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Green Detroit: 1942

Detroit, July 1942. "Looking north on Woodward Avenue from the Maccabees Building with the Fisher Building at the distant left, and the Wardell Hotel at the right." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Arthur Siegel. View full size.

Detroit, July 1942. "Looking north on Woodward Avenue from the Maccabees Building with the Fisher Building at the distant left, and the Wardell Hotel at the right." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Arthur Siegel. View full size.


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Detroit, my hometown

Wayne State University was (and still is) located to the left of what this photograph shows. When this photograph was taken, however, the university was known as Wayne University and was actually operated by the Board of Education of the city's public school district. The word "State" was added to the university's name in the 1950s when it joined Michigan's other main state-supported schools--the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

In the upper left-hand corner of the photograph two of legendary architect Albert Kahn's edifices can be seen. The tall building is the Fisher Building, so named for the Fisher brothers (of Fisher Body fame) who commissioned it. Immediately in front of, and to the right of, the Fisher Building is what was then known as the General Motors Building. This edifice, which was the world's largest office building when built in the late 1920s, housed the carmaker's main offices until the late 1990s when the automaker moved to its present home in downtown Detroit. Today, the former GM Building is known as Cadillac Place and houses various State of Michigan government offices and courts.

Woodward Dreaming Cruise

We used to ride the streetcar down from the 8-Mile Palmer Park area by the State Fairgrounds to go shopping at the big J.L.Hudson department store in downtown, farther south from this photo.

The last day of service of the streetcars they put on several extra cars for a "one last ride" experience. My father took me along and we rode that last trip into the sunset. I got to see Canada across the river and was tremendously impressed at being able to actually see a whole different country.

Still don't know how we got home, if that was the last trip!

About those GTOs on Woodward Avenue. That all happened way farther north from here off into the distance at the top of the photo, starting at 11 Mile Road in Royal Oak (where I lived later on) and racing from stoplight to stoplight (about every half mile) up to about 15 Mile Road in Birmingham. I learned to drive a half mile at a time -- but very quickly.

Streetcars and trees

A lovely pic of Detroit; if you want to actually be in a city with hard-working streetcars and a blanket of trees go to Toronto, just a few hours east of this view. With a few glass skyscrapers now added one gets the impression of a prosperous, pre-1940 American city, with a dose of peace, order and good government -- sort of a motto there.

The City Beautiful

A few months ago, I was on a road trip from Toronto to Ann Arbor. We went south instead of north (can't remember the road) and ended up driving into Detroit. I was thrilled. The architecture is amazing. I plan a trip soon to visit and photograph these incredible buildings. I'm putting the DIA, the DPL and the Freer Mansion on the top of the list.

I'm rooting for those tracks to be brought back too.

Detroit trees and streetcars

Sadly, most of Detroit has lost the beautiful American elm trees over the last few decades due to Dutch Elm Disease. I remember the early a.m. spraying helicopter flights over our northwest Detroit neighborhood in the early sixties as the city tried to control the blight. I wonder how many later sicknesses and chronic conditions were caused by all of us breathing the aerial sprays.
In 1970 while working for the DSR (Detroit's bus company), many old time executives told me detailed stories about the streetcars' demise in the 50's. Most of the tales had to do with the auto executives refusing to allow room for tracks within the newly planned expressways (freeways) to the Willow Run auto plant during WWII. One was quoted as saying that he'd be damned if his employees would be taking a streetcar to work instead of buying and driving one of the cars that they made. I think they were sold to Mexico City where they still faithfully ply the rails.

Woodward Avenue

Aerial view.

Although MS Live Maps doesn't allow me to view at the same angle, it's still interesting to look at the layout of the area ~66 years later.

The Pontiac Sign

Makes me think of all the GTO's that will help turn this avenue into a street racing legend 20 odd years later. Or was it Woodward Boulevard? Well, what does a hick from Georgia know about Michigan?

Las Vegas

Clang Clang Clang

I lived about a half mile south of there on Woodward a few years back - walked to the library all the time, but it's the trolleys that get me - how cool that must have been.


I was one of the artsy folk over at the College for Creative Studies, but several of my cousins went to Wayne State. The Public Library is really something. My film-major roommate used the grand stairway and second-floor hall as sets for as a fairy tale style palace in a short film he was making.

Home Sweet Home

Just across Woodward from the Wardell/Park Shelton, in that grove of trees, you can see a roof with several chimneys. 14 years after this picture was taken, I was born in that building, Called the Art Centre Hospital. It later became part of the Detroit Historical Museum, and is now, I believe, part of Wayne State University.

Still a Jungle Out There

Seattlekid, you still can see the treetops from many buildings. I went up in the abandoned Michigan Central Station and after looking at the pictures, you'd think Detroit was all trees. On another note, look at how nice Woodward Avenue actually looks. Nowadays, if you try riding your bike on it you're certainly taking your life into your hands.

Parade route

Ditto anonymous tipster, I worked at that library, attended Wayne State University which is (will be) off to the left, and this side of the photographer.

Site of the Hudson's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Old Detroit

87 years ago today I was born in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit was a tree city. I remember going to the top of the downtown sky scrapers and was surprised at seeing so many trees in the city.

[Happy birthday, Seattle Kid! - Dave]

My Old Neighborhood

I went to college and lived in this neighborhood about a block out of frame to the right. Most of the major buildings in the picture are still there today and look much the same. The Detroit Institute of Art has just finished up a Michael Graves redesign of the 1960s and 70s additions that wrap around the back of the original central building seen here. The DIA atrium contains Diego Rivera's famous Detroit industry murals. The main branch of the DPL on the left is by Cass Gilbert with a later rear addition by his son.

The streetcars are gone of course, but there are groups working to bring them back to this part of Woodward Avenue.

Charles Lang Freer's Mansion is hidden behind the three-winged Wardell (now Park Shelton) Hotel. The Freer Mansion, one of the most important Shingle Style residences in the country, once contained the famous Peacock Room designed by Whistler, later relocated to the Freer Gallery in Washington.

The smokestacks next to Woodward just at the horizon were at the now demolished powerhouse of Ford's Highland Park factory.

Detroit Institute of Arts

In the foreground, the building to the right (cut off) is now the home of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The building on the left is the Detroit Public Library.

It's strange to see all the trees in the photo. Those are sadly not there anymore.

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