Detroit's Main Street
July 19, 2011 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Woodward Avenue through the years. A historical photo gallery of Detroit's Main Street.
posted by jjray (14 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome! # 42 is the view from my apartment! And the facade of the theater in #91 is literally next door. They knocked down the theater but preserved the facade.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:44 PM on July 19, 2011

This one almost looks 'shooped. Is it brothers' night at the soup kitchen or what?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:45 PM on July 19, 2011

Here is the backstory on the Adams Theater:
posted by joe lisboa at 3:07 PM on July 19, 2011

And still more info. (Bowing out now.)
posted by joe lisboa at 3:09 PM on July 19, 2011

posted by caddis at 3:16 PM on July 19, 2011

Just case someone else is as thick as me: the story only has five photos with it. Down on the right under "Related Contents" the link "Woodward Ave. since 1861" has over 100 photos. Took me a minute to figure that out.

This a awesome set of photos. Although this was a little before my time (my heyday on Woodward Ave would have been 1977-1982), that's how I remember Woodward Ave. looking.
posted by marxchivist at 3:33 PM on July 19, 2011

Man, it makes me sad to think of all the awesome vitality downtown Detroit had that I never got to see. I remember one of my grade-schoole teachers talking about how she used to go downtown to Hudson's to go shopping, and it just seemed Inconceivable. There's a lot of great stuff on Woodward in the city today, though, and I should go for a drive down Jefferson and Woodward sometime to see it when I visit my folks.

Detroit will survive - mostly because there have always been people who loved it and were working hard to make the good stuff last and be revitalized. I remember replanting old, old rose bushes out of West Grand Boulevard and being astounded at all the changes they must've seen - and that people cared enough to save them for another day.
posted by ldthomps at 4:29 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's absolutely striking to witness what a lively metropolis Detroit used to be.
posted by stroke_count at 6:49 PM on July 19, 2011

My great-great-grandparents lived in a grand house on Woodward Ave (at the corner with Willis) in the 1880s and early 1890s. The family story is that the great-grandfather on the other side once tried to buy it -- so we have photos of it from him, even though he never lived there. Supposedly the house later became a brothel (possibly a high-class one?), and then burned down sometime before WWII. Photo 14 is on the same block, I believe.

I also like that photo 31 is a restaurant advertising "Frog dinners". My grandfather's first job when he was a kid was to go down to the waterfront (can't remember where) and catch frogs to sell to a restaurant.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:41 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love the "Artificial Limbs" sign on #57. Not a bad idea so close to huge industrial plants. And #93 really strikes me as the turning point to modern traffic - everything prior was quaint in some way, but seeing 6 lane highways already in '65 makes you think you're not getting another shot of a cable car. The list kind of skipped the '70s, but you can still get an appreciation for the recent revitalization. Well done.
posted by Metro Gnome at 7:45 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's difficult to believe the city I grew up in is the same city I see in these photos. (I'm in my mid twenties). Some of the pictures are quite similar, however.

The Eight Mile bridge Metro Gnome referenced has been torn down and rebuilt, but looks as similar as ever. You can see it in the Hung title sequence, briefly. However it has been engineered for a light rail, which still lacks an implementation plan.

Image 94, the demolition of the Kern's building, looks like Cass Tech right now. It's sad that our primary method of urban renewal hasn't changed much in 45 years.
posted by ofthestrait at 8:31 PM on July 19, 2011

There's something so poignant about a thriving metropolis completely collapsing in on itself, not in some war-ravished land or failed state, but right here in supposedly the most affluent country in the history of the world.

Shouldn't Detroit, of all things, be Too Big to Fall?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:56 PM on July 19, 2011

When I grew up, I used to drive down Woodward Avenue all the time - so for a second there, I thought this post referred to the Woodward Avenue in Muscle Shoals. In fact, Henry Ford had originally envisioned as the future automotive capital of the United States. But it never happened.

These days, if you drive down Woodward Avenue and look to the east, you'll see what Muscle Shoals DID become famous for.
posted by insulglass at 4:22 AM on July 20, 2011

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