In keeping with its mantra, Detroit: No Past Equals No Future, Preservation Wayne is celebrating its 35th year at doing just that — preserving our community for posterity. But time is running out on the 2011 window of opportunity, as fall creeps in.
Through its ongoing efforts to raise awareness of Detroit’s history and considerable number of treasures, Preservation Wayne continually seeks to educate others and share that knowledge. A series of tours is dedicated to protecting and promoting the appreciation of Detroit’s neighborhoods and structures, as well as our hard-won perspective.
The project also plugs in advocacy and ability to affect public policy, and its longevity speaks to success on a few levels.
Some of this year’s events included a bootlegging tour on the Detroit River. Departing from the Stroh River Place Dock, it covered Eastern Market, the Cultural Center, and both Downtown and Midtown. The annual Theatre Palaces Tour happened in August, with a box lunch provided at the Detroit Opera House.
But there are still plenty of things to take part in during September and October. Tours of the Cultural Center, Downtown, Eastern Market and Midtown leave each Saturday at 10 a.m., with prior reservations.
Most are walking tours, and are available at minimal fees, of $10 or less, and discounted coupons are usually accepted.
Tuesday After-Work Tours still highlight the Downtown Skyscrapers (first Tuesday), Albert Kahn Downtown Buildings (second Tuesday), Downtown Sculptures/Fountains/Art (third Tuesday) and the People Mover (fourth Tuesday).
The Auto Heritage Tour, scheduled for Saturday, October 22, is already sold out.
During a tour of the city’s architecture, walkers heard the words of Winston Churchill: “First we shape buildings; then they shape us.” Meeting at Campus Martius’ Point of Origin, the tour kicks off at the 1701 landmark established in honor of Antoine Cadillac. Discussion follows on the city’s layout of streets by Augustus Woodward, who arranged Detroit after the model of Paris and then Washington D.C.
There are nods to the architecture of Albert Kahn, the go-to area artisan of the early 1990s, who is considered the key architect in Detroit’s buildings and the sweetheart of auto magnates who embraced his use of light and numerous windows.
During a surge in building in the 1980s/1990s, skyscrapers became the rage again, thanks to a time of more available funding. The Comerica building was one of two so built in Detroit during the era.
What tour is complete without its legends? The iconic Spirit of Detroit — found just off Woodward and Jefferson, in front of the City-County Building — who so often sports Pistons’ or Red Wings’ jerseys in honor of sports excellence, has also worn a tux when The Three Tenors were in town. But the best Spirit story is one about the green footprints that mysteriously appeared after one St. Patrick’s Day, stretching across the street to a nude ballet statue. Italian sculptor Giacomo Manzu, who modeled the ballerina after his wife, created the tiptoed art, which stands in front of the American Natural Gas Company.
There are fountains, such as the halo-centric Dodge family’s donation at Hart Plaza, statues galore of early founders and their contributions, reminders of change — like the now pedestrian-friendly River Walk, along the Detroit River — and significant religious markers, like Mariner’s Church. Originally located elsewhere and providing a stop in the Underground Railroad, the church served sailors for decades. Annual bells still toll in memory of the crew lost with the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Trapper’s Alley in Greektown was so named for the many tanneries, and the walls of the former Ferry Seed Company now provide indoor décor of Fishbone’s Greektown, which also sports the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Although now saddled with a defunct pump, it still bests a similar waterfall at Trump Towers.
Harmonie Park is a lovely little greenbelt that began as a German creation, then evolved into an artists’ enclave through the 1980s. Today, enterprising investors still hope to bring back the music vitality of Motown and have many top current artists recording in the area.
There is a wealth of info and beauty as walkers traverse the RenCen, river area and surrounding locales — from skyscrapers to lesser-known icons. Just be prepared to walk for about three hours, make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes, and come supplied with water or snacks.
Private group tours can be arranged, but need to be done one month in advance, minimum, and can include either walking or charter-bus arrangements. They can span the cemeteries, the Boston-Edison neighborhood, African-American heritage and other history or locations.
Beginning on October 1st, three Saturday Cemetery Tours will take participants through Mt. Elliot, Elmwood and Woodmere graveyards. Registrations are taken online at http://www.preservationwayne.org/tours.php.
Preservation Wayne is located at 4735 Cass Avenue in Detroit, and can be reached at (313) 577-3559.