As the song goes Route 66 went from Chicago to L.A., going through Missouri along the way. While much of it is gone, replaced by freeways, there are still portions that are intact.
Many unique places remain along these portions of the Mother Road. One such place is just west of Springfield, Missouri. It is a restored Sinclair Gas Station full of cool, quirky things, including numerous ‘vintage’ vehicles.
A very nice lady named Barbara is the current owner of the property, having taken over for her father after he passed away. Barbara enthusiastically welcome all visitors, and the visitors seem genuinely pleased to be there.
On the day we were there one of the old trucks her father had owned was returned to it’s rightful spot at the station.
As noted plenty of tourists make the stop to check it out. I suggest if you get the chance you do the same.
One of Houston’s most famous annual events is the Art Car Parade. For more than 30 years people have decorated their vehicles and paraded them in the streets of Houston. Today there are more than 200 cars that participate in the parade. This knowledge gave me high hopes of finding interesting sights at the Art Car Museum.
After multiple attempts we were able to find a legal parking space, we arrived and were greeted by this 1960 era Ford Station Wagon, decorated like Carmen Miranda.
To our surprise when we entered we found.. an art museum.
To be fair the art was interestingly quirky, but it appears to be more of a museum with a couple of art cars, rather than an art car museum.
In addition to the one car outside, there were 3 cars inside.
There is a video wall running a video of the history of the parade. This only made the small number of cars more frustrating.
In the end it was an interesting little museum with a few art cars. After our success that day with Smithers Park and Lucky Land it was disappointing.
As you are driving down the interstate in rural Alabama one of the most unlikely road names you expect to see is Mercedes Drive!
That is until you exit and find car carriers leaving with new Mercedes Benz SUVs.
Over the last 25 years most non domestic car makers have built factories in the U.S., and Mercedes is no different. Their facility here is first class – an almost 4 million square feet manufacturing plant…
A state of the art training facility…
And a beautiful visitor center.
Normally you can go to the visitor center and take tours of the factory but they are retooling and the tours are shut down.
The visitor center however remains open with their museum to tour.
It features some recent models from AMG.
Lewis Hamilton’s Petronas F1 car.
The display included a concept car.
The museum portion have some very early examples of Mercedes.
The classic 1970s MB look.
The pre war years were very stylish.
It was disappointing that the factory tours are unavailable, but the small museum was worth the stop.
The Barber Motorsports Museum is located in suburban Birmingham in the town of Leeds. It is hands down one of the very best Motorsports museums in the world.
With over 1600 motorcycles from over 200 manufacturers it is the preeminent collection. Over 900 are displayed in the 200,000+ square foot museum, along with 100 cars. Oh yeah, a world class road course race track is on the grounds as well that Porsche uses for their racing school.
Please note with that many options for photos this posting is quite long, with over 40 photos. But words don’t do the venue justice so the photos will speak for themselves.
In 1932 famed artist Diego Rivera was commissioned by Edsel Ford and the Director of the Detroit Institute of Art Wilhelm Valentine to produce 27 fresco murals depicting the industry of Detroit, specifically the automotive industry.
The timing and subjects continue to this day to be controversial. Rivera had a socialist view towards society, while he was commissioned by one of the great capitalists of all time, the Ford family. In addition just before Rivera arrived there had been a protest at Ford by workers, who were fired upon with gunshots resulting in the deaths of six marchers.
The courtyard that contains the murals is oriented on a north-south-east-west orientation. Starting with the east wall (where the sun rises each day), there are symbolism of birth. A close look at the wider fresco shows a baby in the bulb of a plant. The two nudes hold grain and fruit, symbolizing a bountiful harvest of America, and show some of the earliest technology in agriculture.
The west wall, sunset, represents endings and last judgement. It shows both the good and bad of technology, as represented by airplanes that can transport people but also be used as an instrument of war.
The large narrow middle panel is tying together the agricultural south and industrial north, as well as the shipping industry present in Detroit to bring the two together.
The top panel of the north and south walls are known as the ‘four races’. The faces represent African, European, Asian and Native Americans, in a look of deities. Beneath this panel geological requirements for the production, associating it with the races above (which I am certain would be met with disdain today)
The panel on the upper right was the most controversial of all. It’s interpretation of a Renaissance view of Jesus’s birth, only the figures include actress Jean Harlow (making a second appearance) as the nurse and the Lindbergh baby as the infant. Most of Detroit religious community wanted the entire work destroyed because of this panel but Edsel and Wilhelm held firm.
The main panel on the north and south walls represent the production of a 1932 Ford V8.
As with the north wall, the south wall has a number of panels. The top center are figures holding raw materials used in the production of the automobile, continuing with the various races of mankind.
Below them are limestone, and various fossils used in glass manufacturing.
As with the north wall there are other smaller panels depicting other Detroit industry, as well as a continuation of the small monochrome panels of ‘a day in the life of the worker’.
A closer look at the north wall panel shows the workers with green skin, as a result of the formaldehyde used in the manufacturing process. It was in this type of symbolism that Rivera is showing what the workers ultimately have to pay to have jobs.
Ford Motors had long been ahead of the industry in employment of all races, and it is represented in the mural where the white and black workers are working for the common cause (capitalism, not for themselves).
The assembly of the chassis is coming together, with the steering columns and other components. Nearly every item had symbolism.
A notorious floor supervisor, who made life difficult for the workers was represented as a stern manager in this panel. This real life person was M.L. Bricke.
Also on this wall is a panel of the door manufacturing.
In this panel you see a number of visitors to the factory floor including religious leaders. The women in the brown plaid dress was done in the image of an actress of the time, Jean Harlow.
The small red car in the middle of this photo is the only fully assembled automobile in all of the 27 panels. Rivera was more interested in the process, rather than the result.
The stamping machine was chosen to represent the Aztec deity Coatlicue, a goddess of creation and war that required much human sacrifice. In this panel Rivera is clearly stating the workers have to sacrifice much for the company.
This panel on the west wall features the boss, who is an amalgamation of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.
In one of the ‘day in the life’ panels, it shows Henry Ford teaching the workers (including the famed ‘The Thinker’) how an engine works.
Note the engine is actually a dog, with the gear shift knob being his tail.
A close up of the west wall shows the aforementioned airplanes, as well as the shipping panel.
A close up of a north wall panel depicts insect like figures in gas masks making gas weapons. Given that this was completed less than 20 years after World War I where gas warfare became common, it is clearly a statement on the evil of such an en devour.
With an accurate rendering of the Rouge Factory powerhouse, it is a symbol that the worker too has some level of power.
River even worked himself into the piece. He is the worker in the bowler hat.
While his spouse Freida Kahlo assisted him in the drawings to prepare for the commission, Rivera did all of the painting. He was known as a task master who overworked his underpaid assistants, and eventually drove Freida away as well, but for this series of murals Rivera was at his finest artistically.
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).
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.