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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Winter Wednesday Postcard Promenade #4: Detroit in the Old Days

Today I invite citizens of the Dominion of Canada to cross the Ambassador Bridge, seen here from the Detroit side. We’ll tour the old town as it looked from 1910 to sometime after the invention of postal zip codes, though not in strict chronological order.

First come two views of “the Heart of Detroit,” one seen from a motorist’s view and then from an airplane pilot’s point of view.

An old monochrome postcard (seen below) showing Capitol Square was printed in Germany. When I asked David if he knew this fountain, he said it was a “truant officers’ trap,” someplace he would never go when he was playing hookey. He stayed away from the toy department in Hudson’s, too. The Oriental rug department, on the other hand, was perfectly safe.

Next, look at these old automobiles in front of the Detroiter Hotel. Calling them mere “cars” seems sacrilege.

We’ve backtracked from the automobile era for this view of the Ponchartrain Hotel and Hammond Building, judging from the horse-drawn vehicles and trolley cars. But wait—how can those be trolley cars without tracks of wires?

Now another fountain, in bright color, identified as the Edison Memorial Fountain at Grand Circus Park, Detroit.

So many tall buildings! Where is Superman?

Two more cards show the beautiful Ponchartrain Hotel. On one of them, a young woman writing to her uncle in Cleveland scrawled in the margin of the picture “Our new hotel.” David tells me that their restaurant, the Ponchartrain Wine Cellars, was “the height of everything.”

I like this image of the Pantlind—oops! Grand Rapids! Sorry! Wrong city! Never mind....

Back to Detroit, I was happy to find a postcard showing the monkey island at the zoo, a view which looks as if it was taken from the island.

Besides the zoo, other notable Detroit landmarks include Woodmere Cemetery,

the Detroit Institute of Arts,

and Children’s Hospital. The hospital postcard is written in what I’m guessing is Dutch and is addressed to a sister of the writer in Minneapolis.

Finally, how could we time-travel to 20th-century Detroit without a visit to Belle Isle? The bridge, the casino, the boat club—that last looking like something from Venice, Italy--

Canoeing the various canals—

Diving into the cool light of the aquarium--

A glossy image of the bus terminal and Post House Cafeteria comes from later in the century.

Finally, from the postal zip code era, we’ll close this week’s promenade with a night skyline view.


Dawn said...

Very cool. Fun to notice how many of these structures are still around, and in what shape they're in.

P. J. Grath said...

Sorry I didn't have a postcard of the train station, my introduction to Detroit.

Kathy said...

I am going to send a link of your Detroit blog to my mother-in-law. I think she will enjoy looking at these photos. Thanks, Pamela.

P. J. Grath said...

I hope your mother-in-law will enjoy the pictures, Kathy. I love David's stories of "When I was a little boy in Detroit...."

Gerry said...

I enjoyed these postcards very much, and felt a tugging at my heart. Quite a few of those buildings hold my own memories.

I love my dad's stories of "When I was a little boy in Detroit . . . " too! Rob the Firefighter was a little boy there, and has stories of his own. Thank you for the exhibit. Well curated!

P. J. Grath said...

Thank you for the compliment, Gerry. I'm glad it wasn't too obvious (?) that I don't really know Detroit first-hand. Chicago was the city of my heart when I was growing up 45 miles away in the cornfields.

Kathy said...

She loved looking at these...sent me an email telling her personal memories of all these places. Thanks for brightening her day, Pamela!

Anonymous said...

I love you, Pamela! I drive to Detroit at least twice a week and see some of these old buildings, and now I will see them anew! Dorene

P. J. Grath said...

Thank you again, Kathy, and thanks, Dorene. I feel pretty good that I, a non-Detroiter, could present Detroit in a way meaningful to Detroiters.