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.
The Cultural Center of Detroit is located in the Midtown section, just north of downtown. We had the opportunity to visit two of the centerpieces of the neighborhood, the Main Library and Institute of Art.
We started at the Library where one of Detroit’s newest features, a streetcar called the Q Line’ was passing as we arrived.
We made our way around the building to the Cass Avenue entrance, which is much newer than the Woodward Avenue side.
The original building is in an Italian Renaissance style, with it’s impressive stairways and ceilings.
This look is carried over to one of the exhibition halls.
While one of the hallways on the second floor resemble a cathedral.
Reliefs celebrating the classics adorn this level.
A look at the main entrance ceiling.
We are still in the library, not the Institute of Art…
Directly across Woodward Avenue is the Institute of Art, with a statue of the Thinker greeting you.
The exterior had a significant amount of sculptures.
It is immediately apparently that the library and art museum were designed in similar style and completed at the same time.
Coincidentally there was a celebration of India going on the day we were there.
We came for the Rivera murals and ended up celebrating India as well!
The artists were happy to tell you about their culture.
A Rangoli demonstration.
This henna artist was very skilled, with a steady hand.
The east lobby had this great display.
Another exhibition hall featured pop art.
Some great chairs.
Ruben & Iabel Toledo had an exhibit called Labor of Love.
They also paid homage to the River murals. The DIA is a destination just for the murals, but the rest of the exhibitions are world class as well.
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.