Grosse Pointe, MI – May 2017 – Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

Edsel Ford was the only child of Henry Ford, and as such had plenty of money to build his mansion however he pleased. He and his wife Eleanor chose the vernacular architecture of the Cotswolds, in England. This included sandstone walls, slate roof with reducing sized shingles, and an amazing collection of old materials collected and brought over from England, including paneling, flooring and windows.

The home is located in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a small community about 10 miles from downtown Detroit.

The house is filled with art, much of which is now reproductions that represent the originals that once hung in the home, but are now in the Detroit Museum of Art, donated by the Ford’s.

As you arrive at the gatehouse you can’t help but notice the massive doors.

 

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The house is 32,000 square feet, but with the various roof lines and wings to the building, it does not feel oppressive.

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Situated along Lake St Clair, on this day it was home to what felt like 1000 Canadian Geese, which is appropriate since Canada is just across the lake.

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A large lawn faces east from the home to the lake.

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The grounds cover 87 acres, much of which is nicely landscaped, although not overdone.

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The pool and pool house are detached from the main house by a couple of hundred yards.

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The gardens are minimalist, but well kept, as noted by the persistent groundskeepers who kept getting in the photos.

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Detroit and Beyond – August 2016 – A Weekend of Spectacular Automobiles

Sometimes it seems we get on a theme for a period of time, and I realize we often find events with wheels, but the third weekend in August was the best weekend of automobiles we have had. The main event of the weekend was to go to Detroit for the Woodward Dream Cruise. We had been to this a few years earlier passing through, but this year I wanted to spend the day checking out the events.

We left Columbus before dawn, arriving in downtown Detroit by 9 AM. Most of the cruise takes place in suburban Oakland County, but I had read that the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant had an event the day of the cruise. The Piquette Avenue Plant is a museum in the second home of Ford, and is known as the birthplace of the Model T. It is the oldest automobile factory building in the world open to the public, and has been open as a museum since 2001. On this day they were going to have a cruise of classic cars up Woodward through the city to Oakland County.

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As I drove up in my Audi S5 to the front of the factory the attendant said ‘are you cruising with us today’? When I commented that I thought it was for classic cars, he said mine was easily cool enough to come along, which of course brought a smile to my face. But still initially we parked in a vacant lot across the street (being inner city Detroit there are many vacant lots), crossed the street where we signed in, and followed a lady inside to see the factory. Little did I realize we were going to start out on a freight elevator, the same elevator that took finished Model T’s out a hundred years earlier!

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Already mesmerized we walked out onto the old wooden floors to see a large collection of Model Ts, Model As and others displayed down the production floor. For a car guy this was like being where the telephone, radio and television were perfected, only all in 1 place! I stood there imagining what it would’ve been like full of machinery, noisy and smelly, but re-inventing the world as we now know it. In addition to the vehicles the museum did a great job of displaying photos and other artifacts explaining the production there.

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On the third level were even more cars represented, this time from various periods including a 1964 Mustang and a early 2000s reproduction GT.

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As we left the building the attendants again asked if I was coming along – of course. The parking lot was filled with American muscle, from hot rods to tricked out Mustangs, as well as a few old Model Ts, which were honored to lead the parade. The Detroit Police had been contracted to lead the parade and off we went, all these classic American with my German ‘hot rod’.

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The drive up Woodward goes through much of what most people think of Detroit, blocks upon blocks of vacant lots or burned out buildings. But we also passed a couple of really nice looking neighborhoods. As we drove everyone walking along the street would wave, shout and take pictures because very few of the cars in town would come into this area.We had as much fun as they did, taking photos of the neighborhoods, going through every red light (probably a good thing), until we reached the edge of town and joined the rest of the Woodward Cruise crowd.

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As we continued north our parade did a U turn and went through Palmer Park. As we drove it seemed more cars joined in. Once you reached Ferndale the street becomes 4 lanes each way with a huge median strip for those Michigan left turns (U turns). From this point there was a traffic jam for 10 miles, but one of the best looking traffic jams you will ever see.

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The Woodward Dream cruise has no rules about who can and can’t drive up and down the street, so you get a mix of about 70% cruisers and 30% your normally frumpy Honda just trying to go to the grocery store. The cruise is the world’s largest one-day automotive event, drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe—from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the former Soviet Union.

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Every parking lot was having some sort of event, Chrysler had a Mopar display in a shopping center, Ford had Mustang Alley down 9 Mile Road. With the afternoon getting late and rain coming in we decided to move on, but not for home as we had more cars planned for the next day.

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Leaving Detroit through the southeastern Michigan countryside, we eventually stopped in Angola Indiana for the night, stopping briefly on some country road to stand where Michigan, Indiana and Ohio come together.

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The next morning we made our way to Auburn, Indiana, first touring the National Auto and Truck Museum. This museum is in some of the remaining production buildings of the Auburn Automobile, including the Service and New Parts Building, and the L-29 Cord Building.

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The Service and Parts building, built in 1923, was used for test – driving automobiles, factory service and distribution of parts to distributors and dealers all over the world. The L29 building was built in 1928-29 for assembly and storage before shipping, and was innovative in it’s use of skylights that opened to provide ventilation.

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Also here is an extensive toy and model cars and trucks display from the 1800s to present day. In the lower level in an extensive truck display include a custom built GM vehicle called the Futurliner,  one of 12 large dual-front wheeled display vehicles that crisscrossed the country in the early 1950’s, part of a General Motors promotion called the Parade of Progress.

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Next door is the beautiful Auburn, Cord, Dusenberg Museum. This building functioned as the Corporate offices as well as an extensive showroom, with the showroom section exceeding even the Packard Museum in Dayton for a stunning display of automotive brilliance. Never have I seen more beautiful cars in a magnificent setting.

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The upper level feature more of the 3 brands over the years. The Dusenberg’s particularly were stunning cars with their long hoods and art deco feel. The upper level also houses the design studios that were used, complete with some of the original desks and designs. This museum and these automobiles truly are works of art, highly recommended to anyone who appreciates either.

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As we made our way to our last stop of the day we passed through Fairmount, Indiana, home of James Dean. They play it up, as most towns do their famous sons or daughters, but in the end it is just a simple little town in the middle of cornfields.

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Finally we reached the small town of Alexandria, Indiana where we had an afternoon of watching go cart racing through the streets of the town. These small karts can hit speeds of 80 MPH down the 3 block long straights.

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There were a number of classes for both adults and kids, with the racing close and fast. But you can only have so much fun over two days with things with wheels, and ours came to an end, so we headed off for the 3 hour drive back to Columbus.

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Detroit – January 2016 – Return to the International Auto Show

Normally I try not to do the same thing twice but when the opportunity to go to the International Auto Show in Detroit on ‘Insider Day‘ I couldn’t resist. Thanks to a nice nephew who got the tickets from the company he works for, and the weather still holding (no snow) I made the trip up and back to Detroit on a Wednesday.

Similar to last year the parking is very expensive for Detroit, but with it being Inside Day there was no crowd, and those that were there were other ‘insiders’ or the press, which made it so much better than 2015.

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Held at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit the level of investment in presentation by the participating companies is immense. If you attending a car show in Cleveland or Pittsburgh you are greeting with a large open hall with carpet across the entire floor, and individual desks with some stylish backgrounds, with a couple of the larger car companies (Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet) having an elevated stage with a car on it.

In Detroit some of the companies have two level displays built, with lounges. The level of multimedia for presentation is second to none.

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Another feature of this car show are the number of  announcements of new cars, followed by those cars being on display.

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Prototypes are also always present.

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Even the models who do the presentation have a more professional style and approach.

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All in all a Insider Day at the International Auto Show was a great time.

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Detroit – January 2015 – North American International Auto Show

The following Saturday found us in lovely downtown Detroit, at Cobo Hall for the 2015 North American International Auto Show. It is one of the largest Auto Shows in the world, far better than what you can see in Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Columbus.

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What sets this show apart is the representation of most important domestic and international car companies, the quality and quantity of the show floor, and the collection of activities that you can participate in.

The downside is that it is in Detroit, which means that once you get to Michigan you have to drive on horrendously bumpy freeways to get downtown, where you are met with numerous vacant skyscrapers and open parking lots. The parking itself is a bit pricy, but that is because the crowd they attract, which is another drawback, the place is packed.

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We got there a bit later than hoped, but still had a chance to spend an hour or two before the really large crowds arrived.

 

 

 

The Lincoln display was particularly nice, with a unique wall to separate it from the rest of the floor. In addition, they had partnered with a company called Shinola, that appears to be making high end, trendy watches, as well as a sponsor of bicycles.

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Many of the automakers had unique displays; Chevrolet had, among other things, a cutaway Volt, virtual reality games, and a nice scarlet and grey Corvette Z06; Mercedes had one of the Petronas Mercedes F1 cars and a really unique AMG Prototype;

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Jeep mounted a Rubicon vertically on a wall.

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As usual this show was excellent, worth going even to Detroit in January.

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Seattle – May 2014 – Downtown for the Day

An employment opportunity took me to Seattle where I had an entire day to explore downtown. My connection out took me through Detroit, which had replaced the decrepit old terminal since the last time I was there. The new one has the shuttle running above the concourse, with a tunnel under the taxiway using LED lighting to really make a really interesting walk.

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Arriving in Seattle by 9 AM, I had the remainder of the day to wander.

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Detroit – August 2008 – Tiger Stadium Demolition

Tiger Stadium in Detroit was the baseball stadium for the Tigers from 1927 until 1999, when Comerica Park opened across downtown. Preservation folks tried in desperation to save the old stadium, but in the end they failed, and the stadium was demolished.

We happened by there in the middle of the demolition schedule, so we saw a half standing landmark.

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Nearby is the Michigan Central Railway Terminal – a huge old vacant office building that was the main railway station for Detroit. At the time it was derelict, with all of the windows broken out.

There have been many restoration projects proposed, but none have gotten very far. They have repaired the roof to try and stabilize the building, as well as a large barbed wire fence to slow down the vandals.

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