Thursday, May 26, 2011

Graffiti alive and well at Detroit's Metropolitan Building

Painting of this extent doesn't happen overnight.

But over three-plus decades, the possibilities are endless.

The Metropolitan Building in downtown Detroit, the one-time hub of the city's jewelry retailers, has stood empty on John R just south of Grand Circus Park since the late 1970s. Since then, nearly every window in the 15-story building has served as the canvas for an especially peace-minded graffiti artist.

Red hearts, the word "LOVE", and a cryptic splash of green letters have adorned the building's facade for years and can be seen for blocks up Farmer Street. It's pretty impressive work, were it not a reminder of another empty building downtown.

Also of interest (at least to us) is a fun fact we learned from our friends at When the Metropolitan was built, a handful of buildings were razed to clear space, including the former home of the Detroit Times. That was in 1924, years before the Internet made it possible for a guy with a cell phone camera and a computer to create a blog with the same name. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sign of the Times: Another building billboard pops up in Detroit

From the mural that adorns the Cadillac Tower and stands over Campus Martius Park, to the Broderick Tower billboard that hawks cellphones to folks at Comerica Park, building-side billboards seem to be a growing trend in downtown Detroit.

Before you go popping off with a real clever "At least they're using that building for something!" comment, our latest sighting graces the side of 1001 Woodward, not one of the unused towers downtown.

Visible from the north side of the 1001 building is a huge ad for the 'Droid, a fact that tells us much about people in today's world. One, we must like smart phones. And two, we must really like smart phones. In fact, if the cellphone marketing competition track record holds true, I expect we'll soon see an ad for the iPhone plastered all  over the RenCen.

Before you get too stirred up thinking that these billboards indicate the over-commercialization of downtown Detroit, sit tight. We hear the city is selling naming rights to The People Mover stations. Up first? The MetroPCS Greektown station.

More cell phones. We should've known. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Historic Fort Wayne: another forgotten Detroit landmark

Shackled by the misfortune of sharing a neighborhood with one of the more neglected corners of Detroit, Historic Fort Wayne is a marvel, if only for the fact that it still stands. Surely, anyone who's had the pleasure of taking a recent sight-seeing tour through Delray to witness the high weeds and broken bricks up close will vouch.

But yet there it is, Historic Fort Wayne, sprawling like a forgotten prep school just off West Jefferson.

It's easy to imagine that in any other city, Fort Wayne would be an at least a B-list tourist attraction. And because of that, we're adding it to our growing list of Things To Do In Detroit.

In the meantime, we did the next best thing and visited The Historic Fort Wayne Coalition website, where we stumbled across a few remarkable facts about the campus of buildings tucked quietly on Detroit's southwest side.

• It was built in the 1840s at a time of high tension between the U.S. and British Canada.
• The site was chosen, in large part, because the existing on-site fort was slated to be equipped with the most up-to-date cannon capable of firing on the Canadian shore.
• Fort Wayne never saw one shot fired in anger.
• It eventually became the primary induction center for troops entering battle in every U.S. conflict from the Civil War to Vietnam.
• It was the primary procurement location for vehicles and weapons manufactured in Detroit for both World Wars.

To get to Fort Wayne from downtown Detroit, take Fort Street to Clark and turn left. Pass the old Bob-Lo docks building, and drive until you see the Fort Wayne entrance on your left. Visit the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition online at

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reflections of Detroit: Feature Photo

Down on Woodward between Campus Martius and Hart Plaza, there's a big, brown-glass building. Not sure what's in there, and didn't have time to research it.

But it gives off a cool reflection of the buildings across the street.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Getting up close with the Marathon Oil Refinery's Pistons tribute

Every now and then we let our "reporting" wander out of downtown Detroit. Sometimes, even outside the city.

This Pistons' tribute at the Marathon Oil Refinery actually sits in Melvindale just outside the city boundaries, but it's still one of the coolest Detroit sports tributes around town.

Marathon turned this huge sludge vessel (that's really what is stored in there) into a Pistons homage after Chauncey, Rip, Ben and the guys won the championship in 2004. For a few years, the ball also celebrated the Shock on one side, but that was  painted over when the team left town. (Pause for a moment of mourning.) Thanks to Marathon, there's no disputing the Pistons love that lives Downriver, even if driving to the Palace to see a game is too much of a pain.

And one more interesting sidebar: Longtime Detroit-to-Downriver travelers might  recall when this same tank featured the stitching of a baseball and served as a Detroit Tigers' tribute. How long ago was that? Well, we believe the ball also featured a WJR logo. You do the math.