Preservation for the People: Reflections on the 2016 Annual Michigan Historic Preservation Network Conference in Detroit

2016 Friday Wayne State U Campus -1

 McGregor Reflecting  Pool, Wayne State University Campus, Detroit  

Melanie A. Markowicz, Guest Blogger

The first beginnings of summer show in May flowers and a return to a sea of green across the State. It is also the time for the Annual Michigan Historic Preservation Network Conference, where historic preservation and urban planning professionals gather to learn and share best practices in the field. This year, the Conference was held in Detroit for the first time in fifteen years – and my, how the City has changed since then. A reflection of that was this year’s theme, “Resolve, Revolve, Evolve.” The exploration of Detroit’s landscape provided inspiration to all Conference participants, and together, we focused on creative solutions and new approaches to bringing historic preservation to the fore of community planning, engagement and research.

The Conference always provides a great opportunity to catch up with old colleagues, and to meet new people doing great work in the State of Michigan. This year was a bit different, however. Conference sessions focused not only on preservation incentives and applied practice, but also stressed the importance of heritage resources in the everyday lives of Michigan residents, and how we might best utilize them to strengthen and improve our communities and our connections to one another. The opening panel discussion was a great opportunity to hear from leaders in Detroit and beyond, and to learn about the progress being made by the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department under the new leadership of Director Maurice Cox.


2016 Thursday Panel Discussion-25

All-Conference Panel, included (from left to right) Ruth Mills, MHPN Board President; Amanda Reintjes,MHPN/NTHP Greater Michigan Field Rep; Mollie Ollinyk,, Michigan State Historic Preservation Office Southeast Michigan Coordinator; Jacqueline Taylor, City of Detroit Planning Department; Maurice Cox, City of Detroit Planning Department Director; David Goldstein, National Park Service; Janese Chapman, City of Detroit Planning Department.                                                   

Furthermore, the Keynote Address from Tom Mayes, Vice President and Senior Counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, provided further inspiration as he shared his experiences in Rome, pinpointing the importance of historic preservation through his work “Why Do Old Places Matter?” The underlying message was of the true nature of our field – that historic preservation is about people, and that architecture is a living part of our community life. Heritage resources help to tell our shared story, define our identity, and orient our future through memory, pride, and emotional bonds. These narratives have something very important to offer in the stabilization of our neighborhoods. We discussed blight, deconstruction, urban archaeology, ethnographic approaches, form-based codes, vernacular landscapes, social networking, materials conservation, and the creative rehabilitation and interpretation of socially significant sites, among many others.

2016 Friday Keynote-120

Tom Mayes speaking at the First Congregational Church of Detroit.   

Likewise, Conference tours celebrated and explored some of Michigan’s most acclaimed architecture and public history. It is tremendous that MHPN provides unparalleled access to sites that are rarely, if ever, open to the public. Thanks to numerous volunteers, professionals, and organizations, including Preservation Detroit, we were able to visit numerous sites and neighborhoods, from Modernist masterpieces to beacons of industrial ingenuity to places of faith and worship.

Packard Plant_by Larry Barber

Stop on the “Icons of Industry: Detroit’s Automotive Heritage,” a MHPN Great Michigan Road Trip.

Among all the wonderful insights that were shared and learned, the magnitude of what we do as historic preservationists was meaningfully felt. The biggest recent reminder is the efforts by concerned citizens, organizations, and municipalities across the State of Michigan in helping to indefinitely suspend House Bill 5232 and proposed changes to 1970 Public Act 169 Local Historic Districts Act. Local historic districts help to preserve our shared heritage, distinctive communities and architecture, help raise and maintain property values, protect homeowner’s investments, keep our neighborhoods more environmentally sustainable, are magnets for tourism, and simply feel good to be in. This legislation put that in grave danger. While it is suspended for the moment, we must remain vigilant in our efforts and continue to be passionate about community engagement and education. The MHPN Conference celebrated this win for preservation in our state and we should all celebrate the meaningful role that historic preservation plays in our lives.

Melanie A. Markowicz, recipient of the Sylvia and Dave Tillman Scholarship, was one of the 12 scholarship recipients at the MHPN 36th Annual Historic Preservation Conference, held May 11-14, 2016, at the McGregor Conference Center, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.  To learn more about the conference – and how to become a 2017 conference scholarship recipient, please visit

Photos of McGregor Reflecting Pool, First Congregational Church, and All-Conference Panel courtesy of MHPN Board Member Emeritus, Amanda D. Davis of Amanda D. Davis Photography.

Photo of Great Michigan Road Trip, courtesy of Larry Barber.





Posted in #michiganplacesmatter, #SaveYourHD, buildings, Detroit, Education, historic, historic preservation, Michigan, Michigan Places Matter, sightseeing, Tours, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make it a Detroit Weekend: Foodies and Craft Beer & Cocktail Lovers

by Savannah Raus-Wuth

For everyone planning on attending the MHPN conference May 11-14, 2016, we hope you will consider making it a “Detroit Weekend” and extend your stay in the “D” so you can take in some of its great food and craft beer & cocktail lovers.  The following are some of our favorites.Restaurant Locations

Red AHudson Café – 1241 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
Known for its award winning brunch and breakfast, this café is located directly across from the old Hudson’s lot. Their restaurant includes a cozy fireplace and lounge area.

Orange BAstoria Pastry Shop – 541 Monroe Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
This Greektown pastry shop was voted the best bakery of 2015 by the Detroit Metro Times. Their menu ranges from brunch pastries, to tortes and cakes, to cheesecakes to name a few.

Green C Slows BBQSlows BBQ-2138 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216
Slows BBQSlows to Go-4107 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
Slows has been featured on several TV Shows for its savory BBQ and American fare. There are two locations in the area, a “To Go” location in Midtown and one sit-down restaurant in downtown.

Green DBucharest – 1623 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216
Bucharest –
2690 E Jefferson Ave, Detroit, MI 48207
This Middle Eastern fare is known for its Shawarma. This delicious entrée is affordable and packs a major flavor punch.

Green EMudgie’s – 1300 Porter St, Detroit, MI 48226
Considered Detroit’s best sandwich shop, Mudgie’s was voted best deli six years in a row. They utilize high quality and local ingredients to make the freshest sandwiches.  If you’re feeling extra hungry, try the F’getaboutit, a whopping 2 pounds of corned beef on a 2 pound loaf of sourdough rye.

Blue FVicente’s –1250 Library St, Detroit, MI 48226
Cuban cuisine is featured here, with a wide menu accommodating all taste buds. You can also partake in salsa dancing Friday and Saturday nights.

Blue GGold Cash Gold –2100 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216
This converted pawn shop features farm to table fare in a hip environment.

Purple HBon Bon Bon719 Griswold St #100, Detroit, MI 48226
If you have a sweet tooth, Bon Bon Bon has handcrafted bon bons gaining recognition from the one and only Martha Stewart.

In Addition…

Eastern Market Restaurant and MarketEastern Market, Detroit, MI
Enjoy a tremendous selection from local farmers including  produce, meats, and flowers.

Green Dot Stables –2200 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48216
Enjoy classic American fare at a great price. They’re known for their variety of sliders and fries.

Detroit’s different neighborhoods have an abundance of restaurants of all types. Check out Corktown, Greektown, Hamtramk, Dearborn, and Mexicantown to experience the entirety of what Detroit has to offer.

Craft Beer and Cocktail Lovers

Red A Jolly Pumpkin 441 W Canfield St #9, Detroit, MI 48201
Founded in 2004, Jolly Pumpkin was North Americas first all wood, all sour brewery. With the opening of the Detroit pub in 2015 located right in Midtown, wood baked pizzas and artisanal recipes have been delicious enough to warrant a visit from Obama himself.

Orange B Batch Brewing – 1400 Porter St, Detroit, MI 48216
Detroit’s first nanobrewery, Batch Brewing started out by utilizing a crowdfunding campaign and winning Hatch Detroit’s business incubator contest.  Batch has an innovative campaign called the “Feelgood Tap” that allows them to partner with a different local nonprofit or charity group each month. Each time you order a drink from this tap, $2 goes towards the local nonprofit of that month. Their food is also worth checking out.

Green C Motor City Brewing Works – 470 W Canfield St, Detroit, MI 48201
This brewery has been open since 1994, known as Detroit’s oldest operating brewery. The brewery itself was custom fabricated using salvaged equipment and scrap from Detroit itself. They also offer brewery tours.

 Green DTraffic Snug and Jam – 511 W Canfield St, Detroit, MI 48201
This eclectic microbrewery also offers an in-house bakery and dairy selections. They utilize their brewing equipment to also make cheese, a process that you can get a sneak peek at from their observation balcony. They are the first brew-pub in the state of Michigan.

Green ECliff Bells – 2030 Park Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
A very well-known Detroit local spot, Cliff Bells allows you to step back in time upon entering. The Art Deco interior pairs well with the unique cocktails and classic food dishes.

Blue F Two James – 445 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216
The first licensed distillery in Detroit since prohibition, Two James offers environmentally conscious handmade spirits that also use local ingredients in an effort to revitalize the community.  Distillery tours are available Friday and Saturdays.

Blue GStandby – 225 Gratiot Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
Recently opening in the historic Cary building, the Standby offers 45 different classic and modern cocktails. Don’t let that intimidate you, the staff is friendly and inviting and will offer suggestions based on preference.



Posted in #michiganplacesmatter, Detroit, historic, historic preservation, History, Make it a ..Weekend!, PA 1690 of 1970 (as ammended), Preservation, sightseeing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make it a Detroit Weekend: Architecture

by Katie Lanski

For everyone planning on attending the MHPN conference May 11-14, 2016, we hope you will consider making it a “Detroit Weekend” and extend your stay in the “D” so you can take in some of its great architecture.  The following are some of our favorites.

Detroit Architecture Map

Detroit Architecture Key










A Guardian Building | 1929, Smith Hinchman and Grylls  Guradian Building
500 Griswold St,  48226

Designed, erected, and built by Michigan architects, designers, and artists, this 40 story skyscraper is one of the most striking of its kind. The Guardian Building, previously the Unity Guardian Building, was commissioned as The Union Trust Company’s headquarters. Containing custom Pewabic Pottery, Corrado Parducci sculptures, and murals by Ezra Winter, the lobby of the Guardian building colorfully blends Native American, Aztec, and Arts & Crafts influences.

For more information visit or

B Penobscot Building  | 1927-1927, Wirt C. Rowland PenoscotBuildingDetroit
645 Griswold, 48226

The Art Deco style 47-story building held the title of tallest building in Detroit until the Renassiance Center opened in 1977.  That the giant Penobscot Building is actually one of three Penobscot buildings that make up the complex. The first was a 13-story number on Fort Street between Griswold and State streets that was erected in 1903. It was joined by a 24-story tower in 1916. The 47-floor monster with the blinking red-eye joined the skyline 12 years later, in 1928.

For more information visit

F David Whitney | 1915, Daniel H. Burnham & Co. | David-Whitney_4970
Redeveloped in 2014, Kraemer Design Group
1 Park Ave, 48226

Built in homage to David Whitney Jr, the David Whitney Building quickly became the premier address of Detroit’s best doctors and medical professionals. Its iconic four story atrium, lit by a skylight and clad in marble, terra cotta, and gold leafing, was once the most visited retail destination in the Midwest.

Before its $92 million renovation, the building sat vacant for over 12 years. The mixed-use David Whitney Building now houses an Aloft Hotel, residences, and a future high-end restaurant.

For more information visit

G Broderick Tower | 1928, Louis Kamper |      broderickwhitney1940
Redeveloped in 2012, Kraemer Design Group
10 Witherell St, 48226

Previously named the Eaton Tower, this 34-story, neoclassical skyscraper was once the second tallest building in Michigan. The back façade’s iconic humpback whale mural (c 1997) is one of one hundred “Whaling Wall” murals painted by Metro-Detroit native eco-artist, Wyland. After sitting vacant since the mid 80’s collapse of the Detroit office market, the Broderick tower was redeveloped into apartments in 2012 and currently sits 100% occupied.

For more information visit

D Wayne County Building | 1897-1902, John and Arthur Scott
600 Randolph Street,  48226     Old Wayne County Building

Although this building still stands vacant, its ornamented exterior, covered in copper, granite, and stone, is one of the “nation’s finest surviving examples of Roman Baroque Revival architecture, with a blend of Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical styles.”

For more information visit

J St John’s Episcopal | 1859, Jordan and Anderson
2326 Woodward Ave, 48201    st-johns8

Located in what was once considered “Piety Hill”, this antebellum-era church is the oldest church still standing on Woodward Avenue. Its Victorian Gothic Revival architecture is a stark contrast to that of its neighbor, Comerica Park. In 1892 the chancel was deepened by about 10 feet and in 1936 the entire church was moved 60 feet east due to the expansion of Woodward Avenue.

For more information visit,_Michigan)

E Capitol Park Historic District | 1889-1930 |
Located between Grand River, Woodward Avenue, Michigan Avenue, and Washington Boulevard. 48226

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999

Originally the site of the first capitol building of Michigan (1837-1847), Capitol Park is home to a small public park, and the surrounding Farwell Building (vacant), Malcomson Building (residences), David Stott Building (vacant), Detroit Savings Bank Building (Arch Diocese of Detroit + residences), Detroit Institute of Music Education Building, and many others. The styles of these buildings range from Victorian to Beaux-Arts to Art Deco.

For more information visit

C First National | 1922, Albert Kahn | First National
Renovated in 2013, Neumann Smith
660 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Occupying an entire block along Cadillac Square, this 26-story neoclassical skyscraper is a prominent sight in downtown Detroit. Its unique z-shaped plan allows for natural light and ventilation into its office spaces.  As was the case with many Detroit office buildings, the First National Building went through foreclosure and was half empty before its renovation in 2013. The revitalization of the first floor provided retail space and a modernization of the building’s main lobbies.

For more information visit

Indian Village | 1894-1930s  Indian_Village_Historic_District_-_Detroit_Michigan
Burns, Iroquois and Seminole Streets between Jefferson and Mack Avenues

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1972

Located on the east side of Detroit, this affluent historic district has a number of architecturally significant homes built by Albert Kahn, Louis Kamper, William Stratton, and others. An annual Home and Garden Tour is hosted the first Saturday of June, during which one can experience styles ranging from Colonial Revival to Renaissance Revival to Spanish Mission Revival, along with many others.

For more information visit

Boston-Edison Historic District | 1905-1925 Detroit_May_2014_057
West Boston, Chicago, Longfellow, and Edison from Woodward to Linwood

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974

Consisting of over 900 homes, the Boston-Edison District was once the home of a number of prominent Detroiters, including Henry Ford, S. S. Kresge, Harry Heilmann, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy. This district is the oldest continuous neighborhood association in Detroit.

For more information visit

K Ransom Gillis House | 1876, Henry T. Brush and George D. Mason |  RansomGillis-106.0
Renovated in 2015, HGTV Rehab Addict’s Nicole Curtis
205 Alfred Street, 48201

Designed in the Venetian Gothic style for Ransom Gillis, a wholesale dry goods merchant, the Gillis House is one of the few remaining homes in a once densely-packed residential Brush Park. After being converted and used as a rooming house, the Gillis House sat empty for +/- 5 decades until HGTV’s Nicole Curtis partnered with Quicken Loans to renovate the house in early 2015.

For more information visit:

I Gem and Century Theater | 1903 | Addition in 1927, klanski MHN photo 10-27-15 Century+Gem
George D. Mason
333 Madison St, 48226

Built in 1903 by a socially prominent women’s group, Twentieth Century Association, the Mission-style building is the first building in Detroit to have a building permit issued to a woman. In 1927, the Association contracted George D. Mason to design the Spanish Revival-addition for the present day Gem Theatre. Since its opening in 1928, the theater has had several name and usage changes. From the Rivoli Theatre to The Cinema, which played foreign films, to The Vanguard, which offered live theater rather than films.  Today the Gem and Century Theatre sits five blocks away from its original location, due to the urban renewal for Comerica Park. This move took place in 1997 and placed the Gem Theatre in the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest building ever moved that distance on wheels, at about five million pounds.

For more information visit:

H Detroit Athletic Club | 1915, Albert Kahn  IMG_2421
241 Madison Ave, 48226

The Detroit Athletic Club is a private facility that hosts theater, sports, and entertainment. The building was designed by Albert Kahn, after being inspired by a recent trip to Rome and Florence. The Renaissance influence is clearly visible in the ornate exterior details and large 4th floor windows. The building was completed in 1915, and recently had their one hundred year anniversary. In celebration, the DAC has commissioned the sculptor, A Thomas Schomberg, to create four sculptures in the island facing Madison Ave. The building was refurbished in the 1990’s but has not changed use or owners since completion.

Posted in #michiganplacesmatter, buildings, Detroit, Education, historic, historic preservation, History, Make it a ..Weekend!, sightseeing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Signs Say: Speaking the Language of Michigan’s Commercial Signage

By April Bryan

Beyond business names and services rendered, commercial signage communicates much more. Sign features may suggest eras, indicate site use over time, and speak to local and national trends. But before discussing these larger concepts it is helpful to become familiar with sign vocabulary. By examining a variety of extant signs throughout Michigan, this post identifies common commercial signage terms, related materials, and sign types framed in a mini sign-historical framework.  Let’s talk signage!

The earliest signs in America took their cues from European designs, such as bracket-suspended wooden tavern signs (the original blade sign) and cutouts symbolizing services (a hat for millinery, a boot for cobbler). Later, when nineteenth century architects designed the majority of commercial buildings to be viewed from the front they created the need for an applicable signage style. The fascia sign met that need.

DeHavens Hale's

Flush with building fronts, fascia signs could be chiseled into, painted onto, or applied as signboards (wood, sheet metal, porcelain enameled, etc.) to facades, most often between first and second floors.  Note the hand painted brick lettering on the DeHavens Store (Village of Lawrence, Van Buren County), which identified the site’s lower level retail use. To capitalize on space, some companies also painted and applied signage vertically between windows. An array of new options, including metal and plastic letters, expanded façade-based signage applications in the twentieth century. Hale’s Department Store (South Haven, Van Buren County) provides a midcentury modern example with aluminum letters bolted to porcelain enamel on steel. Fascia signs remain relevant today.

The early twentieth century’s rise of the automobile drove new sign design. Enameled porcelain signs (also called placards), made famous at service stations, ruled the road through the 1930s. While motoring up Main Street at accelerating speeds drivers might miss simple placards and signs flush to storefronts. In response, businesses erected larger, eye-catching, two-sided, projecting signs perpendicular to storefronts. For instance, Harris Furniture’s building-mounted blade style sign (Grand Rapids, Kent County) couldn’t be missed by motorists with its towering size and points of light-illuminated open channel letters.

Wenger's Howards

Cas Bar.JPG  Zehnder's,

Neon sign popularity blazed during the 1930s and ‘40s. Neon at night brought light and even movement (animated arrows and other sequentially lit images) to once dark or floodlit signs. Largely, local companies handcrafted these signs—a benefit, for long journeys could damage fragile neon. Neon, in contrast to other existing sign materials, could be pricey to purchase and maintain. But with cost came value in terms of light longevity (burning up to 40 years) and durability.

Early neon signs often adhered to symmetrical and basic geometric forms comprised of squares and rectangles, as demonstrated by the building-mounted Wenger’s Bowling sign (Grand Rapids, Kent County). The pole mounted Howard’s Liquor Store sign (Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County) exemplifies classic neon’s use of rectangles. Notice how the designer finessed the look by staggering the top and bottom cabinet boxes (aka sign boxes). Later additions, corrugated fiberglass and acrylic letters, comprise the interior portion while a partial wraparound arrow houses chaser lights. Cas Bar (Detroit, Wayne County) offers a look at an infrequently used circular cabinet box. Short names like “Cas” work here, but companies demanding more sign space often sought square and rectangular cabinet boxes better suited to neon block letter bases.

Some adopted the era’s Streamline style, such as the curvilinear shapes and Art Deco neon line trios that form the iconic  ground-mounted Zehnder’s sign (Frankenmuth, Saginaw County), continuously in use since the mid-1930s. Notice the standard white or light shade block letters painted on all four signs—ideal for daytime readability.

Konkles Pontiac sign (

Tall, two-sided, and projecting, the 1940s T style sign paired readability with visibility. The Konkle’s Bar sign (Grand Rapids, Kent County) may be described as a modified-T based on the angled flourishes which enhance the rectangular building blocks. Taken together, the vertical and horizontal portions may be referred to as panels or components of each other. Note the arrow-shaped panel beneath the neon martini. The inverted-T and variations on the L style, like the modified-L Pontiac sign (Chelsea, Washtenaw County), also proved fashionable throughout the 1940s.

 Wills  Solo's.JPG

A closer look at the cabinet holes (once fit with neon electrode housings) on the Wills Hardware sign (Crystal Falls, Iron County) suggests earlier neon use. Also notice the sign’s condition and consider what the wear says about its age. Single neon tubes displayed in shop windows, such as the style seen at Solo’s Bridal Shop (Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County), are called skeleton signs and window hangers or simply, hangers.

Black River-sideways
Regional influences observed in sign design can point to local history, natural resources, and the larger cultural landscape. The rustic wood sign-style edges evoke camping while the trees, blue sky, and flowing water incorporated into the Black River Motel’s artwork (Port Huron, St. Clair County) convey the significance of water recreation and tourism in Michigan’s Blue Water area.


National trends impacted sign design throughout the 1950s and ‘60s. For example, Southern California’s futuristic Googie style inspired boomerangs, chevrons, amoebic shapes, jumbled letters, and dramatic angles on signs coast to coast. During the Space Race, beginning in the late 1950s, signs adopted cosmic characteristics, like the sky-high, asymmetrical, chaser light frame on the Ritzee’s sign (Urbandale, Calhoun County) and popular red ball sign addition used by the Spartan Motel (Three Rivers, St. Joseph County). Other common celestial shapes included suns, moons, stars, and starbursts. Not intended to be space-related yet often called a sputnik, the 1960s Roto-Sphere sign addition whirled colorful, illuminated spears on a pole-mounted, two-part rotating ball.

Norway Ralph Hayward

Introduced in the 1940s but patented for sign use in the 1970s, vacuum forming permitted pop-out characters, widened graphic design options, and proved more cost effective to produce and maintain than neon signage. Early vacuum formed sign examples can be easy to date due to their commonly used shapes and colors (especially yellow and red) as well as their cracking and fading.  Manufacturers often used this plastic sign form in the production of branded privilege signs, which they provided or sold to retailers. Norway Bar (Avoca, St. Clair County) features a Vernors privilege sign, which may be dated using the ginger ale maker’s logo style. The sign pair shares a steel frame and the bar’s sign faces feature hand-painted letters. The Ralph Hayward example (Vicksburg, MI, Kalamazoo County) illustrates the form’s 3D graphic and pop-out type options.

Certainly, more sign styles, stories, and materials exist than we may discuss in this post. To keep the conversation going please join us for “Sign Here: Identifying, Dating, and Describing Michigan’s Commercial Signage” at the upcoming MHPN conference, “Resolve, Revolve, Evolve,” at Wayne State University, Detroit, May 11-14, 2016. Join sign-based discussions by connecting with likeminded social media groups such as Instagram’s active sign community. There, you can explore hashtags including #everything_signage, #gas_food_lodging, #plasticsignmuseum, #signcollective, and #signgeeks. Please be sure to tag your Michigan sign shots #michiganplacesmatter!

Great commercial signage resources, which helped inform this post, include Martin Treu’s Signs, Streets, and Storefronts: A History of Architecture and Graphics along America’s Commercial Corridors (2012) and Lisa Mahar’s American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66 (2003). All images courtesy of April Bryan and Scott Slagor.


Posted in #michiganplacesmatter, Art, buildings, Conference, Detroit, historic, historic preservation, Michigan, Michigan Places Matter, Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), Preservation, signs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make it a Detroit Weekend – Public Art!

This year, the MHPN conference, “Resolve, Revolve, Evolve,” is being held on the campus of Wayne State University, Detroit. The conference itself is scheduled from May 12-14, so this is the perfect opportunity to “Make it a Detroit Weekend”!  To help you plan your visit, we are pleased to provide you with a series of informative blogs about the “must see” places and things to do while in the city.

The Fist (Woodward Avenue at Jefferson Avenue) – Robert Graham sculpted this memorial to boxer Joe Louis in 1986. The 24 foot long arm is suspended 24 feet above the ground inside a bronze pyramid. The fist weighs approximately 8,000 pounds.

Spirit of Detroit (Woodward Avenue at Jefferson Avenue) – This bronze statue was dedicated in 1958 and commissioned by Marshall Fredericks, and was the largest cast bronze statue since the Renaissance at the time it as built. The plaque at the front of the statue reads “The artist expresses the concept that God through the spirit of man is manifested in the family, the noblest human relationship.” The statue is often seen in different sports team’s jerseys during playoffs.

Heidelberg Project – Founded by Tyree Guyton in 1986, this Detroit based community organization uses art to improve neighborhoods and lives. Currently celebrating 30 years, this public exhibit uses everyday discarded items to bring color, symbolism and intrigue to two full blocks on Detroit’s East Side.


Heidelberg Project, 3600 Heidelberg Street

The Dodge Fountain – This memorial fountain is located at the center of Hart Plaza in Detroit, also in the same plaza as the Plyon Sculpture (Isamu Noguchi). The final design of the Dodge Fountain was created by Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls, with the additional help of Isamu Noguchi.

Eastern Market Murals (in and around Eastern Market, bounded by Gratiot Avenue, Mack Avenue, St. Aubin Street, and I-75) – A public program called Murals in the Market and partnership with 1xRUN and Inner State Fine Art Gallery allows artists and businesses to showcase their skills at Eastern Market. In the past 4 years this program has allowed the production of over 30 murals in Eastern Market and over 100 murals throughout Detroit.

Hamtramck Disneyland – Starting in 1992 and finishing in 1999, Hamtramck Disneyland is the creation of Ukraine born Dmytro Szylak. The creation was built on a 30 foot backyard on two adjacent garages. Dmytro was a GM retiree of 32 years, looking for a hobby to express his artistic drive. The construction contains items such as American flags, statues and figurines, and Christmas lights.

Hamtramck Disneyland

Hamtramck Disneyland, 12087 Klinger St, Hamtramck

Library Street Collective (1260 Library Street) – A collection of modern and contemporary art, this Collective focuses on artists who have developed their skills through demonstrating art in public spaces. Artists include Shepard Fairey , Augustine Kofie, Vhils and Cleon Peterson.  Be sure to check out the “belt” in the back, an alley displaying murals and sculptures.

Z Deck (1234 Library St) – Adjacent to the Library Street Collective, the Z Deck features different large-scale murals on each floor.  The Z Deck was a collaborative project between Bedrock Detroit and Library Street Collective. There are 27 different artists featured in this parking garage.


Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) (5200 Woodward Avenue) – Founded in 1855 and moved to Woodward in 1927, this Beaux Arts style building houses over 100 galleries boasting a rank as among the top six collections in the United States. Diego Rivera’s twenty seven panel works, created as “a tribute to the city’s manufacturing base and labor force of the 1930’s” completed at an enormous scale is considered one of the artist’s best works and can only be seen here.

Arab American National Museum (13624 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn) – This museum is the first and only museum completely devoted to Arab American History and Culture. The museum opened in 2005, and has four permanent galleries including a Community Courtyard displaying “Arab Civilization: Our Heritage”. The museum also has three rotating exhibits including “An Enduring Legacy”, the story of a young entertainer and visionary of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (315 East Warren Avenue)This museum is the world’s largest museum dedicated to African American experiences. Founded in 1965, Dr Wright partnered with 33 established and racially integrated members of society to open this museum, formerly known as the first International Afro-American Museum. In 1998 the museum was renamed after Charles Wright, a year after opening in a new state of the art facility. Current exhibits include “No Boundaries: Aboriginal Australian Contemporary Abstract Painting”, and “And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture”

Cranbrook Art Museum (39221 Woodward Ave, Bloomfield Hills) – Cranbrook was founded in 1927 by George and Ellen Booth as a way to display personal collections of art, architecture and design. Avoiding the term “museum” Cranbrook wanted to be a counterpart of the DIA serving students as a center for learning and contemporary art. Current Exhibitions range from “Simple Forms, Stunning Glazes: The Gerald W. McNeely Collection of Pewabic Pottery”, “Sol LeWitt: Wall Drawings 790A and 790B: Irregular Alternating Color Bands” and the famous Saarinen House; the home and studio of Eliel and Loja Saarinen.


McNeely Collection of Pewabic Pottery.       Photographers: Tim Thayer and R. H. Hensleigh

Cranbrook Institute of Science (39221 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills)Also founded by George and Ellen Booth, the Cranbrook Institute of Science offers activities ranging from planetarium shows, observatory viewing, and Michigan native plants in the Science Garden. Lectures are also provided.

Detroit Historical Museum (5401 Woodward Avenue)– Visit exhibits like the “Documenting Detroit: Architecture” collection, “Meiers Wonderful Clock”, and the “Dossin Great Lakes Museum”.  A handful of the museums signature exhibitions recently received upgrades, including the favorite “Streets of Old Detroit, America’s Motor City and Frontiers to Factories: Detroiters at Work, 1701-1901.”

Detroit Historical Museum exterior May 2013 (1)

Detroit Historical Museum, 5401 Woodward Avenue

Dossin Great Lakes Museum (100 Strand Drive, Belle Isle)Another museum of the Detroit Historical Society, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum is located on Strand Drive, Belle Isle.  This museum is a great place to go to learn about Detroit’s role in maritime history, and the role that the Great Lakes and Detroit River contributed to industrial and social history.

Michigan Science Center (5020 John R Street) This museum has over 250 hands on exhibits, lab activities, and special exhibits.  Ongoing galleries include Engineering, Health and Wellness, Kids Town, Motion and Space. The museum also has a 4D theater, planetarium, and an IMAX dome.

Motown Historical Museum (2648 W Grand Boulevard) Founded by Esther Gordy Edwards in 1985, the Motown museums goal is to increase youth awareness and “promote the values of vision creativity and entrepreneurship” through the exhibitions showcasing the impact of Motown and the artistic contributions to entertainment. Visit Studio A, Berry Gordy’s Flat, and a gallery of Motown memorabilia.



Posted in #michiganplacesmatter, Art, buildings, Detroit, Make it a ..Weekend!, Michigan, Museum, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tools To Help Protect Your Historic District

Posted on: February 9th, 2016
by Preservation Leadership Forum Staff, National Trust for Historic Preservation
(MHPN is a statewide partner of the NTHP)
NoHo Historic District | Photograph Courtesey of the New York Landmarks Conservancy

NoHo Historic District|Photograph Courtesy of the New York Landmarks Conservancy

In the last few weeks, historic preservationists across the country have noted heightened threats to a key protective tool in saving places: historic districts. Swift-moving legislative efforts in Michigan and Wisconsin have been especially troubling. While threats to historic districts have existed before, accompanying negative editorials on sites such as CityLab call for a strong and concerted response. These attacks ignore the short- and long-term benefits of historic districts—economic, social and environmental—in favor of politically expedient but unnecessary curbs that would likely drive down the very development and investment that historic district opponents are trying to attract.

We know leaders in the field want to speak up but need the right tools and resources to make a strong case. Our efforts in Michigan and elsewhere are producing materials that can help you advocate for historic districts in your community.

Here is an initial list of resources to help with make the case for your historic district.

Note: This is just an initial list of materials to get the ball rolling. If you have anything you think should be added, email forumonline [at]

Online Articles

Supplemental Reports

Additional Resources

Posted in #michiganplacesmatter, #SaveYourHD, buildings, Education, HB 5232 & SB 720 Historic District Modernization, historic, historic preservation, History, Michigan, Michigan Places Matter, PA 1690 of 1970 (as ammended), Preservation, sightseeing, Uncategorized, Vote | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Project Rebuild Roundtable with Congressman Dan Kildee


by Janet Kreger

Twenty-five people gathered at Muskegon’s Lakeshore Museum Center on December 4 for a discussion with Congressman Dan Kildee about new legislation he proposes to draft and introduce. Dan spoke of “Project Rebuild” that he envisions being the next generation of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) but with important differences of interest to those involved with preservation. In the room were, among others, city planners, fiscal officers, fire department staff, land bank professionals, museum staff, and representatives from the MHPN, the event’s host. Continuing well beyond the ninety-minutes scheduled, the “Roundtable” was lively and substantive.

Dan began by recapping NSP and the $7B it distributed. Project Rebuild, based on a 2013 bill introduced by Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Senator Jack Reed, would propose $10B for formula allocation, with each state receiving a minimum of $20M, and $5B for competitive allocation. Formula funding would go to states; on the competitive side, states, local governments, for-profit and non-profit entities, and consor20151204_132848tia of these bodies could apply. Project Rebuild would allow for commercial projects and job creation capped at 30%; the use of up to 10% for jobs programs to maintain neighborhood properties; eligibility for middle-income people as well as those who are low- and moderate-income; and targeting of funds where there are abandoned and vacant properties. What was heartening is that Project Rebuild would be all about the purchase, rehabilitation, and redevelopment of properties with less emphasis on demolition.

To what does Dan attribute his perspective? He spoke about Washington’s need to recognize that the nation’s oldest cities – like his hometown of Flint and his state’s largest metropolitan area, Detroit – need help to survive. His belief is that if their distinctive characteristics, and those of small- and mid-size towns, are not conserved, they lose what makes them appealing for young professionals, older retirees, visitors, and new business – namely their traditional downtowns and older residential neighborhoods.

He and his District Chief of Staff Amy Hovey listened as the audience spoke about the need for grants and loans for strategic planning, pre-development costs, and moth-balling; small mortgages for owner-occupied residences; loan loss reserves for commercial areas; longer implementation timeframes to accommodate the complexities of older properties; and capacity building in small- and mid-sized communities. Generating the most enthusiasm was the idea of clustering these responses to the special needs of older buildings and neighborhoods so that there also could be preference shown for properties listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, for locally designated or eligible properties, and for Legacy Cities and communities served by successful land banks.

The audience felt that Dan ha20151204_143037s a built-in cohort among his fellow Congresspeople – both Republican and Democrat! – who have older cities in their districts. He is interested in being ready with something that is smart and inclusive for when Washington is ready. We’re interested too!

Posted in #michiganplacesmatter, buildings, Dan Kildee, Education, Elections, Flint, Funding, historic preservation, Legislation, Michigan, Michigan Places Matter, Muskegon, Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), NSP, Preservation, Project Rebuild, repair, Right-Sizing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Station Windows Are an Object Lesson in Preservation

Any personal views expressed on the Michigan Historic Preservation Network  blog are the writers’ own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network.

by James L. Hamilton

MI Central Stations New Windows

The Michigan Central Station, enshrined on the National Register of Historic Places, has suffered years of neglect. Now, 1050 windows are being installed in the office tower, but they are not historically appropriate for the building. The design of these new modern windows conflicts with the architectural design of the station. This outcome was entirely avoidable. Historically correct windows would have cost about the same.

The windows being installed will help protect the building from any further deterioration. No doubt about it. However, historically correct windows would provide the same protection, would not entail any significant difference in cost, and would complement and enhance the architectural design.

Commentary about these windows by historic architects and historic preservation experts recently has been reported in the Free Press and the Metro Times. I have talked to several others. Among this knowledgeable group, the opinion is unanimous that the windows are not appropriate for the building.

The critique goes like this. The architectural design of the office tower is strongly vertical. The structure has multiple vertical brick piers between the windows that rise until they meet the rows of stone columns at the top two stories of the building. The original windows contributed to this verticality. Each window opening held a pair of narrow (vertical) double Detail Historic Windowshung windows divided by a prominent (vertical) element. Each window sash had two panes of glass, which were long (vertical) panes side by side. The details of the window design were part of the overall architecture of the station. The new windows do not have this verticality. They are boxy and flat with thin frames and cross members that do not have the dimension of the originals. The window frames are a light color, while a dark color would be appropriate. The glass itself has a blue tint completely unlike the original window glass.

Since the original window sashes are missing, replacements were needed. However, several window manufacturers are able to create modern windows that would look exactly like the originals. Their windows also have all the thermal characteristics of “modern” windows. The Detroit Historic District Commission has seen several proposals for historically correct replacement windows in buildings like the station. The windows in those proposals cost no more (and usually less) than the windows going into the station.

This is the object lesson: historic preservation often can be done right at no more expense than doing the wrong thing.

The owner of an historic building is only a temporary owner: the owner is only a steward. For a building on the National Register, responsible stewardship entails an obligation to know how or to learn how to do proper rehabilitation and preservation. An historic architect or expert on historic windows could have advised an appropriate window replacement.

In front of the office tower, the lobby building is much more architecturally significant than the office tower. The lobby has large, arched, elegant, steel windows. These windows need to be restored and preserved, not replaced. Imagine new modern boxy windows in the lobby.

Front Entry

Before there is an irreversible decision on the windows in the lobby building, its stewards should consult with historic architects or experts. Restoration of those windows probably would be cheaper than replacing them.

Some National Register buildings also are in official City of Detroit local historic districts. The station is not. For that reason, the Detroit Historic District Commission has no oversight of the building and had no opportunity to help the owners understand what would be appropriate and to push the window work in the proper direction.

This object lesson applies widely in historic preservation. Choosing the wrong paint color for a building is no cheaper than choosing a historically appropriate color. A correct roof color is no more expensive than a wrong color. Usually, restoring original windows and doors to preserve the proper historic look of a building is no more expensive than the cost of buying modern replacements that diminish its appearance, that are lower quality, and that puts quantities of material in landfills.

Sometimes historically correct work may cost a bit more, but in many cases the added cost is small (at least as a percentage), and the difference it makes for a building can be enormous.

* James Hamilton is Professor Emeritus of Wayne State University. A long-time resident and past president of the Boston Edison Historic District, currently he is a Detroit Historic District Commissioner.


Posted in #michiganplacesmatter, buildings, Education, historic, historic preservation, Historic Windows, History, Michigan, Michigan Places Matter, repair, Return on investment, Uncategorized, Window Replacements | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wood Columns Can Be Repaired: Save Them!

by James L. Hamilton, Boston Edison Historic District, Detroit, MI

Columns are always a character defining feature in historic buildings. Keeping columns in good condition is essential for historic preservation.

Columns can be maintained, repaired, and restored. If owners don’t know this, they may conclude that the only solution to damaged columns is replacement. It is not.

Knowing what to do is the key to saving columns.

Large columns are the foremost feature of this well-known Boston Edison house.

Large columns are the foremost feature of this well-known Boston Edison house.

Small columns add elegance to this Boston Edison house.

Small columns add elegance to this Boston Edison house.








Preventive maintenance is the first step in preserving columns.

Moisture is the main concern. Columns deteriorate when moisture gets trapped inside and cannot evaporate away.
• Wood rots
• Paint peels
• Columns come apart or crack

Keeping columns dry is the principal goal of preventive maintenance: Caulk, Paint, Vent.

Caulk at all joints and seams to keep water out. But don’t plug vent holes!

Paint. A solid paint film also keeps water out.

Vent. Hollow columns usually vent out the top into the building framing. If necessary, air vents can be added to columns to let air circulate inside and evaporate away any moisture.

Bases often are the first element to begin to rot. Be sure that water drains away from column bases and does not pool around them.

Repair and Restoration

If columns do deteriorate, the important thing is to know that they can be repaired and restored. If it’s a big column, it could be a big repair! But it’s always possible.

Here’s How-To-Do-It!

I have collected articles by persons who are (or have become) experts in column maintenance, repair, and restoration. The articles collected here demonstrate how-to-do-it. With their guidance, owners can undertake the repairs.


Dealing with contractors is more successful when you know what needs to be done and how it should be done, even if you cannot do it.

The web site can help owners. An owner who knows that columns can be repaired and knows roughly how to do it will not be misled into doing the wrong thing.

One example: contractors may tell you repair is impossible, because they don’t know how to do it! Don’t believe it. Contractors want you to do what they know how to do.

Another example: contractors may tell you they can fix columns, when in fact they do not know how. The danger is that they will do something incorrect. Either the problem won’t be fixed properly, or the repaired column won’t look right. Ask how they will do repairs.

The web site can help contractors. An owner may have a reputable and trusted contractor who has the carpentry skills to do column repairs, if he/she just knew what to do and how to do it. In such a case, a contractor can use the web site to learn from experts how to do a first-class repair or restoration.

Knowledge is Power.




Posted in buildings, Column, Education, historic, Michigan, Michigan Places Matter, Preservation, repair | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


The Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) was pleased to bring its 35th annual statewide conference to the City of Midland. Over 370 participants gathered at Northwood University on May 13-16. Drawn by the theme “Always Seeking Modern,” participants were enthusiastic about meeting in the city that was home to Alden B. Dow, Michigan’s Architect Laureate, and today offers one of the nation’s most impressive concentrations of Modern architecture by Dow, Francis E. “Red” Warner, Jackson B. Hallett, Robert E. Schwartz, and others.

EHRobinson_Conference79 smallIn addition to the five tracks of sessions and tours, there were many special events. Wednesday’s “Great Michigan Road Trips” provided guided travel in the region for 78 participants who either ventured into Gladwin, Clare, and Isabella Counties to study rural preservation, or around the Bay Region counties of Midland, Bay, and Saginaw to study preservation-based revitalization. Thursday, which drew 184 registrants, included a “Town and Gown” Welcome Lunch featuring Midland’s Mayor Maureen Donker and Northwood President Keith Pretty; the MHPN’s 2015 scholarship recipients were introduced.    IMG_6284

Friday’s 219 registrants included 143 participants who gathered to hear Keynote Speaker Alan Hess, architect and architecture critic for the San Jose Mercury News, who contextualized Michigan’s primacy to America’s Mid-Century Modern design. The day closed with 129 awardees and guests celebrating the MHPN’s Annual Preservation Awards. On Saturday, the MHPN was delighted to work with Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office to present a full-day symposium titled “Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America.”

EHRobinson_Conference43 smallMidland’s gathering was the MHPN’s third largest among the MHPN’s 35 annual conferences held in 24 different communities. (Note: Flint in 2012 with 389 participants and Marquette in 2013 with 382 are the first and second, respectively.) Thirty-six of Michigan’s 83 counties – or 43% – were represented in Midland with the top five counties being Midland, Ingham, Wayne, Washtenaw, and Oakland. Just over 5% of the audience came from out-of-state. Many participants tapped the 75 hours of continuing education credits offered by the American Institute of Architecture and the American Institute of Certified Planners. The conference bought almost $114,000 into the City, a total augmented by people who stayed at other than the conference hotels, went out for dinner, enjoyed a nightcap, or “Made it a Midland Weekend” that included shopping and sightseeing.

LR_0196“The Michigan Historic Preservation Network warmly thanks the community of Midland and Northwood University for their hospitality, the State Historic Preservation Office and the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio for their close working partnership, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation for its generous financial support, and the many Midland residents who served on the Conference Planning Committee, made presentations, led tours, and welcomed our participants to their city,” stated conference organizers.

Posted in #michiganplacesmatter, Archaeology, Barn, Bay City, buildings, Conference, Education, historic, historic preservation, Michigan, Michigan Places Matter, Midland, Preservation, sightseeing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment