Category Archives: Photos

The Historic GAR

Grand Army of the Republic Building | Woodward Spine

Grand Army of the Republic Building | Woodward Spine

By Jeffrey Buck

This past Saturday, with the sun shinning , I took a trip down to see the progress of the GAR building up close. It was an overwhelming feeling to see such a gem being brought back to life. I strolled around it several times taking photographs to share. It will be a grand day when they are finished and once again the doors are open to this beautiful historic structure.

For more pictures of the Grand Army of the Republic Building and other Detroit landmarks be sure to visit our Facebook Page.

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Mindfield at work on the GAR

Gar Building - Store Front

GAR Building | Mindfield USA

By Jeffrey Buck

If you haven’t read or perhaps driven by it, the Grand Army of the Republic Building, know as the GAR, is undergoing major restoration by a team put together by its future tenant and current owner, Mindfield USA. The 114 year-old Romanesque building was constructed in 1899 by architects Julian Hess and Richard Rasserman. It was purchased in late 2011 for $220,00 after Olympia Development did not move forward with their renovation plans.

As mentioned before, the renovations at the structure, a member of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, have been underway for several months. If you haven’t been following along be sure to check out the blog being kept on everything GAR. The facade work to the street level storefronts is in full swing now and people passing by on their way to Tiger’s games this year will get a rare glimpse of what the building once was.

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Shorpy Saturday – The Automobile

By Jeffrey Buck

As Chrysler, Ford and General Motors continue to recover from the near meltdown of a few years back I’ve selected a few photographs that are automotive related. None of the photos were taken in Michigan but offer a glimpse into times when the automobile culture was much different; from design to fuel to presentation.

Take a look at the photographs entitled:

Downsized: 1977“:

New Chevrolet meets Old Cadillac circa 1977 in Medford, Mass., on the corner of Mystic Avenue and Harvard Street at a service station whose name escapes me. Not the best time for American cars!

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Full Service: 1940

May 1940. “Wiping off windshield at service station in Cairo, Illinois.” 35mm negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration.

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Lincoln at the Capital: 1924

Washington, D.C., 1924. “Ford Motor Co. — Lincoln at Capitol.” The Great Transportator. National Photo Company glass negative.

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Palms Building Photographs

By Jeffrey Buck

I know this past week was a quiet week from the Woodward Spine but rest assured we have a lot of exciting content coming in the next few weeks. With that said I want to share with you an exciting purchase I made over the weekend from the Royal Oak Farmers Market. I’ve always enjoyed going to the market on Saturdays and seeing as I haven’t been in a while, was driving by and had an hour to burn I caved and did a walk through. I’m sure glad I did. I shuffled through dozens of old photographs ranging from past presidents to unknown families. Every once in a while I would come across one that had a Detroit tie. Out of all the ones I passed I settled on these three.

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The three photographs seemed to be taken in front of the Palms Theatre (Palms Building) during a parade. You may know the building now as the Fillmore or by its more legendary name the State Theatre. What is most special about these particular shots are the view of the first floor of the building which has gone through renovations to drastically change what the architect intended the building to look like. This is the case for many of downtown Detroit’s older buildings. Some have been altered back to their original look.

Judging by the marquee, the time period is early ’50s. The film being advertised is Sirocco starring Humphrey Bogart which was released in 1951.

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For more information and historic photos of the Palms Building and its theatre visit Historic Detroit by clicking here.

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Humphrey Bogart

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Grizzly Cubs Make Detroit Zoo Debut

By Jeffrey Buck

Today at the Detroit Zoo is your first chance to see Mike, Thor and Boo. The three orphaned grizzly bears rescued late last year from Alaska are making their public debut today. After spending the winter months hibernating in a private off-exhibit area since their arrival the trio are playful and ready to swim! We got a sneak peek this morning but be sure to go see these brothers in person, you won’t regret it.

The Detroit Zoo will be open until 4 p.m. today and then reopen tomorrow at 10 a.m. Be sure to check back tomorrow for more information about the grizzly bears from Ron Kagan, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit Zoo.

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Historic Hecker-Smiley Mansion

Hecker-Smiley Mansion

By Jeffrey Buck

Preservation Wayne (soon to be known as Preservation Detroit) held a tour of the historic Hecker-Smiley Mansion a couple of weekends ago. The former home of Col. Frank Joseph Hecker was designed by famed architect Louis Kamper of Scott, Kamper, Scott and completed in 1892. It served as a boarding house from 1928 to 1947 before being bought by Paul Smiley to be used as the headquarters for Smiley Brothers Music Company. In 1991 the mansion was bought by the Historic Hecker Mansion Limited Partnership for the law firm of Charfoos & Christensen, P.C. The mansion went through an extensive renovation under it’s new owners in 1991 with the help of Preservation Wayne.

The home was built in the French Renaissance Chateauesque style and was inspired by Chateau de Chenonceau in Loire Valley, France. The 20,988 sq. ft. home was constructed on two Woodward lots bought by Hecker in 1887 for $27,859. The mansion, as well as a 5,721 sq. ft. carriage house, were built on the lots for $144,936.54 (over $3,000,000 today). The price included architect fees, a stable, decorations and carpets. Another $19,990.14 was spent on furniture alone.

For more information on the mansion, visit the website of Charfoos & Christensen, P.C. by clicking here.

Preservation Wayne is Detroit’s oldest and largest architectural preservation organization. The group has been preserving Detroit’s architectural heritage since 1975. They are always looking for new volunteers and members. Membership includes discounted tickets ot their award-winning Heritage tours, access to their historic archive and invitations to special events and forums. There are several membership levels that range from $20 for students and seniors to Corporate at $1,000. For more information on memberships and the many tours they offer visit their website by clicking here.

FOR SALE | The mansion is currently listed for sale by Freidman Real Estate Solutions for $3,500,000. The details and more pictures of the property at 5510 Woodward Avenue can be found by clicking here.

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The Way It Was, Part 2: More glimpses of Detroit’s history

Book Cover

By Jeffrey Buck

Photographs play an integral role in preserving our history, regardless of the subject. Societies can change—sometimes for the better, but unfortunately also sometimes for the worse.

A photograph can tell a story for both present and future generations and has the ability to take someone back in time. George Bulanda knows the power of photography and the curiosity of the past, especially the immense history of the Motor City. For over 10 years now, Hour Detroit has featured a historic image of Detroit in every one of its monthly editions.

The idea was the brainchild of a former publisher, but Bulanda took the reins only a few months after its inception and has been the voice behind each photograph ever since.  It quickly became one of his favorite parts of his job and soon changed the way people read the magazine.

“I just kind of inherited it in 1998,” said Bulanda. “They were freelancing it out and I said you know you don’t have to do that. I’m pretty knowledgeable with history, I can do it.  I’ll research it. To this day it’s still my favorite part of my job.

“A lot of people say I begin when I get the issue in the mail by flipping and starting at the back. And it doesn’t really seem to matter the age of the reader. Some people might remember these from the 40s and 50s. But a lot of young people have said to me ‘I never knew Detroit had this, I never knew Woodward Avenue was so packed at Christmas.”

It was these photographs that made the book The Way It Was possible. Following the success of the first book, Bulanda released a second volume filled with new photos in December 2011. The new book was offered as a special edition which included the first volume and unique slip cover as well as on its own. Continue reading

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