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Start Your Engines: 1903

Start Your Engines: 1903

Detroit circa 1903. "Wayne County Building, looking east across Detroit River from Majestic Building." Opposite the Detroit Carriage Goods factory at right we find a sign advertising the business of William E. Metzger, pioneering dealer in Automobiles. Also: a "moonlight tower." 8x10 glass negative. View full size.


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SS Columbia finally leaves Detroit

I was wrong in a previous post. They just towed the Columbia out of Detroit Tuesday September 16th. Looks like it is going to be restored and moved to the Hudson Valley.

Palms restored

The Palms apartments, brand new in this photo, were recently restored.

Other buildings that I recognize as still standing are SS. Peter and Paul church and rectory, and the little triangular building next to the courthouse.

Peche Island + Columbia

There was a reason for the Columbia to sail that far up the river. Peche Island. The island was at this time owned by the Detroit, Belle Isle & Windsor Ferry Co, which also owned Boblo island. I the attached picture from the Detroit publishing company, you can see the same boat docked at Peche Island.

The Palms

Thanks to kstan for identifying The Palms, an outstanding engineering achievement in its day. I was once told that it was the world's first air conditioned apartment building, but I cannot confirm this.


bobzyerunkl, I thought the exact same thing when I saw that ship on the river. I have many happy memories of riding on the Columbia and the Ste. Claire while on my way to fun and sun on Bob-Lo Island.

As for the Wayne County Building, in July 2014, the Wayne County Commission approved the sale of the building along with a county-owned parking lot at 400 E. Fort Street to a New York investment group for $13.4 million. The building is expected to be renovated for single tenant occupancy.

Here is a more recent shot of the Wayne County Building:

Belle Isle

Out in the river, behind City Hall, you can see Belle Isle in the mist. Being that Bob-Lo is in the opposite direction downriver and the Bob-Lo boat docks are south of the area in this picture, I think the steamer you're seeing is one of the Belle Isle ferries and not the Columbia; there would be no reason for her to be so far upriver. I think many years after this photo, the Columbia and her sister would do moonlight cruises that would take them upriver, but only in the moonlight and years after this.


Both ships have been laid up for years rotting away. Columbia was shrink-wrapped for a time, but now its all tattered and ignored. There has not been any activity or talk of restoration for years now.

Hey, I know that building!

The white building upper left is The Palms apartment building. Gorgeous building inside in the early 1990's. I have always been so intrigued by it. Bob-Lo boats were so cool. Beautiful woodwork. A very soot-y city back then. Thanks for this photo.

The steamer

Looks like it could be Columbia, launched by Detroit Ship Building in Wyandotte in 1902. Along with Ste. Clair (Toledo, 1910), she carried Detroiters to and from Bob-Lo Island amusement park near Amherstburg, Ontario, until 1991. Wonderful memories. I believe that both vessels are still around, in the hands of foundations dedicated to their restoration.

Is that #6?

In 1896, Austin, Texas bought 31 of the Detroit moonlight towers. 17 are still standing, including one a block from my home (listed as Tower No. 6 on Wikipedia). Just this morning I chatted with a neighbor snapping photos of the pair of redtail hawks who overlook their domain from the top.

Very Tall Tower

This shot gives us a good look at one of the moonlight towers and its proportions compared to the buildings around it.

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