Friday, March 26, 2010
I chose Grand River with two destinations in mind. I was looking for what I assumed was a little church out on Trumbull. And a little further out, I wanted see what I assumed was an historical marker of a famous arena I never saw. I found neither.
The Pilgrim Church/I Am My Brother's Keeper Ministries was the subject of the most recent Mitch Albom book "Have A Little Faith", and after reading the book, I imagined it to be a small chapel tucked somewhere in one of Detroit's quiet, abandoned neighborhoods. It's not. Just a block off Grand River (at Trumbull and Brainard) the church is a once-beautiful old building that's nearly as run down as every other building that neighbors it. Not a great part of town, but for one weekend last winter, they celebrated the repairing of the roof that happened as a result of the "Have A Little Faith".
Further out Grand River, near where I-94 cuts across, I went looking for the site of the former Olympia Stadium. The Red Wings' old barn was ripped down back in the '80s, and though I had read that the U.S. National Guard's Olympia Armory now stands where the Olympia once did, I figured there was a nice monument out front marking the site. Nope. Nothing. I read later that there is a marker inside the Armory, but there isn't anything outside, which seems odd. No doubt it's a funding issue. Maybe Mitch needs to write a book about it.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
To get here, the Wolverines must first play Bemidji State this Saturday in Indianapolis. (Bemidji, it should be pointed out, is not a gourmet mustard, but rather a college in Minnesota.) If U-M wins that one, they play again on Sunday in Indy. If they win that one, they'll head to Detroit for the Frozen Four on April 8 & 10, at which point the city will be filthy with JennFriends.
Wolverine fans are already sizing up the Spirit of Detroit for a maize and blue jersey. Realizing that the Michigan State basketball team has a chance to reach a Final Four of its own, those same Wolverine fans - in a rare showing of cross-rivalry brotherhood - have agreed to share the Spirit of Detroit, and have gone so far as to commission the creation of a very sizy green and white diaper.
(This report is completely fabricated. Michigan fans would never do something that mean. And besides, the Spirit is potty-trained.)
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Both in their storefront location on Woodward and online at www.insidedetroit.org, you'll find all kinds of info on stuff happening downtown, like upcoming theater performances, concerts, festivals, bar crawls, you name it.
The non-profit group has set up shop at 1253 Woodward, not far from the Compuware headquarters. Their window dressings alone – which offer up factoids about the city – are worth a quick look. For instance, did you there are 125 bars and restaurants in downtown Detroit?
The Welcome Center is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday throughout the summer. It's closed on Mondays through the winter. The website is always open.
Monday, March 22, 2010
It helped create Vernor's.
It seems that Detroit pharmacist James Vernor had concocted a new drink made of ginger and vanilla when he was called off to fight in the Civil War in 1862. When he left, he stored the beverage in an oak cask in his pharmacy on Woodward. Four years later, he returned, opened the wooden keg, and found a drink that he was daring enough to sample. He liked it. He called it Vernor's Ginger Ale. In time, so did many others, and Vernor's grew to became a Detroit original, available only at Vernor's pharmacy on Woodward near Clifford.
The placard pictured above, part of the Woodward Avenue Cultural Heritage Tour, stands in front of the original Vernor's pharmacy location, and is part of a series of similar markers that recall some of the really cool things that once made up Detroit's most-famous street. Want to check it out sometime this summer? Start at Campus Martius Park and walk north on Woodward. Every half block or so you'll find one of these pink signs.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Fairly ambitious plans are underway within the walls of the famous Kresge, the one-time high-traffic hub of Woodward Avenue that first opened in 1899 and eventually became K-Mart. Called "The Shops in the Kresge Building", the development has already seen the opening of The 5 and 10 Bar & Cafe, and a number of small retail outlets. There's a cake shop, a clothing boutique, a malt shop, an attorney's office, and others. Having opened in early March, the building's first floor is already about 50 percent occupied.
Plans call for the eventual opening of more stores on the second floor, as well as a grocery market in the basement level. It's one type of development that downtown Detroit has been lacking, and after seeing the renovation efforts that have taken place already, they look serious about making it work. What should help are other larger developments, such as the soon-to-happen relocation of Quicken Loans to downtown offices, as well as eventual construction of the recently announced light-rail system that is planned to run up Woodward from Jefferson out to the New Center.
To read more about The Shops at the Kresge Building, visit their website. Check it out in person on Woodward, just across from the Compuware Headquarters.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
Smack dab in the heart of downtown Detroit, just a block from the city’s Campus Martius center, hides the beautiful downtown branch of the Detroit Public Library system. The Rose & Robert Skillman library, tucked behind Compuware’s towering office building, is as much a museum as it is a library. In fact, much of the upper level of the building is used as museum space, and is currently displaying a tribute to the automotive heritage of the region, which complements the library's National Automotive History Collection.
The pie-shaped building itself is another of Detroit’s architectural treasures, and a curve in The People Mover track across the street adds to it by paralleling the building's rounded front. The library first opened in 1872 as the Centre Park Library; the current main branch on Woodward out near Wayne State was added in 1921. If you're interested in checking it out, the Skillman library is located at Gratiot and Library. The easiest way to get there if you’re visiting downtown is to take The People Mover and get off at the Cadillac Center station.
Friday, March 5, 2010
“Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” – Daniel H. Burnham, architect
Pretty cool quote, huh? Obviously, when Burham set out to design the original Dime Savings Bank Building in downtown Detroit, he wasn’t thinking small. What he came up with was an awesome structure that remains – despite a $40 million renovation in 2002 – one of the most under-rated buildings in Detroit.
Home to a number of businesses such as Plante & Moran, H&R Block (Detroit headquarters) and Barton Malow, as well as the recently visited Pizzapapalis in the street level, the Dime Building (across the street from the Penobscot on Griswold) is another of Detroit’s buildings that’s worth a quick peek if you’re ever touring downtown. The multi-floor, skylight-topped lobby is spectacular, but our favorite view is delivered from the sidewalk looking up at the matching 23-story towers.
Burnham, by the way, is a famous Chicago-born architect whose other works are known worldwide, led by his famous Flatiron Building in New York City. (You’ve seen it on TV. It’s the triangular-shaped tower that appears during the lead-in to David Letterman.) Burnham’s other Detroit creations include the Ford Building and the David Whitney Building.