where, Kris spots a funky old contraption that appears to control the scoreboard. Out of the press box we pause at the far end of the ice, smiles are plastered to the faces in our group, Stanley speaks with pride of the team and organization.

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There is much going on at the Joe today, the Wings are in the building for practice, a youth tournament is about to begin, there are meetings and groups throughout. We reach Super Suite D and all file in, pretty fancy! The suite is spacious and includes two rows of seating, high top tables, a TV and the best part, a private bathroom, no waiting in lines. We take the elevator down to ice level, doors are cracked open to huge rooms with giant machinery, furnaces, that kind of thing. The tour can be re-routed at any time depending on where the players are; we see the visitors locker room but the Wings locker room is in use. An old street sign for Olympia Stadium is mounted to a wall, sweet! We take a wide hall out to the ice passing the Zamboni garage along the way. We are ushered into the players box area taking seats on the bench as we watch the Zamboni refresh the ice. It’s pretty cool to be sitting here, cameras and smart phones are capturing the moment. The Humane Society is also here, various players are posing with dogs, there is a great deal of whispering and finger-pointing taking place, it’s an awesome feeling being here.

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When the ice is finished a group of uniformed boys take the ice, the tournament is about to begin; I wonder if they feel the significance of skating here or if that’s something that only sinks in later in life. Stanley has been most generous with his time and we have all enjoyed the opportunity to wander through this amazing building. For me, hearing the names of the old-timers takes me back to my childhood, my parents would speak of Gordie Howe as if he were a family friend, I think that might be a Detroit thing. Our sports heroes become household names, we address them casually, Stevie, McCarty, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, we feel we know them. The thing that surprised me most was the connection people from as far away as Australia have to this building and this team; seeing their excitement made our experience even more fun. The Red Wings move to their new arena for the 2017-18 season, so there’s still time to check out The Joe.

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Lunch is next on our agenda, 24 Grille is located on the ground floor of the Book Cadillac Hotel just a couple of blocks away. The restaurant is cozy and attractive, decorated with lots of wood and black accents. The lunch crowd has diminished, we have our choice of tables, Kris chooses a window-side table facing Washington Blvd. Our server is friendly and helpful. A quick scan of the menu and we place our order. Before we know it lunch arrives, the Wedge salad is nearly half a head of iceberg lettuce smothered in tasty blue cheese dressing sprinkled with crumbled bacon and chopped tomato. The veggie burger is huge! The house made patty is delicious, it sits on a brioche bun and is loaded with tasty toppings, served with a side of pasta salad it’s definitely big enough for two to share. 

 

DETROIT: Music Mecca

19 Aug

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Have you ever stumbled upon something super-cool and asked yourself, how did I not know about this? That’s exactly what happened to Kris and I a while back when we showed up for a tour of the United Sound Systems Recording Studio on Second Ave in Detroit. Turns out this place was one of Detroit’s first independent recording studios. Early on it was used for industrial and promotional film production, then it became a full service recording studio that gave artists, musicians, writers and producers the ability to record music, cut the record and get airplay without being signed to a major label. You may be asking yourself, I wonder who recorded there? Are you ready for this? Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Jackie Wilson, The Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, Isaac Hayes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bob Seger, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Marvin Gaye, MC5, and Whitney Houston…….to name a few! For more than 70 years some of the best vocalists, musicians and sound engineers came together at United Sound Studios to record an astounding variety of successful Jazz, Rock, Soul, Blues, Rockabilly and Funk records.

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It’s a gorgeous afternoon, we have driven by this building a hundred times over the years and never realized what it was. From the outside it looks to simply be an old house with dark windows on the second floor; a blue sign splits the levels with the name United Sound Systems in white letters. We park in the adjacent lot, walk to the front door; finding it locked I give it a knock and it opens immediately. Explaining we are here for the tour we are welcomed inside and ushered to the gift shop where we purchase tickets. The interior is still a work in progress as tours and events are being established. We wait for the tour to begin in the basement level with a number of other visitors; framed album covers from MC5 and Aretha Franklin hang on the walls. We are led up to Studio B as our guide gives us a bit of history, United Sound is a recording studio, not a label; initially commercials and advertising jingles were recorded in the building. Upstairs, a large window divides the space between the engineering room and studio, the large console is a sea of levers buttons and switches, walls and ceiling are covered in soundproofing materials. Our group gathers in the studio area; folks take turns putting on earphones and make-believe they are singing into the mike, making their own record. A photo of a young Whitney Houston, taken in this room, hangs on the wall.

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Up a flight of stairs we are now standing in what was the original reception area; Rolodex cards that once sat on the secretary’s desk, bear names and phone numbers of Ike and Tina Turner and Bootsy Collins, I love that kind of memorabilia! Through the door is a small theater room, we all take a seat; a short film shares the story of United Sound. Founded by James (Jimmy) Siracuse in the 1930’s it was moved to this residential space on Second sometime in the early 40’s. In 1947, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter and Max Roach recorded “Klaunstance” for Savoy Records, 1948, John Lee Hooker records “Boogie Chillen”, Dizzy Gillespie records tracks here in the 50’s, Jimmy Work recorded his hits “Making Believe” and “That’s What Makes The Jukebox Play” here in the mid 50’s. United Sound was around before there was a Motown; Berry Gordy recorded Marv Johnson’s “Come to Me” at United Sound in 1958 and later released it as the first single on his Tamla 101 label. In the 60’s Bob Seger recorded “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” and “Heavy Music”, MC5 recorded “Back in the USA”. Don Davis purchased United Sound in 1971, the studio continued to thrive; 1985 brought Aretha Franklin to United Sound to record “Freeway of Love”, Anita Baker’s Grammy winning album “Rapture” was recorded here too…….. I know, amazing!

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When the film ends, we pass through a room; commercial records cover the walls, upstairs, we check out yet another tiny studio, before heading back downstairs. In the kitchen area, framed and autographed gold records hang on the wall, below that, the echo chamber that helped create the ‘Detroit Sound’ is cut into the wall, a set of blue silky costumes worn by The Dramatics, have been donated and are on display; we take notice of renderings depicting how this space will be used in the future. On to Studio A……. it’s huge! Tons of fancy looking equipment fills the engineering space, the recording console looks as if it could launch spacecraft. Today only, studio A is hosting a Rockabilly reunion; authors of the book Detroit Country Music Craig Maki and Keith Cady are joining some of Detroit’s veteran Rockabilly musicians for some music and memories. Our group files into the performance space, five musicians are busy playing an old Rockabilly tune; pieces of vintage equipment and black and white photos connect the past to the present. When the song is finished Craig Maki introduces the guys who were instrumental to Detroit’s country and bluegrass music scene in the 1950’s; Jimmy Kirkland, Jack Scott, Dave Ronelier, Johnny Powers and Dave Morgan. Each of these men recorded here back in the day; they played in bands that drew big crowds in southeastern Michigan cities like Mt Clemens, Sterling Heights, Pontiac, Utica, Troy, Flint, Detroit and throughout the Midwest.

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The family of Chief Redbird is on our tour; Redbird organized several bands, played fiddle, sang and wrote songs, he was extremely popular. Jobs in the auto industry brought many southerners to Detroit in the early 20th century, making the city a natural for the creation and enjoyment of this genre of music. We listen as musician’s fingers move across guitar strings, vocalists sing the same lyrics they sang more than 50 years ago, everybody is having a great time. This studio was in constant use until 2008, the list of people who have crossed the threshold is mind-blowing; it’s wonderful to see it up and running again! More of Detroit’s incredible past preserved, I’m so happy we came!

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Hygrade Restaurant and Deli was started over 60 years ago on what was then a busy section of Michigan Ave; today, not so much. About a mile outside of Corktown, the deli is definitely worth a visit. The current owner’s family bought the place in 1972, looking just as it does today: metallic gold, blue and red chairs, Formica tables, light wood paneling and white globe lights that dangle from the ceiling; this is not retro, it’s original! There’s still a decent lunch crowd when we arrive; we choose a table along the wall that affords us a great view of the interior, yellow paper menus are already on the table along with glass salt and pepper shakers and the old-fashioned glass sugar dispenser. There’s really no need to look at the menu, the Reuben is the house specialty, can’t argue with that. We do add a cup of mushroom barley soup and a side of potato salad.

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A few patrons sit at the counter, it’s way cool with its low counter, multi-colored stools and great colored panels behind; the work area is all stainless steel and sees a lot of action. Before long our meal arrives, the sandwich is split onto two plates, each with its own pickle spear. The corned beef is fantastic; cooked to perfection, it is so tender and lean it just falls apart, there’s a good ratio of sauerkraut and dressing too. The soup was flavorful; the barley makes the broth silky. The potato salad is the traditional mustard-style, exactly what you’d expect from an old-school deli. There’s no shortage of nostalgia in Detroit!

 

PORT HURON: I Saw the Light…..

14 Jul

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After a long, cold, winter we have consistently been rewarded with warm, sunny weekends. To us, summer = water; fortunately, living in southeastern Michigan, Lake Huron is just a short drive away. Today we are taking the scenic route, M-25, along Lake St Clair, around Anchor Bay then hugging the shoreline of the St Clair River, gorgeous! The ride itself is a treat, but we have more planned once we reach Port Huron. The city itself is the eastern most point in Michigan, it is also the eastern terminus of both I-69 and I-94. In the 1850’s the town was hopping because of the successful lumber trade and ship building, which in turn resulted in a picturesque downtown; Victorian style brick buildings line Huron Ave. In 1890 the world’s first international under-water tunnel was built here under the St. Clair River to connect the US and Canada, pretty fascinating stuff!

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The city is also home to the first lighthouse established in the state of Michigan: the Fort Gratiot Light Station. Built in 1829, it is the second-oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes after Marblehead. Just north of the Blue Water Bridge, it resides on five acres that also include a lighthouse keeper’s duplex, fog signal building, crew quarters, former coast guard station and equipment building. In 2008, the Coast Guard closed the building to tours due to disrepair. Lucky for us the complex was transferred from the US Coast Guard to St Clair County Parks; with lots of money and hard work, restoration was completed in 2012, the building was once again opened to the public. We are here today to take a tour; we purchase our tickets in the gift shop, it is just the two of us so we get our own private tour, cool. Walking through the grounds there is much work going on, projects near completion as money allows. Our first stop is the fog signal building; a fresh coat of white paint covers the door and windows, the buildings are matching in red brick. Inside, our guide tells us a bit of history before moving on to the duplex building. Groups of 20 or more can stay overnight here; a friend of mine recently did a sleep over with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. Tables and benches fill the main floor, pictures and newspaper articles hang on the walls, rows of bunk beds fill the upstairs space.

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On to the main attraction……This lighthouse actually replaced an earlier one destroyed by a storm; built of red brick and painted white, the 84 foot tower is newly bricked, it’s beautiful. The old circular cast iron stairway is very narrow, be careful as you make your way to the top, it’s kind of creepy/cool. We pass a few random windows on the way up, I can’t wait to see the view from the top. Emerging from the stairwell we walk through the doorway out into the open; a slender observation balcony rings the tower, the big lake is stunning! A sandy beach gives way to turquoise blue water, the deeper the water, the darker the shade of blue, straight across, apartment buildings rise from the shore in Sarnia. To the left, Lake Huron opens up as far as the eye can see, to the right sits the new Coast Guard Station, further on, the double span of the Blue Water Bridge and the entrance to the St. Clair River. The wind is gusty but it feels wonderful. Kris makes his way around the tower taking pictures; you get a complete lay of the land from this height, he even gets a pic of the light itself which was automated in 1933.

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We are having lunch at Fuel Woodfire Grill in downtown Port Huron. Housed in a building more than a century old, the restaurant serves Texas-style BBQ. The tin ceiling, brick and mortar are original, the hardwood floors have been restored. Decorated with vintage artwork of old fuel pumps and service stations, the place has a comfy, casual feel. The menu is full of things you’d expect to find like brisket, ribs and pulled chicken, they also serve up wonderful salads with house-made dressings, steaks and seafood…….did I mention their wide selection of craft beer? I am having a limited edition beer from a Michigan brewery, Kris takes a long pull and we decide to order another. The mixed green salad arrives, the honey white balsamic vinaigrette is delicious. Our server brings the entrée, sides and an extra plate, we taste as we divvy everything up. The brisket is outstanding as is the pulled pork, the jalapeno mac and cheese is excellent, it has a nice kick without being too hot. For the other side we took the sweet potato tots, oh yeah, shredded sweet potatoes with cinnamon, shaped into crunchy tater tots and deep-fried, they’re really good! 

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Good things are starting to happen in Port Huron; new restaurants are opening, a hotel is coming to the old Sperry’s department store space, things seem to be moving towards a more tourist-friendly destination, that’s great! Hey, they even have two places to get coffee, the Raven and The Exquisite Corpse, which is where we are going. Located at the other end of downtown in the Desmond District, the Exquisite Corpse and Gold Rodent Gallery share a space in a lovely historic building. The owner, an artist herself, has done an amazing job transforming the shop. Through the front door hardwood floors gleam, cozy seating areas combine with an extra-large table connecting the two spaces. Original artwork hangs on the wall, works are creatively displayed; we recognize some of the pieces from studios and galleries in Detroit. We walk through to the back and order coffee at the counter, this area also has its own entrance on the side of the building. Taking a seat at the big table we drink our coffee and nibble on chocolate covered coffee beans as we chat with the barista. The day has given us the illusion of being much further away than we actually are. Next time you want that Up North experience without the drive, give Port Huron a try.

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DETROIT: Checkin’ Out the Fisher…

10 Feb

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Detroit has suddenly become tour-riffic; you can see the city on foot, bicycle, bus, boat or Segway. You can learn about history, architecture, where to eat or have a cocktail, you can even go behind the scenes… Today we are touring “Detroit’s largest art object” otherwise known as the Fisher Building. Built in 1928, designed by (all together now….) Albert Kahn, paid for by the Fisher brothers as a gift to the city, the building is an Art Deco masterpiece. First some stats: The building stands 28 stories tall on W Grand Blvd, it has two 11-story wings, 641 bronze elevator doors and 1,275 miles of electrical and telephone wire. It was built in 15 months by Michigan contractors and workers.

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Pure Detroit is hosting their free weekly tour, we meet our guide Ryan in the lobby, 3-stories tall with a barrel-vaulted hand-painted ceiling, it is breath-taking. Today, in a special exhibit, a group of giant paper mache heads are scattered about the main floor vying for our attention. On loan from The Parade Company, they were originally created by artists in Viareggio Italy, some date back to the 1940’s. Two clown heads greet us first, painted cartoon style, the colors are bright and glossy. Continuing on we meet a pair of reindeer, an alligator and a blue hippo, a purple bug and a bumble bee are super cute.  Further on we come face to face with the Pirates of the Big Head collection, finely detailed, they sport tattoos, gold earrings and a treasure chest. I can see the old Italian newsprint in areas where the paint has chipped away. Many are in need of restoration, the exhibit hopes to encourage individuals to ‘adopt’ a big head, making donations to support the cost of restoration.

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The tour moves onward down the long corridor, we learn the building is constructed of Minnesota granite and Maryland marble. The original theater entrance lobby with it’s fluted marble pillars is stunning; in total, 40 varieties of marble from all of the world line the interior of the building. Near the Grand Blvd entrance, three original mosaics created by Geza Morati are as beautiful as the day they were completed, a brass piece in the floor is roped off, saving it from the wear of foot traffic. On the third floor we marvel at the frescos covering the ceiling; flora, fauna, hemlock, muses and red-haired cherubs were designed by Geza Maroti and painted by Antonio and Tomas de Lorenzo, at this level we can actually touch the arches, chandeliers seem only an arms length away. Ryan tells us the back in the day the ceiling was washed with buttermilk. He goes on to explain the symbolism of the eagles, the inclusion of commerce, transportation, art, agriculture and how the building reflected the new purely American style.

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A single elevator leads to the 26th floor, we must divide into groups as the elevator cannot take everyone at once. The doors open, we find ourselves in the Reception Room; back in the day floors 25-27 had a dining room, kitchen, living room and private elevator as this is where the Fisher brothers had their offices. At one time Persian rugs and massive hand-carved desks rested on the floor, very masculine. Dark walnut paneling, scrolled plaster ceiling, a fireplace and bronze chandeliers remain, I can’t say the same for the rest of the floor. Drop ceilings cap off empty rooms, but then there’s 360 degree view of the Detroit skyline. As we move from window to window taking in the sights Ryan tells us the Fisher building was originally topped with gold-leaf faced tile. During WWII it was feared the glimmering tower would become a target for bombings, it was covered with an asphalt material; after the war, the tower was covered with green terracotta tile as you see today. The Fisher family sold the building in 1962, in 2001 the Farbman Group of Southfield purchased the structure, an interesting bit of info: David Farbman, President and CEO of the Farbman Group has a family connection to the Fisher, Albert Kahn was his Great-Grand Uncle!

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The tour ends, back on the main floor we stop in at Stella Cafe for a cup of coffee. Recently remodeled using reclaimed wood the shop is bright and pleasant. A series of 3 yellow lamps dangle above the counter, the same marble floor graces the space. Stella roasts their own coffee beans, in addition they offer a selection of teas, juices, sweets, yogurt, soup and sandwiches. We drink our coffee surrounded by the beauty of the building. Vera Jane is just around the corner, offering a unique selection of handbags, lingerie, clothing and accessories, I like to stop in anytime we are in the building. Workshop is the latest retail addition, the shop sells handmade furniture created from Detroit reclaimed lumber. Vacant houses are disassembled, the wood is removed, sanded and refinished, James Willer of Reclaim Detroit and Kevin Borsay of Pure Detroit, then create furniture from the pieces. On display are dining tables, benches, shelving and coffee tables; each piece comes with the address of the house the wood came from, cool. I also love the wallpaper which comes from The Detroit Wallpaper Co.

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We stop in at Pure Detroit to say thanks for the tour, referred to as “The Store of All Things Detroit”,  husband and wife team Kevin and Shawn were the first to create a totally Detroit-centric shop. Through the years they have grown from a single store to three, each in a landmark building, and have added Stella and Rowland Cafe to the family.Their passion for the city is obvious in everything they do. We wander among all of the clothing, books, art, Pewabic Pottery and snacks, near the counter is an awesome model of the Fisher built from Legos, groovy! Kris purchases a hat and we are off…..

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The tour and shopping have left us starving, we park in the lot at Third Street Bar to grab some lunch. The room is dimly lit, tables are made from split logs, there’s a fireplace to the left, above it logs have been sliced into thin pieces and attached to the wall creating interesting patterns. It is late afternoon, the skee ball, dart board and shuffleboard table are still. We are here for some Dangerously Delicious Pie. I walk to the back corner where I find a wall- mounted menu of savory and sweet pies, on a table, a doorbell-like button  says “press for service”, so I do. I place the order, pay the man and join Kris back at the table. Before long, two pie tins piled high with leafy green salad and a piece of pie arrive. The BBQ pork is unbelievably delicious, the meat just falls apart, it is juicy and flavorful, the crust is to die for. The ham and cheese quiche is divine, it has the same wonderful crust; you get a nice slice of pie and a generous portion of salad for just 6 bucks. As much as we would like to try a piece of one of the dessert pies, we just can’t do it. The bar is open daily, pies are served for lunch, dinner and late night, we’ll be back………

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DETROIT: Elmwood Cemetery, Red Smoke & Astoria Bakery

6 Oct

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Detroit is home to some magnificent cemeteries; we have spent time in them walking around the beautiful grounds, looking at monuments with incredible details, and reading the names of people whom so many streets are named after. Today we were joined by friends to take a guided tour.

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Elmwood Cemetery was established in 1846, it is the oldest non-denominational cemetery in Michigan; Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge MA was it’s inspiration. When Frederick Law Olmsted was in Detroit working on Belle Isle, he was asked to come in and give his ideas on how to improve the design and layout of the park; we have him to thank for the many scenic vistas in Elmwood. The cemeteries main buildings are the Gatehouse, built in 1870 in the Victorian Gothic style, and the Chapel built in 1856 in the Norman Gothic style, both are made of limestone and are stunning. The grounds themselves are gentle rolling hills with some unusual and rare fauna enhancing the scenery, it’s really quite lovely. Olmsted said “Elmwood is the kind of place we call peaceful, it invites rest and contemplation”, I couldn’t agree more.

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Elmwood has a great deal of historical significance; There are 6 governors, 30 mayors, judges, doctors, and businessmen entombed here. Some names you may recognize: Lewis Cass, Russell Alger, Elijah Brush, Edwin Denby, Mother Waddles, and Coleman Young. A special lot was designated for those who fought in the Civil War. A creek runs through the valley, originally called “Parents Creek”, it was renamed “Bloody Run” when the Indians led by Pontiac rebelled against British troops. They say Parent Creek ran red from all of the British blood that flowed into it, thus giving it the name The Battle of Bloody Run. The trustees of Elmwood have preserved this historic section of the cemetery. Mausoleum Row is a series of 5 private mausoleums built into a hillside standing side by side ; Prominent family names are etched into the gray granite, ornate doors and windows decorate the structures adding architectural interest. Here monuments come in all shapes and sizes; Celtic crosses, obelisks of varying heights reach up to the sky, female statues grieve loved ones as they are perched upon a bases bearing the name of the deceased, and enchanting angels adorn family memorials. From simple elegance to extremely ornate I could walk for hours taking them all in. Tour guides are filled with fascinating stories, I love being able to connect the dots between the people and the places, it enriches my experience even more. CLICK HERE for slideshow of Elmwood.

October is Cemetery Tour Month with Preservation Wayne, I highly encourage you to check their website and see what tours are available. They are also doing a Haunted Fort Wayne Tour towards the end of the month.

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Lunch was next on the agenda, the tour ran a little long so we were extra hungry. We had made up our minds to eat at Red Smoke in Greektown, and because we were sort of in between lunch and dinner we had no problem getting in. The restaurant is housed in a 2-story historic building on Monroe, the floor plan is open, you can see right up to the second level where an over-sized mobile dangles red and pink cut-outs of pigs. The decor is contemporary; stained concrete floors, light colored wood, black chairs and indirect lighting, very nice. The menu offers a nice variety of BBQ fare, it all sounds so good! There were four of us at our table, all together we ordered the Rib Tips with homemade spicy potato chips, a brisket and pulled pork combo, the Bar B Q Beef Brisket sandwich on Texas Toast, the cole slaw, corn relish and Macaroni and cheese. It was all delicious, my favorite side was the Mac & Cheese; the noodles were cooked perfectly, the sauce creamy, and the topping had a little crunch to it, one of the best I’ve had. We had the Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Bread Skillet for an appetizer, scrumptious, I definitely recommend trying it. The two favorite sauces at our table were the Roasted Poblano and the Michigan Cherry Molasses.

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If you’ve ever been to Greektown chances are you’ve been to Astoria Bakery. Established in 1971 Astoria’s is famous for its splendid baked goods; it has been featured on the Food Network, and is the go-to place for out-of town visitors and locals alike. Come through the door, the left wall of the store is a long glass case filled with mouthwatering items. What are you in the mood for? There are the traditional Greek pastries; Baklava, Birds Nest, Pistachio Baskets, and Walnut Rolls. Maybe you’d prefer a napoleon, macaroon, cannoli, rumball, cookie, slice of cheesecake or torte. We had a pecan pie brownie, fabulous! They also serve ice cream and coffee drinks, you can have a seat and eat in, or fill a white cardboard box to go. The place is always buzzing with activity; don’t be put off if there is a line, these guys are pros, you’ll have your order in no time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Historic Fort Wayne

14 Apr

During the War of 1812 Detroit had been captured by the British army and held for over a year. It is the only major American city to have this distinction. In 1840 the US Army began surveying local farms for the placement of a new artillery post. A five point star fort was slated to be built on the narrowest point of the Detroit River on a strategic bend to prevent further invasions. Fort Wayne was Detroit’s third fort, the first built by americans.

Through its history the fort has served the military as a training center, home to infantry regiments, supply depot, prisoner of war camp, and major induction center. Located at the foot of Livernois and Jefferson the City of Detroit Recreation Department keeps it open for public and special event use. Two private organizations, the Friends of Fort Wayne and the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition, provide monetary and hands-on support to assist in the maintenance and restoration of the property.

This is an amazing piece of history! It is usually open during weekends in the summer, and there are also  specialized tours scheduled throughout the year. Check out the HFWC website for all the details. I’ll take you on a mini tour:

Main Gate

These massive wooden doors make up the main gate to the fort. We have taken the guided tour several times, this being the starting point. When you hear the description of of how the doors were built and the reasons for doing so you are suddenly taken back in time. Your mindset changes from mere curiosity to full attention of the details of a time long ago.

Interior of fort

Inside the fort these vertical slits were the windows through which the soldiers would fire upon the enemy.  The tour guides do a fabulous job of conveying to you the circumstances of the time, their descriptions can be chilling at times and make history come alive.

It is dark and cold inside the fort, you can explore several different rooms before taking the tunnel back outdoors.

The fort sits on 96 acres, so there is a lot to investigate here too.  Climb up the grassy walls for a view of the Detroit River, the city sits to your left and makes an impressive view. Ancient buildings stand along the riverfront directly in front and to the right.

Powder Magazine

Tunnel in Fort

You can walk inside the limestone powder magazine building and a few other doorways surrounding the grassy parade grounds.

The barracks building is quite large, the lower floor is where soldiers would take their meals, and upstairs is where they would sleep.  The barracks building is also where the public restroom is, something good to know. When you reach the second floor and see the crowded conditions and size of the beds it is shocking to learn that 2 men had to share one bed. The guides details of the life of a soldier here really impress upon you how difficult things were then.

Back outside you can walk past Officers Row, these are the homes the officers lived in, you get a sense of how large the property is as you traverse the grounds.  The next ‘street’ over you will find tanks resting in place, and more buildings including the guard house. Inside there are prison cells, and an infirmary area. Fort Wayne is also home to the National Museum of the Tuskegee Airmen.

I hope you are able to take the time now that the nice weather is here and visit Historic Fort Wayne.  Be sure and check the website for events and tours. In July they have Civil War Days, and in October they host a few Ghost Hunt Tours. It is a great way to spend a day in Detroit!

Guard House Interior

Guard House

House on Officers Row

Sleeping area

Barracks