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Cityscape: 1917

Cityscape: 1917

Detroit circa 1917. "Looking northwest from roof of interurban station." Landmarks here include the Hotel Pontchartrain, Ford Building and Dime Savings Bank. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


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Sans Peer

The Peerless Film Company, shown in the foreground, was a film distribution firm. Detroit was home to a dozen or more of these concerns. The old nitrate films were highly unstable and it was not uncommon for them to spontaneously burst into flames. That is why the distribution companies eventually built a single building to house their products. The Film Exchange Building still stands on the northern edge of downtown, and yes, it is built to withstand fires.

By the way, the Peerless address was 153 East Jefferson, placing it just where the current CAY building stands. That side street with the tailgated horse cart, is Bates.

Come across the River

I just noticed the sign for the Windsor Races (just under the Lawrence Printing Company). If this is 1917 that probably makes it the late spring or summer which means that Detroit (and America) are finally in a war that the Canadians in Windsor have been fighting for three years. And if then is anything like today they'll be featuring harness racing while on the north side of the river (Detroit) they were running thoroughbreds, if they were running anything at all. In years past - and maybe this year - there might have been recruiting stations at or near the races, and if they got the occasional American that was fine with them. In 1917, with Americans being drafted and Canada about to impose conscription, I doubt that would be happening much.

More landmarks

The Penobscot (now Annex), Hammond, Majestic, City Hall are all visible here.

It's interesting to see the Pontchartrain from an angle that doesn't just show the Woodward facade.

There appears to be a very impatient motorist tailgating a horse-drawn cart in the lower right. An early road hog.

Clean roofs

As someone who spends a great deal of time on flat commercial roofs, it always amazes me how empty such roofs were in the era before air conditioning and wireless communications. And the chimney at the far left (next door to Peerless Film) is long overdue for re-pointing.

Which is the Ford building?

The hotel has a sign to identify it; thus I am assuming the other two skyscrapers are the bank and the Ford building (perhaps the one on the left?). In any event, I am surprised at the size of the building. To have such a building to house office workers, already built and in-use by 1917, when Ford had introduced the Model T only 9 years earlier, makes me wonder how many workers it took to manage the paperwork. Did Ford have more clerks than autoworkers?

[The Ford Building (also seen here) was headquarters of Edward Ford Plate Glass and had nothing to do with Ford cars or Ford Motor Co. - Dave]

[This is exactly why I will never qualify for Jeopardy! But who knew that Detroit had another industrialist named Ford?]

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