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Motown Rising: 1918

Motown Rising: 1918

Detroit circa 1918. "Woodward Avenue, south from the Majestic building." Cadillac Square and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument with the Hotel Pontchartrain on the right and the Real Estate Exchange at left. At the Gayety: "Higher Grade Burlesque." Detroit Publishing glass negative. View full size.


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Judge Woodward's other main legacy

he was also involved with the original chartering of a school he wanted to call "The Catholepistemiad of Michigania" but which was fairly promptly re-named The University of Michigan. Originally chartered in Detroit in 1817, moved to Ann Arbor in 1837.

Plan of Detroit

The plan of Detroit was conceived by Judge Augustus B. Woodward in 1807, shortly after the fire that destroyed the whole city in 1805. It is an original design based on an intricate pattern of interlocking equilateral triangles and hexagons, and it is not really patterned after any other city plan of the time - not that of Washington, and certainly not that of Paris, which was still a largely medieval warren of streets before Baron Haussmann's gigantic public works program was carried out in the mid-19th century. The amazing thing is that Woodward's novel plan was actually executed, at least in that part of downtown Detroit below the Grand Circus. Detroit's main drag, Woodward Avenue, is named after the judge.

Crow's nest

The small tower at bottom right was, indeed, a traffic control device manned by a police officer. He manually threw the four way sign at the top of the "nest" -- "stop" in two directions, "Go" in the other two. Later on, electric traffic lights were added, but just green and red. They were common in early 20th century Detroit.

German Generosity

I wonder if the Kaiser would be wiser if the miser spent all his money on gayety and high grade burlesque?

They're not for lookin'

Can anyone explain the windows in the Family Theater building? I've never seen anything like them - are they wood panels, or perhaps marble-colored glass? Either way, it doesn't look like you could see through them.

Small tower at the bottom right

Is it for traffic control?

Virginia Pearson

appears to have her name in lights on the corner marquee of the Family Theatre. According to IMDB, she appeared in seven films in 1918, and later had roles in the 1925 versions of "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Phantom of the Opera" before falling into obscurity shortly thereafter.

"Electro Medical Doctor"

Never realized that ol' Doc Frankenstein spent some of his career in Detroit.

Zap it!

The Electro Medical Doctors offered stimulating cures. "Male weakness" was a common complaint of our forefathers, today known as erectile dysfunction.

Old Detroit

These pictures of Detroit looking so prosperous and vital make me sad. It did not weather the last 100 years very well.

Electro Medical Doctors

Not really keen on going in to see one of these.


Fun fact: The layout of Detroit was originally designed to mimic that of Paris, symmetrical and very ordered. It was when the auto industry arrived that this symmetry was destroyed--streets were criss-crossed in every which way to allow for quick transport of car parts to factories.

If you take away those streets, you'll still find Paris.

Horse Power

What a difference with the cityscape images from approximately 1905 where it's hard to pick out an automobile.

The Quicker Picker-Upper

I had to look pretty closely, but there are still a few horse-drawn vehicles, and there in front of the Family Theatre, he who picks up after them. Also, one elevated, and at least two pavement-level traffic cops. It takes a lot of people to keep those streets going.

Take in a photo-play

Among the photo-plays at the Family Theatre, True Blue, a western starring William Farnum who, in addition to his stage career, continued making films until 1952. Also had notable thespian forebears and siblings.

Ain't nothin' worse

than low-grade burlesque.


The awnings at the top of the Pontchartrain make my knees go weak. Did they hang out the windows to install these?

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