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.

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