Thursday, December 27, 2012

Days of Future Passed....Grand Boulevard Part I

The next couple of posts represent a bit of a departure for me but you have to lump the good in with the bad sometimes.  I've made a pretty deliberate effort to avoid shooting pictures of the ruins of Detroit because for the most part I don't think it serves a real purpose.  People know that there are parts of Detroit that are in disrepair and taking pictures of those areas wont help the situation much.  However, when I'm doing a series about a street, it's kind of hard to avoid the ruins.  But I feel that the story of this historic street needs to be told.

Also, I don't normally shoot in black and white but given the subject matter of these posts, I figured black and white would be a good departure.  After seeing how some of these turned out, I may shoot in black and white more often.  There is something about black and white.

Well at any rate, I bring you the beginning of Grand Boulevard.

As early as 1876, the citizens of Detroit were aware of Baron Geroges-Eugene Haussmann to make Paris into a city of beautiful parks, broad streets and grand boulevards.  They wanted to make Detroit in a similar fashion by surrounding the city with a "Grand Boulevard".  When Belle Isle was transferred from the state to the city (ironic given what's probably going to happen), a legislator put a rider calling for the construction of the route.

In 1891, the idea finally started to come to fruition with the support of then mayor Hazen S. Pingree.  At the time it would represent the city limits but the rapid growth of the city in the 20th Century pushed past it.  The route was finally completed in 1913 and was considered an attraction to the city as it was lined with trees, shrubbery and flowerbeds.

The streetcar that traveled along it was called the Grand Belt Line.  The bus line retained the name "Grand Belt" but it was cut in 2009.
 The Detroit Boat Club was established in 1839 and is the oldest sport rowing club in the United States and the second oldest in the world.  Many prominent members of Detroit's society were members of the club and the first clubhouse was on Hasting Street.  They had one boat the "Georgina".

In 1902, the current boathouse was dedicated.  The Detroit Boat Club has produced many successful athletes.  The clubhouse was abandoned in 1996 and has since fallen into disrepair.  There are some efforts to fix the building up but it sounds like it mostly in the planning stages.

Technically this is not the start of Grand Boulevard but it is close enough.
 I suppose I could call the MacArthur Bridge the beginning (or the end depending on your perspective).  I will have to admit this bridge looks beautiful when it is lit up at night.  However, when you look closely, you can see the signs of age.
 A closeup of one of the columns at the beginning of the Bridge.
 This is the corner of Jefferson and Grand Boulevard.  There used to be a tunnel near here and it was used by the trolley that went between the city and Belle Isle.
 One of the many religious structures along Grand Boulevard.  This particular one is the Immanuel House of Prayer.  The original one was founded in 1975 by Bishop Thomas L. Johnson. This building was occupied in 1993 and is called the "Cathedral by the Water" because of its proximity to the Detroit River.
 Some of the houses on Grand Boulevard.  It seems like for every one that is in good shape there are at least two that are not.
 This part of the boulevard seems to be fairly well maintained.
 This church was constructed in 1852 and is probably the third oldest church in Detroit.  It was designed by the same person who designed the Mariner's Church, Calvin Otis.  In 1901, this church was moved from its original location to here and meticulously reconstructed to match the original.
 Some more abandoned houses.  It's kind of sad that parts of the road can't live up to its name.
 This is the Trinity Deliverance Church.  Sadly, I can't find to much information about it but it looks like it may be an older church.
 I love the details on the steeple.
 I kind of wish I had gone inside to get a picture of the stained glass in the front.
 One common sight on my trip was grafitti.  I kind of liked this junction box because it summed up so much.
 Another church that I couldn't find too much information about.
 Same with this one.  I wish I would have had a chance to take a picture of the sign on the front.
 Probably one of the more famous landmarks on Grand Boulevard is the now abandoned Packard Motors Assembly Plant.
 It was built in 1903 by Albert Kahn and represented the first use of reinforced concrete in the city of Detroit.  At the time, it was considered the most advanced automotive assembly plant in the world.
 The plant was closed in 1958 but it was used for other businesses or storage until the 1990's.  There have been several attempts at demolition but the building is fairly structurely sound.
 For some reason, I just liked the looks of this shot.  I could almost imagine a humming assembly plant but that might have just been the wind.
 This looks almost like it could have been a train station at one time.  I would imagine that several trains would visit when this plant was active.
 The building has found some recent use in some movies...namely the latest Transformers movie.  I guess the bombed out look is pretty good for that.  You can see some clues of the Albert Kahn design in the ornaments under the windows.
 One last look.  I didn't want to stay around too much longer because this didn't seem like a good neighborhood for me, my camera or my car.
 I think one of the more recent proposals has been to take buildings like this and turn them into farms.  I have not heard much about that since.
 One of two fire stations along the route.  I wasn't able to get a picture of the other one but I wish I had because it looked more ornate.
 At first, I thought this was nice house until I looked at the boards on the window.
One more abandoned building along the way.  Between the Packard Plant and this was the GM Hammtramck Assembly Plant which is not abandoned.  If I remember correctly, that is where the Volt is being produced.  Unfortunately, there wasn't a good place for me to stop to take pictures.  I guess this is one of the glimmers of hope for Detroit.

Stay Tuned for Part Two....

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