Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2006 A question for the old-time Detroiters Previous Next
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Erikd
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Username: Erikd

Post Number: 544
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.242.214.106
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 1:00 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

A recent thread discussing the "modern facades" that were put on old buildings during the 50s and 60s really go me wondering...

What did people think when old buildings with ornate decorations and large windows were covered up with metal siding and large tiles? Did the general public think that these renovations looked better or worse?
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Jimaz
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Username: Jimaz

Post Number: 341
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 68.2.191.57
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 1:42 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I think most felt the clean lines and simple geometry had a more modern look, like streamlining or abstract art.

Curiously, hippies were very much against covering ornate work. They wanted to see the real thing, warts and all.

The attraction to the clean, simple look can be seen in the popularity of movies like 2001 Space Odyssey. Later the realism of dirty high tech began to appear in movies like Bladerunner. I think that was a rejection of the 2001 sterility.

(Message edited by Jimaz on March 08, 2006)
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3241
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 1:45 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

"Home modernization" was advertised on tv all the time. You got a new tv, a new car, a new freezer, so why not "modernize" your house and try to make it look like Livonia without ever having to move.

So you built a garage in the back or side yard, installed new windows, and tacked on some faux stone, actually a cement product with some color.
Car-shop Johns all over Detroit went for it.

Also popular were furnace conversions from coal to stoker coal to gas heat. Then, came air conditioning.

jjaba, notes from the 1950s.
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Missnmich
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Username: Missnmich

Post Number: 491
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 70.186.39.150
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 9:32 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

My dad was born in 1921, and he hated the fussiness and falseness of Victorian architecture, Sleak, clean and modern were considered improvements.

My wife hates what is now called midcentury, but my daughter thinks it looks hip and retro ...
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Smogboy
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Username: Smogboy

Post Number: 1905
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 69.47.100.44
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 10:10 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I remember being aghast at when my parents had the side of the house covered with aluminum siding, but then I didn't exactly miss painting the wood trim every few years either.
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Itsjeff
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Username: Itsjeff

Post Number: 5655
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 208.27.111.125
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 10:25 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

On a much smaller scale, downtown Pontiac went through the same "updating." Only instead of erasing the architectural detailing, they erased the buildings altogether. Literally, the 1970s plan was to to tear down all of downtown and rebuild it with modern buildings.

They actually completed half of the plan. The entire northern half of downtown Pontiac was razed and replaced with Phoenix Plaza. (That's where they host Arts, Beats & Eats.) The plan called for office towers and apartment buildings to surround the plaza.

Ironically, it's the remaining southern half of downtown Pontiac that is successful. That's where the arts colony and the lofts, restaurants, bars and clubs went.

Meanwhile, in the northern half, two office buildings were built and are vacant. The apartments never came.

This is a little relevant to this thread because I remember asking my mother if there was any public resistance to the idea of razing the entire downtown area. There wasn't. In the late 1960s, "mod" was in and the old, detailed archicture was considered dated and useless. She recalled the general feeling was that the "new downtown" plan was "thrilling."
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Danny
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Username: Danny

Post Number: 3787
Registered: 02-2004
Posted From: 141.217.173.33
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 10:31 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Yep While Downtown Pontiac is slowly comming back to life. Downtown Detroit is struggling to bring retail into the Woodward Ave. business corridor.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 82
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.234
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 10:34 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

There were ads in magazines entitled "modernize main street" with an illustration of workers covering up wonderful victorian-teens-twenties building exteriors with metal, and expanded metal. This was all made possible with the advent of air conditioning and flourescent lights, which surplanted the function of windows in older buildings. Yes, they really felt that they were "improving" things by doing this.
A whole generation grew up poor as children while the twenties roared for a few, were teenagers during the depression, and then either soldiers in the war, or war workers in factories. After the war they couldn't have anything too new. They wanted NEW!, and felt differently about the "fussy" designs many of us like today.
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Rustic
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Username: Rustic

Post Number: 2156
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 130.132.177.245
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 11:20 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The same stuff is still happening. Many of the developments promoting trendy modern versions of "urbanity" are just the same old thing dressed in modern clothes. Who's to say that today's spiffy-looking new urban designs won't look as pointless and dated in 25 years as those pointless canopies over sidewalks, useless pedestrian malls, false front storefronts etc of the recent past.

Just as the past mighta chisled away and panelled over nice old buildings, consider that it is still happening. A city CHOCK full of jaw droppingly cheap good quality homes in real existing neighborhoods goes wanting while artificially imposed loft-style condos (sometimes in questionable neighborhoods) are sold for the price of one (or even two!) decent house in a decent neighborhood. (I'll bet you that >80% of the homes in Grandmont would sell for less than 150K.) Even beautiful classic quality apartments buildings are currently being neglected for clean modern new apts. This is not strictly market driven either. Much of this development occurs due to favorable tax policies in an attempt to build up certain areas. Who is to say that this stuff is any less misguided or destructive to populated Detroit as earlier programs.
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Machoken
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Username: Machoken

Post Number: 1142
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 207.145.38.104
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 11:21 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Itsjeff's mother's viewpoint is appalling, although it seems it was shared by many. Too bad.

How can Phoenix Plaza be considered "Northern downtown Pontiac"?
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 83
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.234
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 11:43 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Oh, don't get me started on all of that Alex Pollack shit in the 70's--the glass domes over the sidewalks (which obscured all of the original signs), the silly-assed smoked glass streetlights, the cement kisoks and serpentine benches--Arrrgh!! Waisted all that fed money on that counter-productive shit--should have used the money for small business loans, beef up police patrols of that business district, or anything but those disco adornments
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Rustic
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Username: Rustic

Post Number: 2157
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 130.132.177.245
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 11:48 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

56packman, have you been following the staples thread? lol!
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Itsjeff
Member
Username: Itsjeff

Post Number: 5660
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 208.27.111.125
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 11:49 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Machoken caught me napping. The southern half of downtown Pontiac was razed.
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56packman
Member
Username: 56packman

Post Number: 85
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.106
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 12:01 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Rustic, no, I shop at office max. I'll do my homework and read it.
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Ray1936
Member
Username: Ray1936

Post Number: 344
Registered: 01-2005
Posted From: 207.200.116.139
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 12:47 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

During the early fifties, you couldn't find a magazine that didn't have an article on "what to expect in the future". We were going to have flying cars; freeway ramps the went to the tops of skyscrapers; and architecture that all looked like the intro for films by 20th-century Fox.

I suppose it was due to people wanting to put the war years well behind them; to march to the future and a brave new world (apologies to Huxley).

It might also have been a long term carry-over from the '39-'40 New York World's Fair, which was totally themed to futuristic ideas, but became put on HOLD due to the war.

Anyway, that was the mindset in those years, and whatever it took to make old buildings look like those in Popular Science magazine was just fine with anyone. Money was still rather tight, so cheapness tended to go along with the "improvements".

For private homes, as Smogboy points out, having your wood or asbestos siding home covered in aluminum siding was considere an "in" thing. That, along with replacing your wood storms and screens with double and triple track aluminum windows.

That's how I remember it to be, anyway. As far as the '70s Pollock walkways and all that at places like Grand River and Oakman, etc., that was more an effort to pull people back from the Northland and Eastland shopping centers into Detroit. Didn't work too well, but what the hell, it was Federal money.

That said, as a teen in those wonderful fifties, I said to myself, "Self, I only want to see three things before I die. I want to see a man walk on the moon, I want to see the world in the year 2000, and I want to see the Tigers win a World Series".

I die happy.
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Jqls
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Username: Jqls

Post Number: 4
Registered: 03-2006
Posted From: 68.43.81.255
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 12:50 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I personally thought the bright brick red metal thingys on Washington Ave. were out of this world. Who knows why they revamped the whole section of the street to make it look like a profesional downtown street.
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Rayraydetroit
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Username: Rayraydetroit

Post Number: 4
Registered: 02-2006
Posted From: 67.72.98.45
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 12:51 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Another fatal mistake was trying to compete with malls like Northland, and to "mall" downtown. The worst was closing Woodward from Grand Circus Park to Michigan to car traffic and widening the sidewalks. That killed many businesses on the street and probably the first nail in the coffin for Hudsons. Then the Rosetti designed streetscape on Washington BLvd with a fountain, red erector set bars and big concrete berms. It looked nice looking down from a high floor in the Book but killed all the storefront businesses.
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Harsensis
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Username: Harsensis

Post Number: 27
Registered: 07-2005
Posted From: 71.227.102.82
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 12:10 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Both cities of Algonac and St Clair bulldozed their downtowns, now they have modern shopping areas. The original plan was to revitalize downtown, but I don't know if that really worked. Last I knew many stores in the St Clair mall were closing and Algonacs shopping area was almost empty for years.
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Bvos
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Username: Bvos

Post Number: 1230
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 68.255.241.205
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 1:49 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

A quick note of clarification on a point Rustic made that was slightly off the topic of this thread:

I'd say 80% of the homes in Grandmont would sell for less than $180k or $200k. $150k is way too low. $150k today will only get you a three bedroom starter home that needs work or a two bedroom home in fantastic condition.

My two bedroom home in Rosedale Park, which I'd say has slightly lower property values due to the slightly smaller homes, is about 1,000 sq. ft. and worth around $140k.

If you want to look at incredible prices and appreciation on homes check out West Village, the blocks immediately west of Indian Village. Homes there, all in the Victorian style and from around the turn of the century, are going for $100,000 more than a comprable Rosedale Park home. The neighborhood isn't in that great of condition, especially when compared to Rosedale Park. When I was house hunting back in 2001-2002, the homes worth $230,000+ now were selling for $130,000. If only I had know then what I know now, I could have made an even trade to the lofts that you now deride and I desire.

Sorry about the thread jacking. You may resume to the discussion on "modernizing".
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Karl
Member
Username: Karl

Post Number: 1522
Registered: 09-2005
Posted From: 207.200.116.139
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 2:18 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Everyone on this thread has been beating around the bush without mentioning the patron saint of aluminum siding, fake stone fronts, and aluminum storm doors, Mr Belvedere.

And the real reason behind it all? "You have no fear."

And once you were done with the house, you needed some furniture - sing together, please: "Ninety-nine dollars for the sofa, and one more for the chair."

All this during Bill Kennedy's "Movie Time" (that last one I'm not sure of.....) on Channel 9.
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Rustic
Member
Username: Rustic

Post Number: 2158
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 67.163.181.81
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 2:22 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

BV, thanks for the correction re grandmont (180k, really?), anyway not a bad cold guess on my part tho, eh?
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Bvos
Member
Username: Bvos

Post Number: 1232
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 68.255.241.205
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 2:28 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Not a bad guess at all. You were in the ballpark. Most North Rosedale Homes are probably at the $200k mark. These property values are still peanuts compared to the East Coast. How the heck does someone afford a place out there?
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Jjaba
Member
Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3250
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 2:40 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Don't forget how they covered the Wyoming-Curtis shopping district with glass walkways. Then all the Jews moved and the stores went with them.

How about Woodward and Grand Blvd? Glass sidewalks, then GM, Ford Service Dept., Sax Fifth Ave., Crowleys, and Demerys left.

jjaba, Detroit's misguided Improvements go on.
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Rasputin
Member
Username: Rasputin

Post Number: 3529
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.220.69.206
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 8:43 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

jjaba: Pleaze don't forget, with selective memory, that those so-called "misguided improvements" were suggestions from the communties and stores involved. Mayhaps the City shouldn't have listened to those Jews, GM, etc. Go figure .....

Black-atcha ... remembering the words of Morie Gleicher (a Jew).

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