Lost Detroit Treasures: Gone but Not Forgotten

February 28, 2019
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Circa 2014.

With all of the changes going on in Detroit, many of its very best, most magical places keep closing.  Is it the rent being raised?  In some cases, the people who were running them were ready to retire and a fairly good buyout offer came their way.  Others were forced out.

One beloved spot is now a tattoo parlor.  All the rest of these are sitting vacant and unused.  This may be the case for a long time to come.  I miss all of them and I tried to frequent them and support them.

Showcase Collectibles was a very special place.  Sometimes it even seemed to be a bit enchanted or mysterious.  It was also one of the last holdouts of the old spirit of the Cass Corridor of bygone days.  There were often dogs there and maybe a few cats.  The owners had previously run the local Birdtown Pet Shop.  Sometimes you’d go in and they’d be having a party and might even offer you a beer.  You never knew what you’d find there.  I found some great vinyl LPs there, in good shape.  There were old photos  and postcards.  It’s a big loss.

At Showcase Collectibles

The VALUE WORLD store on Woodward in the New Center was also really great.  I’d find excellent books there, hats and clothes, toy instruments for the Spaceband, puppets and much more.  It was also blessed with a unique atmosphere.  Now there are about ten of their stores are in the suburbs but none in Detroit.


The BIG BOOK STORE was another special favorite.  I’d go there all the time. I’d always find good books there.  Sometimes I’d find movie stills, old magazines and other odd stuff.  How many used book stores are there in Detroit now?  There’s John Kong downtown of course.  I know of one on Mack, on the East Side.  Is there anything else?

The proprietor, William Foulkes was an old friend.  I first met him some 40 years ago.  It was near my bus stop so I’d go in their to get out of the freezing cold or just to shoot the bull.  I’ve lost touch with Bill.  If anyone’s in contact with him, ask him to get in ahold of   me.

The Detroit Hardware store on Woodward was another favorite spot.  They were the best and I’m sorry that they had to shut down.

The Circa 1890 Saloon was a unique spot. The decor was a unique collection of Western and rural themed America artifacts, including a jackalope or two.  For a long time they’d have a “welcome to Spring” celebration, burying old man Winter.  They’d bring out a coffin and have a sort of funeral march, New Orleans style.  Local bands, poets and other performers would play there.  I was part of a gig there, on the same bill with the late Detroit jazz great Faruq Z, Bey.  This was one of his final performances.  He passed away  a few days later.

I’d stop by there, now and then.  Once, they gave me my hat that I’d left there on a previous visit.  There were two rooms, with a bar in the middle.

The Zenith, 2015.

For about a year and a half, the strange and wonderful Zenith Restaurant held court on the first floor of the Fisher Building.  It was sort of like dining in an eccentric museum, mixing pop culture with a little true fine art.   The space has been sitting empty for over three years.

I enjoyed going to Goodwell’s Natural Foods Market.  It was on Willis, down the street from the Avalon Bakery.  They’ve been closed for a few years.  I’ll probably think of some other beloved Cass Corridor area digs that I miss.  I’ll add them here as they come to mind.

The Circa 1890 Saloon:




The Zenith Restaurant:


Goodwell’s Natural Foods Market, 2015.

The Detroit Hardware Company:


The Detroit Hardware Company, the key section.

2004, Detroit Chinatown:



Older, Chin Tiki, closed in 1980:


A related blog post that I did in 2016:


Gone but not forgotten: the Gold Dollar, Charlotte Lounge, the Chin Tiki, Alvin’s, the Catacombs Coffee House, the Women’s City Club, Zoot’s Coffee House, the Bittersweet Coffee House, the Art Center Music School, 404 West Willis, the Hoe Hoe Inn aka the Grinning Duck Club, the Freezer Theatre, the Cass Corridor Food Co-op, the Campus Treasure Shop and many more.  These are mostly places that I frequented or at least I got to them a few times.  Some of them, I’ve even performed there, with one of the musical groups I’ve been with or doing a solo puppet show or reading poetry.


More Sights Along the Dexter Bus Route

January 31, 2019

Abandoned storefronts: I love this old yellow arrow, right. 2016.

April 2018.

The ride on Detroit’s Dexter Bus has a unique sort of poetic flow.  I love to read and I get around 80% of my reading done while on the bus or while waiting for the bus.  If the multiple cell phone conversations get to be too distracting, I put on my headphones and listen to instrumental music, usually jazz.  

The other distraction is the temptation to look out of the window.  Occasionally, I put the book down and just watch the streets, houses, people and plants for the entire ride.  Most of these photos were taken from the bus window.  If they stop a minute, it helps.  Yet I’ve taken some good shots even when the bus was moving.

The New Visible Change Barbershop on Joy Road at Dexter. 2016.

I especially love the home gardens.  There are several examples of topiary sculpture.  One house has topiary sculptures of a dinosaur, a dolphin, a cactus, a deer. an elephant and others.  They put up balloons and lights for the year-end holidays.  It’s one of the best of the vacant lot gardens.

An elephant and a dinosaur. 2016.

June 2017.

There’s another especially beautiful garden which I call the “Swan House” because it has two stone swans on its doorstep.  Sometimes I see people working on it.

The “Swan House” from June 2017.

Here are some of the sights along the way.  There’s a place called The Hook Fish & Chicken.   One of its neon signs reads “CAT FILLET” while others include “PERCH” and “CAT NUGGETS.”  There are a few murals.  There’s a large Synagogue, now repurposed.  One building includes a Gear Unlimited store and some interesting brick work.  It’s been closed for years after a fire.  Then too, there are other abandoned apartment buildings and storefronts and a few unusable payphones.

Then there’s the empty Bill’s Door and Lock.  If you look up above is a faded K. Kilpatrick for Mayor poster.  Down below there’s a painted sign advertising “DOG BATHING.”

An abandoned video store and locksmith’s shop. October 2016.


Social Club, Special Events Inc. June 2018.


They tore down the Dexter Bar and carted it away, but they left this, the building next to it.


If you click on these photos, they’ll enlarge and then you can backspace to get back to the article.

Along the Dexter Bus Route

December 31, 2018

From 2015.

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From early 2017

Since 2001 I’ve taken the Dexter bus into work.  It’s a lovely, often poetic ride.  I watch the old buildings fall apart, and sometimes being torn down.  I watch the active business and homes.  I watch the people.  I watch the flow of nature, the skies, trees and grasses.  The play of light and shadow keeps changing, as the year continues.

There’s often construction going on.  Usually they’re either tearing down buildings or fixing the roads.  There’s always something interesting to see,  I keep noticing little details that I’d never caught before.  How did I miss that?


October 2016, Fall Colors with a jack-o-lantern in the window.


A vine-covered house, July 2016.


Painting over a “ghost sign” at Eleos Coffee House.

The King Solomon Lodge was partially open for a time.  I think that there was a store there and that the manager was murdered.  Since then, it’s seemed to be vacant.  I got the close-up photo of the marquee when the bus was pulled over for a stopover.  The Eleos Coffee House is a fairly recent business.  They seem to be making a go of it.

The King Solomon Lodge, abandoned but in pretty good shape.


An abandoned tire store is fronted by a ghost pizza parlor sign, stained by its former lighting fixture.


June 2016

They tore down the old Dexter Bar.  Somehow I hated to see it go.  I wrote a post about it. The link to it’s below.


The Dexter Bar, May 2017.



Related material:






Old Book Covers, Part Four

November 29, 2018

From 1952


Part Four of Four

I’ve been scanning book covers that I like.   This time, these are mostly books connected with art and artists.

Someday I’ll share more old book covers, but this is enough for now.  I hope that the rest of your year 2018 is a good one, or at least an acceptable or tolerable one.



From 1959 by Eugene A. Nida & William A. Smalley





Cover Art by Jackson Pollock, from 1964





From 1970





Translated by Richard Barber, in 1999 (original from the Bodleian Library).





Cover Art by Hans Hoffman, from 2002




First published in 1923





From 1950

Old Book Covers, Part Three

October 31, 2018

Naked Canvas, from 1955

Part Three of Four

I’ve been scanning book covers that I like.   These are mostly tied to love and romance: and its discontents.  Most of these are real potboilers and are probably not worth reading all the way through.

You can see how they’re trying to boost the sales of the books by making them a bit lurid.  Sex sells.  Yes that Velvet Underground book is the source of the name of the rock group The Velvet Underground.


Mosquitos, from 1927



The Smoldering Fire, from 1955



Bed of Hate, from 1955



Pastoral, from 1954



Shore Leave, from 1944



The Velvet Whip, from 1954



The Velvet Underground, from 1963


Old Book Covers, Part Two

September 29, 2018


From 1971


Part Two of Four

I’ve been scanning book covers that I like.   These are connected with feminism and women’s issues.  Every March, I install a “Women’s History Month” exhibition here at the University of Detroit Mercy Library.  These books are representative of what I include.

I usually have sections related to women in the arts, sciences and more as well.

These days, it’s important that men stand with women and that they listen to them.  Empathy, understanding and solidarity are essential (now more than ever).





From 1973



Every month should be Women’s History Month:



From my political-social-environmental blog, late last year:




If you click on the images, you can enlarge most of them,  and then hit the backspace key to get back to this page.

Old Book Covers, Part One

August 31, 2018


Circa 1929.  This novel was the basis for the old Warner Brothers gangster film starring Edward G. Robinson.


1884, probably by Henry Francis Keenan.


Circa 1888, by Frederick Ober


1903 edition.


Part One of Four

I’ve been scanning book covers that I like.  These are older examples from 1875 to 1946.  Only one of these is from my own collection.  I borrow them from friends and from libraries.  Parts two through four will have more from my own personal library.

Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of paper.   This is especially true with the endless flood of junk mail/ little “good mail.”  Books are good paper though.  So are drawings on paper.  I hope you enjoy these book covers.  There’ll ne more to come in the next few months.


From 1946.


By J.V.C. Smith, 1875.


Circa 1899.


From 1903.

Cracks in the Sidewalk/ Cracks in the Earth

July 31, 2018
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March 2015

I’m a serious pedestrian.  I walk around the city.  I don’t do so as much as I used to but I still do so more than most.  You get a different view of streets when walking.  You see things that you’d miss while riding in a car or on a bicycle.  Fishing for fissures has become a minor hobby.


July 2016

All photos were taken in Detroit, unless otherwise noted.  That’s my regular beat, but occasionally I get to the suburbs.  I used to bus out to Royal Oak, Ferndale, Dearborn and Warren, yet I rarely do so now.  I wish I could get to Ann Arbor more often, yet that’s rare too.  I get around though.

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July 2018



May 2016


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July 2018.


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A serious pothole, July 2018.

This pothole was there from March to July or so.  It was near my block, so I’d see it nearly every day.  It was a deep one.  It probably damaged a few cars.  They finally filled it in just after I took this photograph.

The Detroit Hardware Company 1924-2018

June 30, 2018

My favorite hardware store just closed.  I think that they had to be out of there by the end of the month.  I just saw a photo they’d put out of the store all emptied out.  They donated their 100-year-old cash register to the Detroit Historical Society.

I’ve visited this store regularly.  It was in my neighborhood.  In 1985 I worked right across the street from it.  When I first started to work at Crowley’s Department Store, it was located in the former Demery’s on Woodward.

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It was almost like a hardware museum.  They had such cool stuff there and the people who worked there were knowledgeable and nice.  I liked the fact that it primarily women-owned.  The people who ran it were nearly all female.  They knew their hardware.

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They used a bank of old library card catalogue drawers for odd hooks, eye hooks etc.

It sounds like they got a good price for the building.  It’s all cleared out now.  We’ll see what they do with it. Best wishes to all the people who worked there.  To those who are retiring, happy retirement to you!





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Bins of loose nails.

Their facebook page, in memory:  https://www.facebook.com/detroit.hardware/

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The back door in the parking lot.

My Life as a Child

May 31, 2018



The two photos above were taken on Meldrum street in Detroit in May 1954.  I was still enjoying my short time as an “only child.”  My parents are so young here.   I’ve been going through the family photographs.  They help bring back or stir up a lot of memories.  I’m the oldest in a family of nine children.  Part of my childhood was connected with family activity.  We got to be pretty active.

When I was a baby, we lived by Wayne State University.  When the family started to grow we moved to the west side of Detroit.  We were in the University of Detroit area.  In the early 1960’s we moved.

The three oldest : Thomas, Dennis and Maurice.

At our house on the east side of Detroit we had a huge backyard.  In the colder Winters, we’d flood the backyard and create an ice rink.  The neighbors would come over and ice skate with us.  We had a goldfish pond.  Sometimes it’d freeze over but the fish would still be alive in the Spring.  There were fruit trees.  We’d help pick pears, apples and (for a little while) cherries.  They’d be canned, eaten fresh and made into pies.  My dad built a tree-house in the apple tree.  We used to sleep up there sometimes.

We’d play complicated war games with miniature figures, mostly out in the sand box.  Often cowboys, Indians, knights-in armor and green army men would all be fighting on the same side.  We were near the Detroit River and always heard the freighter ship’s horns as they went by.  We could go down to the park and watch the boats go by.  We’d even go swimming, though this could be dangerous.

The three oldest boys: Thomas, Maurice and Dennis.

It wasn’t all pleasant and magical.  I’d get beaten up by the older kids at school, things like that.  There was some bad stuff.  There’s always conflict.  Generally though, I had a most excellent childhood.  I hope to write it up in greater detail, either here or in the first chapter or two of my memoirs.

I was a reader, early on.  Besides books, I loved music, cartoons and old movies.  Television was a sort of part magic window and part home theatre.  Sometimes we’d go out and see a special movie.  Either my aunts would take us or we’d go out as a family.  Once my dad took some of us to see a documentary film showing in downtown Detroit.  Then there were the neighborhood theatres including the Cinderella and the Esquire.  We’d go to monster movie matinees.  It was always a treat to see a movie in a theatre.

Both my parents encouraged our imaginations and creativity.  My dad would make up bedtime stories for us.  I started drawing and making little booklets.  These were often colored with crayons and stapled-together.


We had a baby alligator, a bat, numerous chickens and roosters, various snakes, turtles, lizards and a few parakeets and canaries.  Some of the pets were due to the fact that my dad was a science teacher for the Detroit Public Schools.  Students would catch things and bring them into class.  Then they’d end up at our house.  We had one dog, named Sox.  We had one cat, Meatball.  We didn’t name him.  He arrived, already named.  He was a big black cat with a white spot on his neck.

I was sort of loner but got along OK with my classmates.  In the family, we’d have our fights and troubles, but generally we got along.  Once, one of my brothers heard the call for dinner but he could not come, as he was tied to a tree.  The three oldest kids were in one small bedroom, in a triple-decker bunk bed.  I was on the bottom bunk.  Eventually, I got my own room.  I could see the Detroit River out of the window.

Thomas, Matt and myself, right.

I was in the Boy Scouts of America, patrol leader of the Pine Tree Patrol.  We had plenty of boy scout camping trips.  I really loved nature, being out in the forest and under the stars.  I’d also got to go to Camp Ozanam, a Summer camp not connected with the Boy Scouts.  We had a few family trips and camp-outs as well.  The main trips were to Washington D.C. and to Charleston, South Carolina.

I generally didn’t care for sports, though I did enjoy swimming, hiking and playing softball.  With our Boy Scout troop, Troop 4 we once walked from Detroit to the Charles Howell scout camp, a hike of over 50 miles!

When I was freshman in high school, I dislocated my hip.  I don’t even know how this happened, but it did.  I had to have a major operation.  They put pins in my hip and I had to go around on crutches for a while.  That was sort of the end of my childhood.

grade school photoo