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On Saturday, Matt and I went on our Date of the Month for April, a self-guided Downtown Detroit Walking Tour, focusing on the history and architecture of the downtown core, that I came across on the VisitDetroit.com website. It was supposed to be a podcast, but it wouldn’t download properly so instead I printed out the script and we read it as we went along.
Being from the area, I know a bit about Detroit’s history as a French fort founded at the beginning of the 18th century and the city’s role as the last stop in the underground railroad, but I haven’t spent much time wandering around the downtown area and I knew nothing about the architecture in the city.
One of my favourite parts of the tour was an arch sculpture called Transcending, located in Hart Plaza on the riverfront The sculpture included a path with quotes and bronze reliefs representing the landmark events in the history of the Labour Movement.
I also enjoyed getting a view of the Windsor skyline from Hart Plaza since I rarely get to see Windsor from the other side of the river. Unfortunately Detroit gets the shit end of the stick when it comes to skyline views since their skyline viewed from Windsor is much more pleasing to the eye than the reverse.
My favourite work of architecture, the best in my ignorant-about-architecture opinion, is the colourful art deco Guardian Building with its painted murals, intricate mosaics, stained glass, and varieties of marble.
The whole tour took us about 3 hours which was much longer than I expected.
Following our tour we drove up Woodward Ave to the Cass Corridor for dinner at the eclectic diner Traffic Jam and Snug on Canfield, but not before picking up a couple of very tart loaves of sourdough bread at the organic bakery Avalon just a block over on Willis. I am always drawn to scoping out a 3 things when I travel: churches, cemeteries, and bakeries.
If you go:
You can download several different walking tours from VisitDetroit.com
- The iconic Spirit of Detroit bronze statue
- Transcending, the art installation in Hart Plaza representing the Labor Movement with famous labour quotes and images representing workers’ and human rights.
- The Beaux-Arts Classicism of the Wayne County Building
- The opulent Siamese-Byzantine style interior of the Fox Theatre
- The Guardian Building‘s bright, multi-coloured Pewabic tile on the exterior and the gorgeous interior lobby featuring a mosaic of Michigan’s State Tree, the White Pine, back-lit stained glass, a Tiffany clock and a five story mural of Michigan.
- The tour took us into a very, very shady section of the downtown area to show us the birthplace of the first Ford automobile where we ran into some heavily inebriated individuals.
- We saw a person doing hard drugs in the middle of Grand Circus Park
- Downtown Detroit on a Saturday is a very lonely place when there are no sporting events going on. I see more pedestrians in my suburban neighbourhood. Tourists were even harder to spot though we managed to see one other couple posing for a photo-op with the Spirit of Detroit and what looked like a bicycle tour in Hart Plaza. That was it.
- In spite of the city’s efforts, there are still lots of abandoned, formerly beautiful buildings
- Campus Martius Park is Detroit’s point of origin and one of the best public squares in North America
- The city’s motto, established after the 1805 fire, is “We hope for better things. It will arise from the ashes.” which is still very applicable today
- Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the “I Have a Dream” speech for the first time at Cobo Hall in Detroit.
- The Marriott at the Renaissance Centre is the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere.
- The building at One Woodward Ave was designed by the same designer of the World Trade Centre and was inspiration for the twin towers
- With 13,000 theatre seats, the Detroit has the second largest Theatre District in the US
- Detroit was the original capitol of Michigan and the state’s first governor was only 22 years old
- Detroit is the only American city ever to have been occupied by a foreign power, the British, during a 13 month period of the War of 1812
Date of the Month Club
Check out other posts in the Date of the Month club, where Matt and I go on one special date every month of 2012:
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