Friday, August 16, 2013

Tiger's Game Adventure...and a Some Local History!

Last night, my employers took the entire staff to see a Detroit Tiger's game. I drove 6 co-workers in my car, and we all had a great time! One fellow worker told me about a lot that we could park in that was only about a block and a half away from the stadium and it was only $15 to park there! I had to call ahead for a reservation, and agree to a tour to get the reservation, but it was an added adventure to our night!

 Image borrowed from internet-not my own image.

 I fell in love with the woodwork and the moldings!

 Isn't the floor gorgeous?

 Our group checking out the rooms.

 The back stairway-I am assuming it was the servant's staircase.

 Stepping off the back porch-see how close it was to Comerica Park?!?
 Don't worry, I asked permission to take pictures!

It is the lot that belongs to the Winder Street Inn. It is located at 234 Winder Street in Detroit. It was built in 1872 and was the home of  German-Jewish merchant Emmanuel Schloss and his wife Rebecca. He owned a dry goods and ready-made clothing store with his brother.

The brick house is built in a style that is called second empire-meaning it has french architectural details that were popular during Napoleon's reign. In 1988, the city of Detroit hired a renovation architect to reconstruct or renovate houses in Brush Park, bringing them back to their original splendor.

The area where the house is (Brush Park-a 22 block neighborhood) was named after the second mayor of the town of Detroit Elijah Brush and his wife Adelaide. He was also the treasurer of the Michigan Territory. The property was part of Adelaide's family farm. Elijah and Adelaide bought it from her parents. It is described as a ribbon farm-a long and narrow piece of land that bordered on the Detroit River. Elijah died in 1814 and Adelaide and their son, Edmund ran the family farm together until her death in 1859. In the mid 1800's when new rail lines came into the area, carrying people from the east, Edmund parceled off lots from the acreage and it made him one of the wealthiest landholders of that time.

The property was located in an ideal location-close to downtown and the river-and the parcels were purchased quickly by wealthy businessmen who built huge, beautiful Victorian style homes. Don't you wish you could travel back in time to see the homes in all of their splendor? I sure do!! I would love to have seen them in their original settings too, not so much like how they are now in the surroundings of today.

During that time, that area of Detroit was flourishing with 10-12 stately mansion-like homes per street. The houses were all built in the various styles of Victorian, Italian, Gothic, French and Queen Anne. Some houses incorporated a mix of several styles.I think they were all beautiful and unique in their own way.

The Winder Street Inn (where this whole story started) is open for business and is absolutely gorgeous inside! I love how beautifully it has been restored! It would be a great setting for a wedding reception or rehearsal dinner. Or you could rent a room and spend the night! Their website says even the furniture and china are original to the house!

The homes in this elite neighborhood earned the nickname of  "Little Paris of the Midwest" because of their French-inspired second empire style. If you're from Michigan, I bet you will recognize the names of some of the residents who lived in or built houses in Brush Park...Joseph L. Hudson, founder of JL Hudson's Department Stores, William Livingstone a businessman, banker and newspaper publisher, David Whitney, a lumber baron from Massachusetts, Grace Whitney Evans, daughter of David Whitney,  Ransom Gillis, a wholesale dry goods merchant, and Albert Kahn who was considered to be the foremost industrial architect of his day -just to name a few.
Let's dig a little deeper into each of the homes and home owners I mentioned above. David Whitney was born in 1830 in Watertown Massachusetts. He became a lumber baron by the age of 27, making millions upon millions of dollars before he moved to Michigan and to Brush Park. He was considered to be one of Detroit's wealthiest residents, and also one of Michigan's wealthiest residents. He started a joint venture with his brother Charles and expanded his lumber business into the Upper Peninsula, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

He became interested in real estate in Detroit, investing in numerous buildings, earning himself the nickname Mr. Woodward. He built his home at the corner of Woodward and Sproat (which is now called Canfield) and in 1915, he built the David Whitney Building which today is simply called The Whitney. You can read up on more family history, history of the building, look at pictures and book reservations for The Whitney by clicking here.

His house, The David Whitney House was built between 1890 and 1894. It has been estimated to have cost around $400,000 at that time, and was featured in several newspapers. It is three stories tall, 21,000 square feet with 52 rooms, ten of which are bathrooms! It has 20 fireplaces, an elevator (the first known, working elevator in Detroit), a secret vault and windows designed and created by Tiffany to match the theme of each room.

Image borrowed from the internet-not my own image.

David Whitney passed away in his home in 1900, but his family continued to live in the house until 1920. Many people believe that because David and his wife both passed in the house, that the house is haunted by them. One area that people have a lot of stories of strange things happening is the elevator-which sometimes moves all by itself between floors.

In 1986 the house was renovated into an upscale restaurant. They have very cleverly used the rumors of ghosts to their advantage by offering a "Ghostbar" Monday through Saturday at 5pm. They also serve brunch, dinner and high tea. Check their website for dress code and hours of operation before making the trip out there. I am so fascinated by my research, that I think a trip to the Whitney in the near future is a must!!

The next house, the Grace Whitney Evans house, also known as the Joseph Lothian Hudson House or the Hudson-Evans House was built between 1872 and 1873. It was given as a wedding present to Grace in 1882. She was known for being active in many charities and for being the first president of the Detroit YWCA.

Image borrowed from the internet-not my own image.

Her home was later rented to Joseph Lothorian Hudson, who created the upscale department store J.L. Hudson's which was in business for almost a century. The department store is said to hold the record for being the tallest department/retails store in the world, the second largest department store in the United States, and it is the largest and tallest building to ever be imploded (1998).

The Ransom Gillis House was built between 1876 and 1878 at 205 Alfred Street. He only lived in the house for a couple of years before selling it in 1880. Between 1880 and 1919, the house changed hands 4 more times, all to the wealthy, elite families of that time. In 1903, the carriage house at the back of the property was rented for three years to Mary Chase Perry Stratton, the founder of the Pewabic Pottery studio.

Image borrowed from the internet-not my own image.

In 1906, the former carriage house/pottery studio became an  auto repair shop, then a battery repair shop and then a gas station before it was torn down and replaced with a restaurant in 1935. The restaurant remained in business until 1960, and that too was torn down by the city.

In the 1930's, the Gillis House was turned into a rooming house and it was operated as such until the mid 60's. There are records of several attempts to restore the house from the 70's, 80's and even as recently as 2000. None of the attempts were ever successful or completed. The City of Detroit has owned the property since 2001. I found a video of the property on You Tube dated 2010 and it is a run-down,over-grown sorry looking place. It is really heart-breaking to see it. I'm not sure if it is still standing, I couldn't find any information dated later than 2010.

A lot of the once grand, giant mansions were turned into rooming houses between 1910 and 1930 to house auto workers and workers in auto related industries. During that time, Detroit's population pretty much exploded, and with automobiles came easier transportation, so the Brush Park home owners were moving to other areas with more modern homes and amenities rather than do extensive remodels.

The William Livingstone House was built in 1893 on Eliot street. William Livingston hired Albert Kahn as his architect. Kahn was only 22 or 23 years old at the time, but he had spent an entire year in Europe studying classic, old world architecture. The Livingstone House was built in a French Renaissance style. It was built one block west of where it came to rest near John R. The Red Cross purchased the original property and planned to demolish the house to make room for their new building.

Image borrowed from internet-not my own image.

Preservationists fought successfully to save it from the wrecking ball, only to have it slip further and further into ruin and eventually be torn down completely in 2007. If you search for it on the internet, you will see that it was given the nickname of "Slumpy". I'm not sure why it was given that name. I am assuming it's because of the way it kind of slumped in on itself as it fell into ruin.

The last house that I mentioned earlier is the Albert Kahn house. It was the home of Albert Kahn, the young architect who made such a huge impression with the homes he designed for the Brush Park area, as well as other areas. Before I mention details about the house, I'll give you a little information about the man.

Albert was born in 1869 in the Kingdom of Prussia (Germany). He came to the United States when he was eleven years old. His parents were Joseph (a Rabbi) and Rosalie (who was known for her talents in arts and music. Albert got a job when he was a teenager at the architectural firm of Mason and Rice. He won a scholarship to study in Europe for a year.

He founded his own architectural firm in 1895 and called it Albert Kahn Associates. He developed a new construction concept of using reinforced concrete for walls instead of lumber, making the buildings more fire resistant as well as allowing them to have larger open rooms without having to have so many supports. The first building to use his new concrete wall design was the Packard Motor Car Company factory that was built in 1903.

Other buildings designed and built by Kahn include: The Highland Park Ford Plant (1909), a dance hall on Bob-Lo Island, the River Rouge Ford Plant (1917-it was a half mile long!), The Cranbrook House, The Edsel Ford House, The Dearborn Inn, The Fisher Building (28 stories!), Buildings for all three major Detroit newspapers, several buildings in and around the campus of the University of Michigan, the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant and his last building, the Willow Run Bomber Plant.

His designs are not limited to just the Detroit, Michigan area, he has buildings in New York, Nebraska, Ontario, Ohio, Philadelphia, Maine, Grosse Pointe, Lansing, Warren, Flat Rock and Chicago. In 2006 there were 60 of his buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ten of them in Michigan are marked with official Historical landmark markers.

Albert built his own home in the Brush Park area, on Mack Avenue in 1906 and he lived there until his death in 1942 at the age of 73. In 1944, the Detroit Urban League bought the building and it looks as if they are still using it today for their offices. The front entryway still has his custom, carved floral design stone arch.

Image borrowed from internet-not my own image.

Whew! Are you still with me after all of that?? All of that research and information came about by a random comment by a co-worker and a suggestion to park at the Winder Street Inn. I am so glad she told me about it, and I'm so glad I did some research! It is really sad to see the homes in such sorry states. If you Google Brush Park, you can find all kinds of pictures and even a map of what it looked like in 1897. 

Now to the Tiger's game! The staff where I work was treated to a Tiger's game on Thursday. It was an evening game (only my second ever evening game) and I was talking with a co-worker when she recommended a parking lot that was about a block and a half from the stadium. 

She said the cost to park was free, but you have to make reservations and you have to do a quick tour of the Winder Street Inn (which costs $15 per car). They use it as advertising for their bed and breakfast/event. business. The night we went, there was a little hand written sign taped to the permanent sign saying "weeknight rate $20". 

We were met on the porch by a very friendly and welcoming woman, dressed in a long dress and apron. I am assuming it was clothing from the era of when the house was built. She offered us all a small glass of lemonade and told us to go inside, sign the guest book and take our time touring the building. All of the rooms but one were rented for the evening, so we could only look in one sleeping room.

Our little group of 7 really enjoyed our quick tour-it was an added bonus to the whole outing. We walked out the back door, and walked about a quarter of a block and then walked over the expressway and right up to the back entrance to Comerica Park! We did walk to the front entrance because one girl in our group had never been to a Tiger's game before and we wanted her to see the front and get her picture taken by the big tiger.

Our seats were out in right field, and we had a few fly balls come near our area-most were caught by the fielder, but a couple were caught by spectators-none in our area though. It was a beautiful night for a game and everyone seemed to have a great time watching the Tigers beat the Kansas City Royals. The girl I mentioned earlier (it was her first time), either got pick-pocketed or lost her wallet out of her purse after a visit to the concession stand. We stopped at guest services, and they said they would mail it to her if they found it.

Here are some shots from the game...
 There was around 30 people from my work attending this game, these are just the few that rode in my car with me.

Grounds crew.


  1. What beautiful homes! Detroit is so depressing. If only people would put money into the city and restore it to some of it's former glory. I lived in the suburbs outside of Detroit for two years and the blighted city shocked me every time I saw it. I'm proud to be from Grand Rapids and back living here where the people care about the city and our millionaires put money into our city!

  2. Thank you for sharing all of these architectural beauties with us. Unfortunately they cost an arm and a leg to maintain.

    Be well

    Miss V :)

  3. Thanks for the tour of Detroit. My Mom grew up there on Leicester Court not far from Woodard blvd. And I always heard stories about going shopping at Hudson's. My Grandfather worked for GM before they moved back to IL in 1939.