Detroit – April 2019 – Random Sights

Our weekend in Detroit resulted in some venues that didn’t result in enough photos for a single posting so they are grouped together in ‘Random Sights’

Up first – Eastern Market.




Detroit has one of the finest farmers markets in the country. Contained in a number of indoor and outdoor ‘sheds’, they offerings vary throughout the year.




On this day there was little produce, but many people with various meats and even landscaping items.




A few street performers were on hand trying to generate some tips.




Surrounding the market are many food service companies. A number of the buildings had food related murals.




A little Detroit muscle in the Market.





In nearby Dearborn is the Henry Ford Estate.




When you invent the Model T you can have any house you want. Henry had this nice home on what was once a 1700 acre grounds. Most has been developed into a college, mall and corporate center for Ford.




This home’s styling has kept up better than most of it’s era.




And when you start a car company you need a really stylish 5 car garage.





A brief tour of downtown revealed a number of art pieces. This skyscraper at One Woodward Avenue was designed by Minoru Yamaski. If the design of the windows looks familiar it is because he later designed the original World Trade Center in New York.

The statue is The Passo di Danza (Step of the Dance).




The Spirit of Detroit is a large statue completed in 1958. Today this symbol adorns most of the city of Detroit’s department logos.




A recent addition is a 17′ high statue called ‘Waiting’ . While many like the addition some say the ‘X’ for eyes represent death.




Detroit is in Wayne County – and the County Building is in a classic Roman Baroque Revival style,, and was completed in 1902.




Cadillac Tower was the first building outside of New York and Chicago to be 40 floors tall when completed in 1927.




Across the street from the Guardian Building is the Buhl Building. Stylish in it’s own right, it pales to its world renown neighbor.




From the 32nd floor of the Guardian Building we had a great view of the surrounding area. This is a view southwest looking at the Ambassador Bridge leading to Canada (on the left), as well as the Rouge Factory in the distance.




The Renaissance Center was built in the 1970s in an effort to revitalize downtown, however it was built across an 8 lane street, along the river, and with huge walls that visually were imposing. Fail.




From our high vantage point we could see out to the vacant Packard factory that we toured the day before.




The Penobscot Building was Detroit’s tallest building from it’s completion in 1928 until the Ren Center was finished in the 1970s.




The building was named after the Penobscot Native American’s in Maine. The exterior motif pays tribute to them.







Detroit – April 2019 – Controlled Urban Exploring

Unfortunately for Detroit when your population goes from nearly 2 million to 600,000, and most of the jobs leave the city you are left with a lot of vacant properties. One of the most famous is the 3.5 million square foot Packard Automobile Factory.




Completed in the early 1900s, it was state of the art for it’s time.




At one point there were 90 buildings in use across the campus. Today only one remains in use, the rest are decaying to various degrees.




Designed by Albert Kahn it was a model factory for 1911. This view is of the former administration office building.




The complex has been vacant so long a tree has grown over a fire hydrant.




At it’s peak 40,000 people worked here.




Today bridges lead to nowhere.




While it closed in the 1950s as a car factory, portions of it were used for a variety of other purposes until the 1990s.



There is a large amount of graffiti throughout.




Including places you wonder how they got up there.




Debris is strewn about everywhere, including this column from one of the buildings with the rebar wrapped around it.




The campus has a tunnel complex throughout – originally used to provide electrical and other utilities.




Today it is mostly filled with debris like tires. The light down the tunnel is from collapses on down the line.




This bridge ‘sort of’ connects two buildings.




Some random dumping, including a boat that was then covered in graffiti.




A bumper – but no car.




Our intrepid white hard hatted group wandered about with the Pure Detroit guide learning about the history of the Packard Company and the facility.




At last we made our way up the ramp to where the assembly line ended.




With a look down the line. In the history of the factory over 1.5 million cars and trucks were produced here.




Some of the more artistic graffiti.




One of the buildings minus every single window frame (the glass has been gone from the buildings for decades).




Some of the buildings were originally built with 2 floors, but later expanded. Look closely you will note that the columns are slightly different between the floors indicated a later construction for the upper floor.




There were a number of hard core photographers in the group.




This building still has some remaining window frames, at a great happenstance view.




An elevator building that is amazingly still somewhat standing.




Ironically the complex has become popular with large scale movie production – this ‘concrete’ is actually a piece of Styrofoam painted to look like concrete from the latest ‘Transformers’ movie.




The last bastion of glass…




A survivor of the apocalypse – or a slightly burnt teddy bear in a factory in Detroit, minus one arm but still a smile.




The front building area has been cleared of debris as they try and restore it to a functional state.




While the office area has been cleared out waiting for a lot of money to come along to rebuild.




The funeral for the Packard Automobile Company was held over 60 years ago, and the factory itself over 20 years ago – but Detroit still holds out hope someone will bring this amazing place back from the dead. (and it was total coincidence a vintage hearse drove by while we were standing there waiting on the tour).







Detroit – April 2019 – The Fisher Building

A weekend in Detroit touched on a significant amount of the auto industry history without really seeing an actual car (except the obvious high percent of American made cars on the streets and freeways of the city).

An organization called ‘Pure Detroit’ offers tours of historic structures, including the Fisher Building. Completed in 1928 as an Art Deco masterpiece, the Fisher was designed by noted Detroit architect Albert Kahn.





Despite being one of the tallest buildings in the city when completed, it is not downtown, rather about 3 miles north in an area that was named ‘New Center’. Developed in the 1920s New Center was envisioned as one of the original ‘edge cities’.

In reality the Fisher Brothers had tried to purchase a complete city block downtown, but at that time Detroit was a boom town and no land was available, making the New Center option even more attractive.




The Fisher Brothers founded Fisher Body, who provided the automobile bodies to General Motors. Most of the office space in New Center was occupied by GM, and their suppliers.

They chose this area to be closer to their factories.





As you enter the three story barrel vaulted concourse. The building is noted mostly because it contains forty (yes 40) different types of marble.

The Fisher Brothers were noted for their philanthropy and they felt that by providing a grand space for their business, as well as the public in general, they were giving back to the city.





As an architect Kahn had to be elated when the Fisher Brothers essentially said, spend what you need, make it memorable.





Including in the building is the Fisher Theater. With over 2000 seats it remains one of the oldest theaters in the city. The day we were there a matinee of ‘Hamilton’ was performing, resulting a large crowd gathering as we completed our tour.





Even areas like a small food court is opulent.





The mosaics, as well as other pieces of sculpture and frescoes were completed by Geza Maroti. As with much of the art in the period, the works have symbolism, including numerous eagles symbolizing America stretching to greater heights.





Lighting is always difficult to capture properly but when made the focus they make an interesting look.





A close up of the ceiling reveals one of the numerous tributes to knowledge.





The mezzanine level offers a nice glimpse of the ceiling, along with the main concourse.





The railing are very stylish….





… but obviously not OSHA complaint height.





The mezzanine level has great symmetry.






Just across the street is Cadillac Place. From the 1930s until the 1970s, this was the headquarters of GM.





From the 26th floor there was a nice view back toward downtown Detroit on this hazy day.

Our effervescent tour guide Jordan was great. She was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable – Pure Detroit should be proud to have her.






Cleveland – March 2019 – People, Art & Machines

Mid March means it is time for the Piston Powered Show at the IX Center in Cleveland. As the name indicates this show features all things with a piston: Cars, Motorcycles, Trucks, an Airplane, Tanks, Snowmobiles, and even a Steam Shovel – plus a few things without pistons.

Most of the cars are ‘by invitation’, which means they are the best of the best. To make it to be one of the best in a custom car show you must have good graphics – and this show has that. It also has a great collection of people who have as much character as the vehicles – all filling the million square foot (93,000 square meters) building.

As you enter the vast hall you are immediately greeted with some really nice restorations.




As noted previously, many had customized paint jobs including this mid 1960s Chevy El Camino hood.




A number incorporated famous graphics, like Speedy Gonzalez.




This customized Willy’s sedan had a matching mannequin.




The participants came from numerous states in a 500 mile radius of Cleveland, including this great paint job from Kentucky.




For some the audience made a good match for the car.




A Zombie car – because why not.




The Zombie car’s door art.





Most of the motorcycles were customized Harley’s, many containing skulls.





Some craftsmen were displaying their skills – he was cutting leather.




This car was a repeat from a couple of years ago that was my posting’s feature photo – still one of the very best custom designs I have ever seen.




An aptly named 1957 Chevy.





A group of local technical high schools were having a competition to tear down and rebuild an engine in less than 30 minutes. Not sure why these guys were wearing helmets though.





While most of the custom bikes were Harley’s this great sport bike paint job features a customization of the ‘Guardians of Transportation’ sculptures on a large Cleveland bridge. Ironically I was wearing my ‘Dia de la Muertos (Day of the Dead)’ T shirt that featured the same sculpture in a skeleton look, so I fit in with the theme on all the bikes.




There was a classic wooden boat display as well. The boats themselves are works of art!




As is this sweet 1948 Buick Convertible.




Even a plain old 1960s Ford Station Wagon can be made to look great.




There were a couple of internet radio stations present – this one is a community station that, among other things, featuring racing.




I am not positive what it is, but I am certain it is NOT a Prius.




Mixing classic art and hot rods.




Many had names.




Most had pistons, but not this turbine jet car.





Some cars like the ‘rat rod’ rusty, beat up look – some like the pristine restoration. This Paddy Wagon was somewhere in between, but still cool.





Also featured were a number of artists showing how they make the great graphics we saw on all the vehicles.




All obviously have very steady hands.




The detail is amazing.




His shirt says it all.




It is amazing on the metal how little paint it took to go a long ways.




This guy had great pedal cars.




Not sure how a bowling pin got into a car show – but hey it is Cleveland.




Ready for St Patricks Day.




The emcee, and auctioneer, had character. She was auctioning off the finished pieces for charity.

Once again the Piston Powered Show was a great way to spend a day inside checking out a great collection of vehicles, people and art.







Cleveland – March 2019 – Check Out Those Wheels

Since we were in Cleveland, and the car show was going on – well everyone has their addiction. For this show the focus is on the actuals wheels.

I would assume some car today would come with hubcaps, but I didn’t see any.

We did check out complete cars, including this bright orange Camaro.







What’s a car show without ‘Product Specialists’. This guy was so still I thought at first he was part of the sign. Once again each car company had their Product Specialists dressed the same.







The amazing Lego Chevrolet Pickup made it’s way over from Chicago. Either they are glued together or those are some amazing Lego’s to stay together on the Indiana Toll Road.







While the really cool Camaro had all black wheels that didn’t make a statement this simple Chevy SUV had really stylish wheels.







Most high performance cars, like this Dodge Challenger, have their brake calipers in red to show off how large they are. I can see the all black wheels here.






Again – a high performance car with all black wheels. The Alfa Romeo Gulia.





A Nissan Altima near production prototype has fairly basic, but nice looking wheels.





Another excited Product Specialist. Although to be fair this has to be a tough job standing their all day as thousands of people come by asking questions. I love her look of ‘Scotty Beam Me Up’.





The Honda electric cars have these quasi fender skirts.





While this Toyota has also gone with the geometric styling approach.





Also at the show this year were a few movie cars, including the Scooby wagon and the Dumb and Dumber van.







A Product Specialist doing her thing.





If you surmised this is a sports car with the massive brake calipers, you would be correct – a Ford Mustang.





The Cleveland Browns have their first winning season in forever with a rookie quarterback named Baker Mayfield and they are painting cars for him.

To be fair a main street through the eastern suburbs is (and has always been) Mayfield Road.

Being the Browns I will bet they crash and burn this year, going back to their familiar last place 🙂





This Product Specialist is extolling the virtues of her car – but by the looks of the people in the background they aren’t buying what she is selling.







The dad – how cool is this. The mom – where does the car seat go?





I have been thinking what I will do when I retire, and really like cars. Maybe go into a auto detailing business….nah I will keep my day job.





I have found the next ride! And the wheels aren’t all black.









Chicago – February 2019 – Then and Now

The ‘Time Travel’ series continues in Chicago start with Van Buren Street Station in 1907 and now. Note the Art Museum in both photos for orientation of the view.






The Chicago River looking west in 1946 and now. Same bridges, but not much else (although the Merchandise Mart is still there, just hidden behind Marina City.






Buckingham Fountain from 1955 to now gives evidence to how many buildings have been built in the last 60s years.





Michigan Avenue north of the river from 330 N Michigan again shows all the new buildings, although the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower still grace the riverfront itself.





Meanwhile down at street level looking across the same bridge in 1955. Of note is the mid 50s Ford making the right turn compared to the Honda Civic today. Both were one of the most popular cars of their day.

Also of note are examples of clothing as well as the change in street lighting.





This view of State Street in front of Marshall Fields/Macy’s has the change over from streetcars to buses. At some point they must have cleaned the exterior of Marshall Field’s as it is much brighter today.





While turning around looking south down State Street – in the 1950s it was large old Plymouths, Packards and Chevy’s. Today is a Prius parade while the traffic blocked the intersection.





Moving back over to Michigan Avenue in the late 1950s shows the recently completed Prudential Building (1955). Not only was it the tallest building around it was the only building on Randolph Street, east of Michigan.

The reason for this was they were just beginning to replace the freight rail yards with buildings. Clearly by 2019 all available space has been built up.





This view from 1960 shows the freight yards east of Michigan Avenue, right in the middle of Grant Park. While Columbus Avenue took part, the park is much better for the city than the rail lines.





The El crossing the river to the west loop (at a slightly different angle in 2019) shows the huge growth along the river from 1960 until today.





The skyline view from Adler Planetarium also shows the dramatic change. This skyline view is from 1965. (full disclosure the ‘current’ photo is from last July, not this last week – nobody was sitting along the stone step along the lake in Chicago in February).





Our final view is from 1970, and the recently completed John Hancock Tower – the first 1000′ tall building in Chicago. This view too is impressive in the changes seen in downtown Chicago in the last 50 years.

Chicago – February 2019 – History Museum

Amazingly the Chicago History Museum was founded in 1856, just a few years after the settling of the town. Although twice destroyed by fire (once during the Great Chicago Fire), they still have a vast collection of artifacts celebrating the history of the city.

During our visit to Chess Records I had heard that the History Museum had a nice exhibit on the Chicago Blues, which was our encouragement to go to the History Museum.





In the display is this map showing the amazing collection of recording studios and clubs that featured the blues that have existed in Chicago over the years.





Raeburn Flerlage was a famed photographer of the blues scene from 1959-1971, although his career in music lasted much longer.

His photographs were used for many album covers.





Included in the collection is a copy of what is generally acknowledge as the first blues record of all time, St Louis Blues by W C Handy, from 1925.





The south side of Chicago was the hub of the blues, with Maxwell Street being the epicenter.





All of the blues greats were celebrated here, including Muddy Waters.





In the 1950s record companies were only allowed to have so many records in radio station airplay rotation at one time, so they would just start another record company.

This record of Koko Taylor’s Wang Dang Doodle is on Checker Records, the sister company of Chess Records.





Moving on from the blues display we checked out Chicago – Crossroad of America. This documented Chicago as the transportation hub of the country since the early days of the railroad.





Also on display was one of the original El cars from 1892.





A number of focus displays included one of the infamous gangland activities during prohibition in the 1920s.





Keeping with the infamous Playboy Magazine started in Chicago, as did the original club with the hostess (bunny) outfit on display.





As noted in other postings, Chicago was always mail order center of the country.





Another section celebrated entertainment events in Chicago including the 1893 World’s Fair.





As well as the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair.






Finally there was a small section celebrating the professional sports teams of Chicago – baseball’s Cubs and White Sox, football’s Bears, basketball’s Bulls and hockey’s Blackhawks.