Monday, September 20, 2010

Visiting an old row house in Detroit's historic Corktown

You hear Corktown and maybe you think about the old Tiger Stadium. Or Sloe's Barbecue. Or Nemo's.

Looking down Michigan Avenue
But off the beaten path of the choppy, red-brick Michigan Avenue, the real Corktown is a living, breathing community, alive with schoolyards, cafes, and tightly lined bungalows. And, if you look hard enough, you'll find remnants of the original row houses that were once occupied by the workers and families who made up Detroit's oldest neighborhood.

A recent walk took along Sixth Street, which runs parallel to the Lodge Freeway as it enters downtown, where we came across a three-room row house that the Greater Corktown Development Corporation is in the process of preserving.

It's empty now, but like a display at The Henry Ford, it tells the story of long ago Detroiters, Irish settlers who came to America when the potato famine ravaged Ireland in the early 1800s. Many of them - from County Cork in Ireland - settled on the west side of Detroit, between First and Sixteenth streets, and Grand River Avenue and the river. That's how large Corktown was until the building of I-75 and the Lodge Freeway cut through it. To put that into perspective, the original Corktown spread to where current buildings such as the MGM Grand Casino, the MotorCity Casino and the Fort Shelby DoubleTree Hotel now stand.
An original Corktown row house

It's only a sliver of that by now. But if you ever step off Michigan Avenue, you might find that Corktown is still a hell of a lot more than you ever knew.