Thursday, January 28, 2010
That big building a couple blocks away that towers out of the top of the frame is the First National Building. The FNB (that's what the cool kids call it), as well as the one in front of it, were around back in 1956. The two key differences (aside from the absence of streetcars nowadays) are that Woodward has, it appears, been widened, and now includes a boulevard, which is where I was standing. Also, that huge building you see on the right side of the new photo is the Comerica Tower, which was built in the early-90s.
Thanks again to GrifsDad for providing the old photos, and to GMoney, who sent in an e-mail thumbs-up echoing Squishy and giving kudos to the Kage and all things on it. (By the way, I realize my post about the Free Press building earlier today breaks up these two photos. To see both of them one after another, just click on "Detroit Then and Now" in the menu of categories on the right side of this screen. Scroll down and find the list of categories under "Kage Files".)
I've got no update on any new tenants moving in, and I've seen no evidence of work being done to restore the old place. Patience, I suppose. As it stands right now, if you press your face to the large glass windows, you can still see traces of the old Free Press lobby. One wall features murals of old photos, as well as a huge replica of a Free Press front page with the headline "Man Walks On Moon!"
I'm not sure how well the photo will reproduce on this website, but hopefully you can make out the large letters on the left side that say "Galley". That's the word "Press" tipped sideways at the left edge of the picture. (And in case it isn't clear, those buildings at the top of the picture are a reflection of the buildings behind me.)
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
You may recall that our last Detroit Then & Now photo featured people standing outside Kern's department store. Look closely at this picture and you'll see the Kern's sign a few blocks up Woodward. Because our little "Then and Now" experiment last week was such a popular entry with readers like Squishy, we'll do it again this time. Check back tomorrow to see what Woodward between Jefferson and Larned looks like these days.
Monday, January 25, 2010
The other day I was outside my building at work and a car pulled up to the intersection shown in this photo, stopping at the white line you see in the foreground. A girl - who was driving with who I assumed was her father - rolled down the passenger side window and asked me for directions to Wayne County Community College.
Let the record show that the enormous gray building in the background is Wayne County Community College. I tried really hard to not sound all smart-assy when I pointed and said, "Over there." I didn't think to ask her what she was going to study, but I don't imagine she'll major in cartography.
Friday, January 22, 2010
My hopes of catching the Tigers’ Winter Caravan at the DTE building this afternoon proved futile (not even my Kage credentials could crack the security at the employee-only gathering), but the short walk wasn’t a complete loss.
Across the street from DTE and the MGM Grand Casino, standing on a cement island between Bagley Street, Michigan Avenue and Third Street, a statue of a guy on a horse caught my eye. It's quite possible you've never heard of Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko. It's more likely you can’t even pronounce Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko. (By the way, it’s KOS-CHOOS’-KO.)
Turns out, Kosciuszko is a national hero in Poland, and was highly honored in this country for his military genius during the American Revolution. There are countless things around the world named after him, including cities in Texas and Mississippi, streets in Brooklyn and Bay City, even a mountaintop in Australia. In fact, every major town in Poland has a street or square named after him.
Cities across the U.S. – including Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, Milwaukee and many others - feature monuments of Kosciuszko similar to this one in Detroit, which was a gift from the people of Krakow, Poland. The Detroit monument is somewhat special, though, because it’s a replica of the monument that stood at the entrance to Wawel Castle in Krakow, where Kosciuszko was laid to rest. So we've got that going for us...
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Kern's - which opened in 1883 in a smaller building on St. Antoine - became one of the three largest department stores in Detroit, eventually growing into a five-story building at Woodward and Gratiot. It closed in 1959, which I believe is about when the malls in the suburbs started popping up.
As you can see in this new photo, the lot next door (once the site of the famous Hudson's department store) is now vacant, although footings are in place should anyone decide at some point to build a new high-rise there. More on the Kern's Clock some other time. I've got some other pretty cool pictures of it, and our crack research team is busy tracking down bits of its history.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
In addition to saving me and my plantar wart from a cold walk around downtown to find some other semi-interesting tidbit, I’m posting this picture as Part I of a two-part series. Tomorrow, with this picture in hand, I’m going to head over to Woodward and take a new one of the same location, just to see what’s changed. And what hasn’t. I’m pretty sure the Kern’s clock is still there. I’m almost certain the people are not.
I figure it’ll be semi-interesting, which makes it perfect material to appear here. I just hope my plantar wart is up for it!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
So much for my Quicken Loans headquarters theory! This actually makes decent sense though. Detroit really isn't hurting for available office space at the minute, and a new park would just add to the green-space commitment the city has pledged to create.
One quick word on the photo: If you look closely at the middle of the building, that side of the structure is actually about one-room thick right now. See that daylight coming through the window? It's a strange sight to see it up close – amazing that place doesn't tumble under its own weight.
Monday, January 18, 2010
But did you read the report in The Detroit News today? Apparently the Ilitch family has chatted with Pistons and Palace owner Karen Davidson about not only purchasing the Palace of Auburn Hills, but moving the Wings to Oakland County. What do we at the Kage think of that idea? We no likey.
My guess is, any move to Auburn Hills would be a temporary one until a new arena is built downtown, but I’m still not a fan of it. And that theory only makes sense if the new arena were to be built at the same site as the Joe. Otherwise, why not stay where you’re at during construction?
A lot of factors could be at play here, including (one) the expansion of Cobo Center, and (two) the fact that Davidson is reportedly selling not just the arena, but the Pistons franchise. With a new owner, the Pistons wouldn’t have to play at the Palace, which would mean a new basketball arena too. And maybe, like the Lions, a new owner would prefer to move the Pistons back downtown. Ilitch reportedly has no interest in owning an NBA team, but if two teams in the same market are considering building new arenas, it might make sense to build one that could house both, ala the United Center in Chicago.
I could live with that. For years I've wished the Pistons would return downtown. But the Wings moving to the Palace? Say it isn't so!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
It’s sort of funny that so much of the hubbub inside Cobo Hall this week surrounds the progression of electric cars, when out in the Cobo concourse, this tasty little 1922 Detroit Electric is on display.
Turns out, the Detroit Electric Car Company made more than 12,000 of them between 1907 and 1939. Eventually, though, the superior range of gas-fueled cars, along with the advent of the electric starters on gas-powered cars, pushed electric vehicles to extinction. Detroit Electric made about 1,900 cars in 1916, but produced only 143 of this 1922 model.
It probably didn’t help that electric cars topped out at about 25 mph and had a range of about 60 miles. In one of these babies, it would take about six hours to drive to Mt. Pleasant to have a beer with Rae & Toddley, but it wouldn’t matter because you’d run out of juice somewhere along I-96.
Free Press reporters M.L. Elrick and Jim Schaefer have published a book called “The Kwame Sutra”, a pocket-sized journal highlighting many of the strange, funny and often ridiculous musings that Kwame said or texted during his time in office. There wasn’t a lot of additional writing involved for Elrick and Schaefer; it’s almost entirely a book of quotations (a select few are rated-R.)
I met Elrick yesterday and, as luck would have it, he had a few copies in his coat pocket, so I grabbed one. Twenty minutes later I finished reading it. (The book is an ideal addition to your bathroom reading offerings.) Much of what’s in the book I’d already heard or read, but to see some of Kwame’s comments positioned side by side is pretty funny. You can pick up “The Kwame Sutra” for about $8. I’m not sure if it’s available in stores, but you can find it online at www.thekwamesutra.com.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
It’s called the Spirit of Transportation, and it depicts a Native American lugging a canoe on his shoulders. Talk about old-school travel! The sculpture, designed by Carl Milles, was originally installed in front of Cobo in 1960, removed during the Cobo expansion in 1985, and rededicated in 1993. (The pedestal that you see, holds the sculpture about 20 feet above the floor.)
For continuing reports on all things non-automotive happening at Cobo during the NAIAS, re-visit the Kage often. In fact, make the Kage your homepage and you could win a brand-new 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. It’s not likely, but you could.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
A lady with whom I work also works at a jewelry store downtown. Sometime last year, the store moved to a new location a few blocks from its previous home. Almost exactly one year ago, Bookies Tavern opened in a new location a few blocks from the stadiums. Before that, it neighbored the jewelry store on Washington Boulevard, in street-level space in the Book Tower, which, with everyone leaving, was now completely empty.
With the building vacant, people started talking about whether the Book Tower (and the original Book Building, to which the tower is connected) would be demolished, ala Hudson’s, Tiger Stadium,… But then reports came out that a real estate investment firm in Clinton Township had bought the Book with plans on converting it into 39 floors of environmentally friendly residential and retail space. And then other people said stuff like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” And then a few months ago, I was standing in front of the already-refurbished Westin-Book Cadillac Hotel, looking up at the Book Tower across the street, and there was a guy standing on a platform that hung about halfway up the building. He was power-washing the limestone.
I have no idea what’s going to happen to the Book, but I walked away thinking, “I don’t remember the last time I cleaned something before I threw it away.”