Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Car Is Born: A quiet nod to the site of Henry Ford's early work

The big building on Bagley doesn't see much traffic these days, not like it used to anyway. Back when the Michigan Building was home to the Michigan Theater, it was a pretty happenin' corner of downtown, just down the street from Grand Circus Park and an integral piece of Detroit's famed theater district.

Now much of it is a parking garage. Also in the building, the Bagley Bar, one of our favorite downtown lunch spots, is still grinding it out. Next door there's a sandwich shop, the Bagley Grill, I think it's called.

But hanging on the walls between those two hangouts is a quiet reminder that this site gained historic significance long before the theater (at times known as the Michigan Palace) was built back in 1926. Before that, the land was the site of a one-story brick building where, according to the Michigan Historic Site placard, "in 1892, Henry Ford began experimenting with the motorized vehicle in his workshop."

The sign goes on to tell that "his invention was quite simple compared to today's automobiles. It consisted of a two-cylinder machine, mounted in a light frame geared to bicycle wheels. That unpretentious auto was the start of the Ford Motor Company which played a major part in the automobile industry that changed the face of Michigan and the world."