Happy 320th Birthday Detroit!

the lamp post by kare hav

the lamp post by kare hav

320 years ago tomorrow on July 24, 1701, Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac realized the success of his plan with mentor and Governor General of New France, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, to found a new settlement at the south of Lake Huron to increase the security of French interests on the Great Lakes. Frontenac died, and his successor was not fond of Cadillac so, as History Detroit explains, the story of Cadillac took matters into his own hands:

Cadillac set sail for France in 1698 in order to convince King Louis to allow him to found a new settlement lower in the Great Lakes. Specifically, he was interested in the area south of Lake Huron known as le détroit, or the straits.

The area known as le détroit was ideal for a new settlement because the land was fertile, the location on the river was felt to be easily defended against the British and the climate was more hospitable than that in the more northern settlements like Michilimackinac.

Cadillac returned to Quebec, then travelled to Montreal where he gathered canoes, farmers, traders, artisans, soldiers, and Native Americans to accompany him on his quest. The men set sail on June 4, 1701.

Cadillac and his men reached the Detroit River on July 23, 1701. The following day, July 24, 1701, the group traveled north on the Detroit River and chose a place to build the settlement. Cadillac named the settlement Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit in honor of King Louis’s Minister of Marine.

Kare hav took this photo of the Detroit skyline from across the Detroit River back in 2017. See more in their Detroit gallery & have a great weekend!

Lots more Detroit photos & history on Michigan in Pictures!

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The 1938 Phantom Corsair: Different by Design

1938 Phantom Corsair by Alden Jewell

1938 Phantom Corsair by Alden Jewell

In their Story of the Week feature, the Motor Cities National Historic Area shares the story of the “different by design” 1938 Phantom Corsair:

The Phantom Corsair was one of the most unique automotive designs ever when it was introduced to the public in 1938. he model was designed by Rust Heinz, who once had a dream of what an American supercar should look like. Heinz was from the well-known family that made its fortune selling condiments like ketchup and mustard across the country.

The Phantom Corsair was intended for a limited manufacturing run and would have sold for $15,000 on the consumer market. However, that price was a problem for the Phantom Corsair since it was designed and engineered when most Americans were still struggling with the Great Depression.

The Phantom Corsair was a prototype 2-door model sedan. A clay scale model featured an aerodynamic shape that was sleek and futuristic. The model offered room for six passengers … Heinz’s parents disapproved in the beginning of his developing the Phantom Corsair. His aunt ultimately agreed to fund the project. Unfortunately, Heinz was killed in an auto accident in July 1939, and the Phantom Corsair project came to an end.

…For many years since, automotive writers and historians have said that “Although sometimes dismissed as a failure because it never entered production, the Corsair is regarded as ahead of its time because of its futuristic features and styling cues such as faired-in fender and a low profile.”

The Phantom Corsair prototype offered an electric push-button door operation, along with green tinted triple-layer safety glass windows, hydraulic impact bumpers, and fog lights for nighttime driving. The instrument panel offered a flush design with a dozen instruments that included a compass and altimeter. The interior offered an aviation design theme with a warning light that signaled when the door was ajar. Other features included a multi-wave radio with twin speakers plus a great air conditioning and heating system. The prototype model used a Cord V8 Lycoming engine with a front wheel drive transmission.

Read more & see some really great photos at motorcities.org!

For a chance to really geek out on some wild automotive designs, have a look at Alden’s Concept Vehicles & Prototypes gallery on Flickr.

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White Shoal Light & Terry Pepper

White Shoal Light by Joel Dinda

White Shoal Light by Joel Dinda

Terry Pepper was almost certainly the greatest champion ever for the lighthouses of the Great Lakes. Although he passed in 2019, his Seeing the Light website remains as a fantastic resource for the lighthouses of the western Great Lakes. The White Shoal Lighthouse entry says (in part, because these are VERY thorough):

Located approximately 20 miles east of Mackinac Point and 2.6 miles northwest of Waugoshance Island, the shallows around White Shoal had long presented a hazard for vessels entering the Straits from the either the North Shore or the Manitou Passage. Lying in an east/west orientation, and almost two miles long, the shoal was so shallow that its west end broke the water’s surface. With the dramatic increase in vessel traffic in the late 1880’s, the Lighthouse Board specifically identified White Shoal, Simmons Reef and Gray’s Reef as three Straits-area navigational hazards requiring immediate demarcation.

…Spring of 1908 saw work begin on the White Shoal light on two separate fronts. While a crew at the site leveled a one hundred and two-foot square area on the shoal through the addition and careful placement of loads of stone, a second crew worked on building a timber crib on shore at St. Ignace. Seventy-two feet square and eighteen and a half feet high, the huge crib contained 400,000 square feet of lumber, and on completion was slowly towed out to the shoal and centered over the leveled lake bottom. Once in location, the crib was filled with 4,000 tons of stone until it sank to a point at which its’ uppermost surface was level and two feet below the water’s surface.

…As work on the tower continued, the nine decks took shape within the tower. The first deck mechanical room housed the oil engine powered fog signal, heating plant, and storage for the station’s powerboat. The second deck housed a tool room, bathroom and food storage area. A kitchen, living room and one bedroom made up the third deck, with two more bedrooms and a toilet located on the fourth. A living area and another bedroom were found on the fifth deck, and the sixth and seventh contained a single open room on each. The service room made up the eighth level, and the watchroom topped the living quarters on the ninth.

Work at the station continued through the end of the shipping season in 1909, when once again the station was abandoned until work could resume with the receding ice in the spring of 1910.

Work crews returned to the station on the opening of the 1910 navigation season, and the the tower was capped with a circular watch room and lantern room, both of twelve and a half feet in diameter. The aluminum lantern featured helical astragals, which the Board had recently begun incorporating in new construction, since it was believed that they offered less light interference than the vertical astragals that had been prevalently used for the past sixty years. As construction of the tower wound to completion, the entire structure from the crib deck to lantern ventilator was given a coat of bright white paint, designed to improves the structure’s visibility during daylight hours.

More from Seeing the Light & definitely check out the tribute to Terry Pepper from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Joel took this photo from Shepler’s ferry Hope during a Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association lighthouse cruise in June of 2014. See more in his Lighthouse Cruise 6/16/2014 gallery on Flickr.

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The GM Futurliner

GM Futurliner by Bruce Bertz

GM Futurliner by Bruce Bertz

Wikipedia’s entry for GM Futurliners explains that these wild custom vehicles were designed in the 1940s for General Motors by the legendary Harley Earl:

Originally manufactured for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Futurliners were later featured in GM’s Parade of Progress, a promotional caravan travelling a 150-stop route across the United States and Canada. The Futurliners, along with 32 support vehicles, were driven by 50 college graduates, who also staffed the exhibitions along the route.

Typically arranged at each stop around a large tent and an information kiosk, each Futurliner featured a self-contained stage as well as a prominent deployable light tower, and each vehicle featured a particular subject. The mobile exhibition covered such topics as jet engine technology, agriculture, traffic engineering, stereophonic sound, microwave ovens, television and other innovations.

At 33 feet long, 8 feet wide, more than 11 feet tall, and weighing more than 12 tons, each Futurliner featured heavily stylized art deco, streamlined bodywork, deep red side and white roof paint, large articulated chrome side panels, a military-grade 302 cubic inch GMC straight-six gasoline engine and automatic transmission, whitewall tires and a prominent, high-mounted, centrally located driver command position with a panoramic windshield.

There are only nine of these left & the last one to sell sold for a cool $4 million!! Photos & more info at Wikipedia. You may also enjoy the many pics & stories including a restoration project at Futureliner.org.

Bruce took this photo at Wing & Wheels at the Yankee Air Museum & you can see more shots in his Yankee Air Museum 2021 gallery on Flickr.

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Earl Young & the Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix

Mushroom House in Charlevoix Michigan by Lee Rentz

Mushroom House in Charlevoix, Michigan by Lee Rentz

Visit Charlevoix shares the story of self-taught builder Earl Young & his “mushroom houses” in Charlevoix:

Starting in 1919, and continuing into the seventies, Young fashioned over two dozen creations using indigenous materials.

Over the course of his fifty-year career, Young would build twenty-six residential houses and four commercial properties. His works are made mostly of stone, using limestone, fieldstone, and boulders that he found throughout Northern Michigan. Each of these houses is individually different and was designed to blend in with its surrounding landscape. Earl Young’s houses feature his signature designs, along with wide, wavy eaves, exposed rafter tails; cedar-shake roofs; and a horizontal emphasis in design. These buildings are creatively known as Gnome Homes, Mushroom Houses, or Hobbit Houses.

Many of the homes are accessible within a reasonable walking distance from downtown; more can be seen by car. Downtown, Stafford’s Weathervane Restaurant and Weathervane Terrace Inn & Suites on Pine River Lane, and the Lodge hotel on Michigan Avenue are also his creations.

Head over to Visit Charlevoix for a self-guided tour map!

See more from Lee on his Flickr & also at his photography blog!

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America’s First Urban Freeway: Detroit’s Davison Freeway

The Davison Urban Freeway by Wayne State University

The Davison Urban Freeway by Wayne State University

The Daily Detroit is one of my favorite Michigan podcasts, and their story on The Davison, America’s First Urban Freeway in Detroit is pretty cool: 

While freeways are pretty standard in American cities now, it wasn’t always that way. Instead of the ability to potentially go up to 70 miles an hour like on today’s highways, motorists had to use regular city streets to cross town. That was especially the case for motorists who wanted to cross Highland Park and enter Detroit.

Everyone piled onto Davison Avenue, the only large street that ran through Highland Park and connected to Detroit running roughly east to west. The avenue and freeway was named after an English immigrant from the 1840s that settled in the area, Jared Davison (it was then Hamtramck Township). His farm was approximately between Woodward and Oakland avenues along the south side of the street.

It wasn’t uncommon for drivers to spend 15 minutes sitting in traffic to reach Detroit. By 1940, thanks to Detroit’s growth and the growth of auto factories, Davison Avenue was approaching gridlock during rush hour by 1940.

…By November 1942, the five and a half mile long Davison Freeway was finished. It opened without a dedication ceremony, probably due to the desperate need the defense plants had for a functioning freeway. Despite its lack of dedication, the freeway became the first one of its kind – an urban freeway meant to connect one part of a metro area with another with as little interruption as possible.

…Ironically, the invention from Highland Park eventually played a key role in emptying the city out. In 1992, Chrysler moved their headquarters down the road – off of I-75 with a special off-ramp built for the development – to Auburn Hills, to follow the trend of suburban sprawl that the American highway system helped enable.

Read more at the Daily Detroit!

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Petite Pointe Au Sable Lighthouse

Little Sable Lighthouse 4 by kmoyerus

Little Sable Lighthouse 4 by kmoyerus

Visit Ludington explains that Little Sable Point Lighthouse was originally named Petite Pointe Au Sable:

Located in the Silver Lake State Park at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes, the Little Sable Point Lighthouse is a 107′ brick structure, constructed in 1874. This lighthouse is one of the tallest in the state of Michigan at over 100 feet and 130 steps to climb the tower. About 30 miles north, you can visit the other “Point” along Lake Michigan which is home to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse located within the Ludington State Park.

…it cost $35,000 to build and contained 3 rooms. The rare third order Fresnel lens emitted a constant white light, and flashed a brighter light at set intervals, visible 19 miles into Lake Michigan.

The early 1900s saw some changes to the lighthouse. In 1900 the tower was painted white, and an access road and storage building were added in 1902. The name was changed in 1910 to Little Sable Point Lighthouse, meaning “little point of sand,” representing its location which juts into Lake Michigan. In 1977, the tower paint was removed and the original brick exposed.

Over the years, the lighthouse has had 15 keepers; and for one month, a woman took over when the original keeper took a temporary leave. The Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association took over the maintenance of the lighthouse in 2005, and it is open to the public from late May to late September.

The Light probably looked much the same in the 1870s as it did when kmoyerus took the photo in early May. See more in their Oceana County gallery on Flickr.

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South Fox Island Light Station

South Fox Island Light Station by Dusty Klifman / Blueyes Below

South Fox Island Light Station by Dusty Klifman / Blueyes Below

My company recently completed a new website for the Fox Island Lighthouse Association. Their website explains:

The South Fox Light Station is located 22 miles offshore in NW Lake Michigan, south of Beaver Island and north of the Manitous. The 115 acres of MI state-owned land has much to offer, with seven original structures still standing and acres of pristine dune and wildlife; it is one of the most unique stations on Lake Michigan. The original tower was lit in 1867; the fog signal and oil house were built in 1895. The Workshop and Boat House were built in 1897. In 1934, the 68’ steel skeletal tower was brought from Sapelo Island, GA and reassembled on the island (automated in 1958). The two-story Assistant Keepers Quarters was added in 1910. The station was decommissioned in 1969.

In 1971, the State of Michigan bought the station from the Department of the Interior with a promise to provide recreational opportunity and access to the public.

You can head over to their website for information & photos about the station, its structures, and how you can help them with their work.

Diver/photographer Dusty Klifman of Blueyes Below, provided some photos for the website & the cool drone footage. Check him out for lots more photos & videos of shipwrecks & other maritime subjects.

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Happy Birthday, Tiger Stadium

Tiger Stadium Deconstruction by Paul Hitz

Tiger Stadium Deconstruction by Paul Hitz

Tiger Stadium at the corner of Michigan & Trumbull in Detroit opened 109 years ago on April 20, 1912. As good of a field as Comerica Park is (and it’s pretty darned good), I’m never not going to miss Tiger Stadium. If you’d like to read a wonderful account of the history of the stadium and The Corner, head over to Historic Detroit. It begins:

Whether as a 103-year-old site for pro baseball or as an 87-year-old stadium, the corner of Michigan and Trumbull is the home of memories for millions of fans. The park sat vacant since hosting its final game on Sept. 27, 1999, until June 30, 2008, when demolition began.

Professional baseball was first played on the site, at a 5,000-seat ballpark known as Bennett Park, on April 28, 1896 — three years before Detroit even had an auto plant. The field, named after fan favorite Charlie Bennett, was built on the former site of a municipal hay market. The park was razed after the 1911 season and replaced with 23,000-seat Navin Field. The ballpark as we know it today opened April 20, 1912, the same day as Fenway Park in Boston — and five days after the RMS Titanic sank.

Paul took this photo back in 2008 when they were demolishing the ballpark. It’s long been one of my favorites. See more from Paul in his Detroit gallery on Flickr & at United Photo Works.

PS: The Corner Ballpark sits where Tiger Stadium. It is the home of the Detroit Police Athletic League program and features a great ballpark with the Willie Horton Field of Dreams.

PPS: Tons more Tiger Stadium photos on Michigan in Pictures!

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Remembering Better Made’s Salvatore Cipriano

Better Made Potato Chips - A Detroit Tradition by Derek Farr

Better Made Potato Chips – A Detroit Tradition by Derek Farr

The Freep reports that Better Made Snack Foods CEO Salvatore (Sam) Cipriano passed away yesterday:

Salvatore “Sam” Cipriano with sister Cathy Gusmano
Salvatore Cipriano with sister Cathy Gusmano

He was the second generation to lead Better Made, and the family-owned Detroit potato chip company said he took the business to new heights. Even amid the pandemic, Better Made has been rolling out new flavors.

“He was loved by everyone at Better Made and those that knew him,” said his sister, Cathy Gusmano, chairwoman of the snack food company’s board, adding he “will be missed tremendously.”

…”Our family has always taken pride in how we make our products with quality being paramount,” Cipriano said at the time. “From our humble beginnings when Detroit had over 20 potato chip manufacturers, we’ve tried to make the best product possible, and that hard work paid off as we’re the last one standing.”

Better Made started in 1930 as the Cross and Peters Co., named after the founders, Cross Moceri and Peter Cipriano (Salvatore’s father), but incorporated a few years later to reflect the goal that the two men had set: To make a better potato chip.

More at the Freep & be sure to check out Better Made’s Instagram where I got this nice photo of Sam & Cathy.

Derek took this photo of Better Made’s Detroit factory & store. See lots more awesome pics in his Detroit Gallery on Flickr.

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