Tag Archives: Treat Dreams

DETROIT: Kahn Artist…

24 Mar

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We’re at Lawrence Technological University’s Detroit Center for Design + Technology in Midtown. The 30,000 sq. ft. building rose from a long-empty lot in 2014; it was one of the first new structures built as part of the redevelopment of the Woodward Corridor. This building is home to the Architecture and Design programs; classrooms and meeting space allow for co-working and collaboration between students, faculty, designers and professionals.   The star attraction today is Albert Kahn At The Crossroads: The “Lost” Belle Isle Aquarium and Horticultural Building Blueprints. I’m very excited, you see, these particular blueprints are made from the original 1901 architectural drawings used to build the structures; they are the only known surviving copies of the originals and have been kept in private hands. The blueprints lead the way for the Belle Isle Conservancy’s continuous  renovation  of the aquarium and conservatory.

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We talk about Albert Kahn a lot on DetroitDvotion, he was the ‘architect of Detroit’. He is the foremost American industrial architect of his day, he revolutionized the design of industrial buildings around the world. Together with his engineer brother Julius, they developed a new style of construction using re-inforced concrete instead of wood in factory walls, roofs and supports. Kahn helped to create industrial America; designing more than 1,000 buildings for Ford, several 100 for GM, he designed 500 factories in the Soviet Union not to mention the many commercial, institutional and residential structures here in Michigan. Here’s a smattering of his buildings: The Fisher, Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, Packard Plant, Temple Beth-El (now the Bonstelle) SS Kresge World HQ, Cranbrook House, Detroit Athletic Club, Willistead Manor, Russell Industrial Center and multiple structures on the University Of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. That’s just the tip of the iceberg…

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We step inside the gallery, white-legged tables are covered with black cloths, we have the place to ourselves, we head up the stairs to have a look around. Long work tables sit empty in conference rooms, drawings are tacked to walls, scale buildings are in the process of being assembled. We are surrounded by glass and windows, like we’re sitting in a nest above Woodward. From the landing we can look out over the gallery, let’s take a look at those blueprints. One by one we take the cloths off the tables revealing the original blueprints under glass. We study the North and South Elevation of the buildings, the entrance of the Beaux Arts style aquarium with its spectacular pillars and carvings. Opened in 1904 this is the oldest public aquarium in North America, it is also the oldest aquarium/conservatory combo in the world. How’s this for cool; the basement of the aquarium served as a speakeasy during prohibition!

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The conservatory was originally called the Horticultural Building, this is how it is referred to on the blueprints. The oldest continually running conservatory in the U S, it was modeled after great garden pavilions of the late 19th century, specifically the Crystal Palace and Palm House at Kew Gardens in London. Moving from print to print we take in architectural ornamentation long missing from the horticultural building. Sections of the cornice, palm house, vestibule and lantern of the Palm House are all familiar to us, I really like the one of the dome. One of the drawings reveals the walkway that once connected the two buildings, the conservancy hopes to restore it making it possible to go from building to building without ever stepping outside. Black and white photos show construction of the structures from 1902, I stare at the frame of the dome before the glass was installed, another shows the progress of aquarium rotunda, fascinating!

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Outside we get our first up-close look at the QLINE in action, streetcar #288 is out on a test-run. Rock City Eatery is just across Woodward; we haven’t been to the new space since they moved from Hamtramck, I’m anxious to give it a try. The interior features a Detroit Rock theme, the space is raw with exposed rafters, Rock and Roll Icons grace the walls, patio lights are strung across the ceiling. The menu retains its creative style of offerings. We start with today’s special: BBQ Potato Chips, homemade chips loaded with bbq pork, green onions and a sprinkling of feta cheese, so good…. The Middle Eastern Pizza is topped with Harissa, date, lamb sausage, onions, goat cheese, zakatar, caramelized fennel and parsley; great combo of flavors, delicious!

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Moving on, Kris is thinking ice cream, Treat Dreams is just a block away on Cass, let’s go. We find an open space right in front of Mills Pharmacy + Apothecary, I’d like to take a look inside. Mills has been a staple in Birmingham since 1946, the Stuber-Stone building is currently their additional location while they hunt for a permanent Detroit spot. This is one of those stores that smells really good; the shop is filled with skin care items, bath and spa products, fragrances for you and your home. They carry global brands such as Mad et Len, Panier des Sens, Leonor Greyl and Korres. Products are displayed on tables, shelves racks and cabinets, labels are pretty. Soap, candles, perfume and lotion, I sniff my way through the store.

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Now for the ice cream. Treat Dreams features unique flavors of homemade ice cream, baked goods and coffee. The interior is a cheerful combo of purple and white, chalkboards call out today selections. On the ice cream board they have Holi Canoli, Blueberry Paczki and Dirty Martini to name a few; there are also vegan flavors and sorbet to choose from. Kris and I are having an espresso shake made with Salted Caramel ice cream, the woman behind the counter promises we’ll like it. Sitting at a table that overlooks Cass we drink our shake, the only words coming from our lips are about how good it is. The cup is empty faster than either of us would like, we leave the shop feeling sweetly satisfied.

Cruisin’ Woodward…..

8 Feb

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If you appreciate fine architecture, Detroit and the Metro area have a plentiful compilation of lavish buildings. When you think of a super ornate structure, most likely the first thing that comes to mind is a church…….and with good reason. Today we are in Royal Oak, we are visiting an amazing Art Deco structure that just so happens to be a church; The National Shrine of the Little Flower. Located on Woodward and 12 Mile Rd, the first thing you notice from the street is the 104 ft Charity Crucifixion Tower, which then causes you to take notice of the rest of the building, which then makes you think, “I’d like to see the inside of that place”, at least that’s what we said; so here we are. We timed it just right; mass was over and it was several hours until the next one.We parked on a side street; the day was cold but sunny, good for taking pictures. We started by walking over to the tower, a 28 ft. high figure of Christ on the cross is carved into the upper portion, additional figures are carved into the sides. Until you are actually standing up close you can’t even imagine the array of symbols, figures and designs that adorn this Art Deco building. The roof is a combination of copper and nickel-steel details; we walk around all sides taking in the different views. The church is built with Massachusetts granite and Indiana limestone, stone blocks representing the states and territories of America bear the state name and flower. We pass several exterior doors, made of brass they are exquisite; each pair embellished with a different design.

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At the main entrance we go inside, it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, it is quiet, peaceful. I find the interior unusual for a church of the 1930’s, it feels more modern. The sanctuary is circular; the altar, a solid block of Carrara marble from Italy, rests at the center of the church. My eyes are adjusting, I focus on a large lit piece that hangs from the center of the ceiling, the Baldacchino. Made of oak and colorful stained glass, it is trimmed in gold leaf, roses are carved into the wood, a reminder of St. Therese, the patron saint of the church. While the overall style of the church is considered Zig Zag Art Deco, there are a multitude of materials used throughout the space.  Every surface has some type of decoration; the ceiling is painted with deco designs around the edges and in the center, wood moldings are carved and painted, windows wear intricate metal coverings. Stations of the cross line the walls, be sure and see the lecturn; Corrado Parducci was hard at work here, the interior sculptural works are fine examples of his exceptional talents. Hand painted angels over the doorways are the work of artist Beatrice Wilczynski, they are lovely, as are all of her paintings, most notably the mural depicting the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

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A series of side altars are visible through octagonal shaped openings along the sides of the chapel; each represent a different saint and are unique in their design. A number of different colored marbles make up floors and walls, brass candle holders are very tall and look Art Nouveau in style, the glass a deep red, blue or green. Another small room off to the side is dedicated to baptisms; the white granite Baptismal Font, new to the church in 2001, is gorgeous, water flows gently from an upper basin into a large 8-sided pool. I’d say this room is the most Art Deco space in the interior. The church was built in two phases, the tower went up first, completed in 1931. The priest, Father Charles Coughlin has a bit of a controversial (to say the least) reputation both as a priest and radio talk show host. Thanks to his radio show, his fund-raising efforts brought in enough money to complete the church in 1936. Designed by Henry J McGill, I would say it is one of a kind.

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Further south on Woodward, in the town of Berkley is another unique building, the Vinsetta Garage.  Called the “oldest garage east of the Mississippi” it has been turned into a cool restaurant serving up great food and drinks. It’s a pretty popular place, but being Sunday, we thought we’d take our chances and see if we could get in; as luck would have it a table for two was available. What we love about this place is, there is no mistaking the fact that this was once a car repair shop; the theme is reinforced with items like a vintage dragster perched near the ceiling, a lamp made from a vintage carburetor, a metal cabinet  plastered with stickers bearing names like Cragar, Mr Gasket and TRW, photos of  funky old cars hang on the walls. Booths are vinyl button-and-tuck, the place has sort of an industrial meets 1960’s feel to it, servers are super friendly and wear Detroit themed T-shirts. The menu is filled with tempting choices, this is the same team that runs the Clarkston Union and Woodshop, so you know whatever you get it’s going to be good. We ordered the Pesto Pizza, it was out before we knew it. Coal fired chicken, lots of rocket pesto sauce, goat cheese, roasted red peppers, shallots and the house cheese blend, topping a tender thin crust, absolutely delicious!

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A bit further down Woodward in the city of Ferndale is an independent shop called Treat Dreams. Known for their innovative, or crazy, as I like to call them, flavor combinations, this is a fun place that will satisfy your sweet tooth. Serving homemade desserts like cupcakes, brownies and cookies, their house made ice cream is the star attraction. Flavors change regularly; there are usually a few flavors with a wide appeal featuring things like Oreos, M&M’s, cookie dough and the like, then there are flavors like Thanksgiving Dinner (complete with turkey & stuffing), Pistachio Wasabi, Honey Lavendar and Bananas Foster. Lots of good stuff on the menu today, I get a scoop of Chocolate Red Velvet; creamy chocolate ice cream with chunks of red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting mixed in, it is fabulous! Kris orders something with chocolate and coconut packed into a waffle cone and eats with delight. Not even the cold temperatures keep folks from coming in and getting a scoop of Salty Caramel or the vegan flavor of the day. Next time you  get an ice cream craving come check this place out.

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