Postcards from the D

This week was a very big week at RR: we canoed the Huron for the first time in '08 (had a great high-flow run but neglected to take pics- we deeply apologize but we we're simply having too good a time to bother with the camera). And we found a new (and very good) source of postcards at secret place whose location we will not reveal under any circumstance. We will, however, show you some century-old postcards from Detroit, back when "pleasant" and "beautiful" were honest descriptions of the city.

Check out this "Aero View" (that's how it's described on back) from the 1920's. The big building in the middle is the (soon-to-reopen) Book Cadillac Hotel, with detailed little cars motoring down Michigan Avenue. Heading east (right) is the wedge shaped Lafayette Building, the Fort Shelby Hotel, and the Dime Building. On the Detroit River, notice the flotilla of ships spewing smoke off the Rivertown freight docks, a reminder that Detroit was once an international seaport hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean.

Many of the buildings seen above no longer exist. Like the Hotel Tuller on Bagley Street. On back, it reads 800 rooms- 800 baths. Popular Rates, Detroit's Most Popular Hotel. Beautiful Air-conditioned Lobby- Large Popular Priced Cafeteria. Coffee shop and Cocktail Lounge. Free Parking 5:30 P.M. to 9 A.M. Specializing in Tourist Groups. By the 1970's, Hotel Tuller had devolved into another squalid downtown flop house occupied mostly by derelicts and was shuttered for good in 1976. In 1992, it was demolished and remains a gravel lot to this day. Click here if you want to see the vacant lot that was once the "popular" Hotel Tuller.

Next door was another hotel that is no more: the Hotel Statler (click on the image and you'll see the Hotel Tuller sign on the right side). One of Detroit's leading hotels, centrally located on Grand Circus Park reads the inscription on back. Buit in 1916, the Statler is regarded as the most elegant hotel ever built in Detroit: glass chandeliers and walls of marble hung in splendor in cavernous rooms designed in ornate Georgian architecture. But by the early 1970's, as blight spread through downtown Detroit like a disco-era STD, the Statler fell into disrepair and closed forever. In 2005, six months before Super Bowl XL, the Statler was demolished as part of a quick attempt to clean up downtown before the lens of world focused on Detroit.

One old building that still stands is the Charlevoix Building on Park Avenue. Built in 1906 as a stately hotel, over the decades it housed low-end apartments and union offices. Vacant since the late 1980's, now the only occupants are squatters and vermin. Click here to see how the Charlevoix looks today.

Here's a gem: postmarked May of 1911, the small print on back reads Canal Scene Belle Isle. Canoeing is the leading sport at Belle Isle, Detroit's largest playground. Its 702 acres are threaded by many miles of of canals and lakes, affording an ideal spot in which the light little craft cruise about by thousands. Band concerts are given at the city's expense during summer afternoons and evenings and on such occasions the canoesits are present in great numbers. It's been a long time since canoeists paddled the canals of Belle Isle, much less enjoyed concerts paid by the city.


Low Bridge

The Amtrak Bridge on Dexter-Pinckney Road snagged another semi-truck and trailer this week.

Despite low clearance warning signs and a truck route detour, this happens a couple of times per year. Hard to believe professional drivers would attempt to drive a semi truck under a bridge with a 11'10" clearance. Or the trucking companies wouldn't do a better job of route selection.


Hudson Cemetery

Just north of Dexter, nestled between the Huron River and corn fields destined to soon become another subdivision of oversized homes, lies the pioneer cemetary of Hudson Mills.

Now forlorn and forgotten, Hudson Mills was one of the first settlements in southeast Michigan. Records indicate the first known white settler was Cornelius Osterhout, who built a sawmill on the banks of the Huron River. By 1846, the location had a hotel, general store, and a flour, cider, pulp, plaster, and lumber mill. Today, only the cemetery and earthwork from the original mills remain.

Over the past six years, we've driven by the cemetary twice a day, quickly and without hesitation on the way to and from work. Simple math equates to 3,000 times- and until this morning, we've never even thought of stopping for a closer look.

What we found was a remant from a time long forgotten, neglected and slowly being by reclaimed by nature. As we walked towards to the back of the property, three deer jumped from their bedding and leaped over a rusty barbed-wire fence into the adjacent corn field. Tree limbs were strewn across the burial grounds like toothpicks.

Some of the graves were completely overtaken by vegetation. Seeing this was bothersome- by pure coincidence, earlier this week we stopped by a family gravesite in Detroit and found the headstone sunken and covered in leaves and dirt. Minutes later, we were at the cemetery office filing a work order to remedy the situation. One of the comforts of life should be knowing someone will be vigilant in keeping nature from overtaking your final resting place.

Most of us who live between Dexter and Pinckney came from somewhere else. Which explains the fallen and broken gravestones of people whose kin moved away generations ago.

One consistent factor among the buried is age of death: most of the interned died young, at least by modern standards. Few of the early inhabitants lived past their forties. Many died in their twenties and thirties, presumably from diseases that have been eraditicated by medicine and vaccination.

The saddest graves are the pioneer children. Like the son of F.W. and Mary Peters, who died in 1846. Aged 2 weeks and 2 days, Denison R. Peters' marker reads Death culls the choisest flower Nor tells the reason why To kiss the rod is ours And know that we must die. His short life is a testament to the difficulties of living in an early pioneer settlement in the hinterlands of southeast Michigan along the Huron River.


Mr. Warmth

Don Rickles brought his schtick to Andiamo's Celebrity Showcase in Warren last night. Surrounded by a twelve-member orchestra, Mr. Warmth delivered a bawdy mix of ethnic jokes, insults to people sitting in the front row, and Frank Sinatra stories. The most entertaining part of the evening (for us) was when he broke from his routine and reminisced about his early days working burlesque shows at Detroit strip clubs owned by "the boys" (i.e.- the mob). Those days are long gone and Rickles is one of the few remaining dinosaurs from the pre-historic era when "the boys" ran seedy Detroit hangouts.

His show had the politically correctness of a stag party. How Rickles gets away with this is a testament to his talent- instead of dismissing him like a nutty relative with a case of Tourettes syndrome, you realize he's simply having fun and everybody is in on the joke, regardless of who's getting skewered.

Our lame excuse for the lack of better photography from last night is: our table was waaay in the back and the lighting was lousy. But this clip is pretty close to how he operated (although without the orchestra).


Das Boat II

Four items are needed to install a new boat floor: plywood, fiberglass, band aids and beer.

The baseball game on the tv above the tool pile in the garage. So far, the Tigers are zero and five. Not exactly what the experts predicted at the onset of the 2008 season.

Mixing up another batch of epoxy and hardener.

New floor coated in a thick layer of headache-inducing shellac.

After curing overnight, the new carpeting is installed. Looks sweet too. The seats are next and then it'll be ready for launch.

View My Profile