Sunday, January 29, 2012

This Old House...

(Updated in August 2019)

My family: my wife and I with our four
kids, daughter-in-law, two grandkids, and
my mom, sitting right there in the middle.
Happy times.
I've been in a bit of a thoughtful mood of late.
Since I wrote this original posting in January 2012, many occurrences have taken place in my life, some simply wonderful, and some very sad: I've lost close family members, most notably the sudden and unexpected death in 2014 of my brother, Tom, who I loved dearly, and, more recently, my dear mother, who I was with when she took her last breath on January 18, 2017. That being said, I suppose one can't help but be a bit melancholy, wouldn't you say?
On the bright side, in that same duration of time my wife and I became in-laws to a wonderful young lady and are ecstatic to be grandparents  - even at our young age - to two beautiful grandchildren (with one more on the way) - this makes us very happy!
Not too long ago I wrote of my thoughts upon entering historic homes such as the Daggett Saltbox House (built around 1750 - click HERE), for I don't look at old homes as just old houses; I "see" and "feel" the ghosts of the past in them, not unlike my own home's past.
No, not literal ghosts - - - :
"Just imagine...Those who once lived in this (18th century) house were living human beings and not just characters in a book. They had feelings the same as we do: they felt happiness, sadness, anger, pain, concern, and contentment. They celebrated the coming of spring and of harvest time. They enjoyed church picnics and weddings, and certainly mourned when loved ones, whether friends or family, died. They spoke of their crops, the weather, told stories, and studied the Bible. Just imagine the discussions and probably even debates they had of the news of the day - how interesting it would be to hear conversations and opinions about the Bloody Massacre of Boston, the Revolutionary War, their thoughts on the Declaration of Independence, the forming of the new nation with its own Constitution, and hearing of George Washington becoming our first president as it was happening!
Just imagine...I mean, if the walls of this house had ears, they most certainly would have heard at least some talk about these great events.

And if it could speak, imagine the tales it could tell.
I can only imagine…"
This week's post reflects this mindset. It's not a downer...rather, it's more reflective. And, yes, there is history in it as well.

There's a room in my father's house
Full of old heirlooms
Grandma's Bible, Grandpa's trunk
To a total stranger no more than junk
The closest ties I ever knew...

Entering an old or historic home is so much more than the "Can you imagine what it was like to live back then?" comments one often hears, usually from a mother or a teacher making a feeble attempt to understand and explain the past to the younger set.
I'll try to convey what I mean by this...
My family:
My wife and I, our kids, our daughter-in-law
and our grandkids at Thanksgiving in 2018.
More memories being made in this old house.
This house that I have lived in for over 25 years is filled with, well, over 25 years worth of memories. It's where three of our four children were born, where we had birthday parties, graduation parties, baptismal parties, Christmas and Easter celebrations, a Thanksgiving dinner with my family that had everyone wearing cardboard Pilgrim hats, and gatherings of friends for dinner and visits. The wonderful fragrance of baked goods - over two decades worth of my wife's wonderful cooking and baking - are still in the air (and she's still cooking, doncha know!). This is where Simply Dickens rehearses period and old world music every Wednesday evening, and has for 15 years. We've had years of period dress gatherings with our Civil War unit here. In the early 1990's we had a 1950's themed party, complete with an authentic diner booth. And we even had an actual Boar's Head party!!
Yes, this is a real diner booth in our kitchen - we bought it over 20 years ago from a warehouse of old restaurant equipment. And the kids really do like to hang out here.
Television times with the kids: Little Bear, Blues Clues, Little Bill, All That, Hannah Montana, iCarly, Boy Meets World...and for the adults: Friends, Red Wing Hockey, Gilmour Girls, Antique Roadshow, NCIS, Turn-Washington's Spies, Big Bang Theory...and we can't forget about the Our Gang and Three Stooges comedy shorts that we love.
Movie nights where we all settle down on cold Saturday evenings in the fall, winter, and spring to watch a movie, whether it is The Wizard of Oz, Angels With Dirty Faces, American Graffiti, The Lion King, John Adams, Marley and Me, Pirates of the Caribbean, Meet Me In St. Louis, Gods and Generals, Back to the Future, Lords of the Rings, and countless others.
And music: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Hank Williams, Glenn Miller, Green Day, Buddy Holly, Emmylou Harris, Pink Floyd, Civil War & Colonial era, Bing Crosby, Moody Blues, early 20th century jazz & ragtime, and everybody in between. Lots of music was and is played here constantly - I mean all the time!
My annual period dress Christmas parties with my Civil War reenactor friends as well as my "A Christmas Carol" parties where friends gather in December to watch a different movie version of Dickens' novel each year.
An 1860s Christmas Party.
Normally only the candles are lit, but I used a flash for this picture.
Oh! Did I mention Christmas music? Oh yeah...
The sounds of laughter and good times echo through these halls and walls, and I can still hear the voices of special people who are no longer with us reverberate within.
In my over 50 years on this earth, I've spent more time in this particular house than in any other structure that I have lived in. As much as I dream (and sometimes wish) I could live in an old historic house, it would be very hard for me to leave here because of my own personal historical ties to this 1944 bungalow.
The women of Simply Dickens during a dress-rehearsal and photo shoot. Yes, lots of laughs occur in this house.
And we haven't even touched upon those who lived here the 50 years before we did and what it was like through those decades of the '40's through the '80's.

When stepping into any historic home in Greenfield Village or Crossroads Village or any other place that may house old structures, there is a that I get; the feeling is a different sort of awareness of the everyday activities and living that took place in these structures years before they became historical museums.
Before it was a museum relocated inside Greenfield Village, the home of George Adams was alive with visitors of family and friends
I think of the laughter and discussions that were had in the parlors or at the dining room table: the men arguing about the politics of the day or of their planting or harvesting chores. I think of what the women of the home spoke of while in the kitchen (yes, they were mostly in the kitchen in the old days. My wife still is!). If I really concentrate, I may be able hear some of the clanging and clatter of the tools of the trade, whether used for baking or fixing.
Yes, imagination...but sometimes it's more than that, like when I feel the sorrow and sadness of the not so happy times. Yes, certain houses or antique objects seemingly speak to me in that very real sense.
This is what researching - engulfing - social history books can do to you, you know. When one gains knowledge beyond the school text books that are normally filled with war and politics of a certain time and place, you can gain an ethereal feeling that can overwhelm and bring alive those of the past. The social history books can make you much more aware when visiting something historical than the average visitor or, ahem, history buff. They put the meat on the bones, the flesh on the meat, and puts the ghosts of the past in their proper perspective.
Living history without the living...
Our reenacting/living history civilian meetings take place in our parlor 2013
In addition to those wonderful social history books that I have, I also search out diaries and journals, which, to me, when reading the actual letters of someone describing home life of another time, it very much brings that home alive for me.
For instance, Noah Webster, in the early part of the 19th century, spent much of his time away from his family. He greatly encouraged his wife and children to write him letters and to include instances of their daily activities. Mr. Webster knew of the importance of describing everyday life in these letters. Noah especially treasured hearing of the minute details of domestic life that he missed while on far-away business travels.
His wife, Rebecca, willingly obliged and wrote about their lives as requested to her husband. On July 30, 1824 she wrote: "I wish you could take a peep at us in the present moment," and proceeded to describe, for example, her granddaughter, Mary "sitting on the carpet by my side studying her sabbath lessons for the next week...Harriet is drilling at her music. She plays 6 tunes very comfortably...and (grandson) William driving around with his stick." Rebecca, described herself as "enfeebled" but able to "engage in quilting bed quilts with only two or three to finish." Lucy Griffin, the free black servant had taken ill as family members "sit with her" until she can walk downstairs.
Rebecca also sent a letter to married daughter Eliza: "Papa longs to see you all. I heard someone conversing in the drawing room the other day and found him standing before your portraits. We often talk together of our singular happiness in our sons-in-law and daughters and such a promising bunch of grandchildren."
The paintings of daughter Eliza and her husband that Mr. Webster was found speaking to.
Because I've read numerous letters Noah and Rebecca Webster have written during the time they lived in their Hartford, Connecticut home, the very same that is now inside and preserved in Greenfield Village, I can almost - almost - see and hear the family move about and converse when I walk through. Just think about it-----I have been in the very same structure and actual rooms the letters were written in.
Talk about spirits within walls!
But it doesn't have to be the home of someone famous, you see. Because I am in a constant state of historical reading, nearly every historic home tends to come to life when I step inside, or even when I see photographs.
I read at least a snippet from one or more of these books virtually on a daily basis, and the words just swirl around my brain throughout the day. And it's these continuous daily bits of information that, after a while of building and swirling in my head, begin to form a cohesive picture of the past.
Of course, I incorporate this 'wisdom' into my living history presentations while at reenactments.
But it's more than that, which is what I was getting at earlier; using what I've learned (and continue to learn) from my social history books I have found myself looking at historical items, whether it's houses, pictures, antiques, objects in a museum, or even background items in historical movies, in a much different way.
I don't just look at them with only my eyes anymore...I now see them with the knowledge of what life was like back then.
More than just imagining what life was like back then.
And sometimes even getting a feel for what it was actually an extent.
Our parlor: filled with antiques from the late colonial period through the 1890's. 
Many a-gathering has taken place in this room...upon this old furniture. Yes, we use our history.
From the outside, our 1944 bungalow looks like nearly every other house on my suburban block: all cookie-cutter homes built for the boys returning from fighting in WWII. But, if you've taken a gander at some of the photographs I have posted in previous entries (or maybe even on my Facebook page) of the inside of our house you know that we have decorated one of our rooms - an addition we had built in 1999 -  in a mid-19th century manner. Most everything in this parlor area are original antiques - antiques that we actually use. We sit upon a couch built in the 1850's, a sette' from the 1890's, and the rocker from the 1850's, we set our (clean) dishes and glasses on our circa 1830's corner cabinet, and my wife spins on her 200+ year old great wheel. Knickknacks sit upon the 1860's/70's what-not-shelf, pictures on the wall are framed in 19th century frames of varying ages, and I write upon my 1860 desk while sitting in my 1887 chair. In my bedroom, my clothes are tucked in the drawers of my 1850's dresser.
A very recent visit from some friends.
We use our antiques.
A friend of mine who happens to work at Greenfield Village mentioned recently that when he enters this room he feels like he's in one of the Village's historic homes, only here he can touch or even sit upon the furniture whereas at the Village it's a hands-off policy.
Please understand, I am not bragging about all of my antiques, and I hope it doesn't come off that way. But because I use to ache - literally ache - whenever I would return home to my ultra-modern house after visiting a historic village or museum, I decided to take action on what many only talk about, which is how I got the parlor you see in the photos. And it's literally taken me years - my entire life, in fact - to 'build' this place of contentment. We're not wealthy by any means - the antiques we own were bought over the course of 30 years at rock-bottom prices, usually at tax-refund time.
We often light our candles and oil lamps in the evening just to mind-travel to another time. Patty will spin on her wheel, I'll write with pen and ink or read from a Harper's Weekly for fun or even read a modern magazine. I might also read one of my history books - sometimes we'll even just sit and talk. It doesn't always have to be an 'event' in period clothing.
A sort of  "colonial"  update to a portion of our parlor.
In the spring of 2029 I gave one wall an 18th century flair.
Because my home was built in the mid-20th century with all of the modern conveniences, and because it's been updated numerous times since, (and because we do live in the 21st century whether we want to or not) it would be nearly impossible to "live like they did back then." But that doesn't matter to me, because this room brings me solace. Some people find their get-a-way in books, in movies, gambling, or even in vacations. Well, this is my get-a-way right in my own home. It's my "happy place."
It speaks to me.
A journey to the past right in my own home...
My house here in the middle of modern suburbia may have a pseudo-Victorian room added on rather than being an actual Victorian  (or older), but it's MY home. And it is filled with memories that may last longer than this house will stand. Memories such as political discussions, my mother telling stories of her youth during dinnertime, backyard bonfire fun with friends, the smell of turkey roasting in the oven, laughter, decorating our Christmas Tree with our kids and grandkids, discipline and anger when necessary, the scent of freshly picked apples in a bushel in the kitchen, my brother and I making a patio, the sound of the clicking of the computer keyboard...
I'm sure sometime in the distant future, other owners may also hear the ghosts of the past...
There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With (family) and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all
Our own homes are historic in their own way...let's keep making the memories...
In July 2019 we receive the Flag Certificate of Commendation from the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution – Detroit Metropolitan Chapter - for my displaying of historic American flags.
I am so proud.

The following links are what I consider to be some of the best books on every day life of late 18th and 19th centuries. They have helped me to look at houses, antiques, and people from the past quite differently than I did before.
There are more books, of course, than what's listed here, but I tend to open these more often than any others...

Our Own Snug Fireside
At Home
American Thought & Culture 1860-1880 
The Cormany Diaries
Affectionately Yours
Village Life in America: 1852-1872
Notes on the Life of Noah Webster Vol. 2


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Victorian Detroit (Detroit Wasn't Always the Motor City)

The Motor City. Motown. Murder City. Car Capital of the World.
Yep - that's the Detroit I know...

~~~~~Detroit - A Victorian Metropolis~~~~~

Yep. Detroit, this industrialized Rust Belt grunge town was once at the height of Victoriana.
Gas Street Light on Gratiot Avenue 1882
A frontier town in what was considered the west at the turn of the 19th century, Detroit grew in size as the decades progressed. And as the town slowly turned into a city, the frontier town atmosphere continued to prevail and "a system of plank roads leading out of Detroit was established. They follow precisely the paths of today's main arteries - Michigan Avenue, Grand River, Woodward, Gratiot, and Jefferson. There were fine residential areas on its approximately ninety streets...
In 1851, gaslights began to replace the use of tallow candles or lamps which burned lard and whale oil, (and) the curfew bell rang at six in the morning, noon, and six and nine at night to give the citizens the time."
The first signs of major industry emerged in the 1840's and 50's as the value of Michigan's timber, iron ore, copper, and other natural resources became apparent. With all of this progress, it was only a matter of time that Detroit would get the modern transport system of horse-drawn streetcars, which made their first appearance in 1863 on Jefferson Avenue.

But Detroit proper was also surrounded by small villages - not unlike the suburbs of today - villages that eventually became part of the city itself. I'd like to tell of one in particular:

Leesville, a tiny hamlet built upon a cucumber farm owned by someone named Howcroft in 1853, was on the outskirts of the much larger *metropolis* of Detroit. The search for a church site led to the start of this village in the area of intersection of Harper (called Butler at the time) and Gratiot. Englishman Charles Lee is credited with founding the village with a Methodist church and a school. The church served the residents of Leesville for a number of years, and sources tend to affirm that this is the same church that was commonly known as "Lees Chapel," located at Gratiot and what is now Georgia Street. In those early years, church was a simple decision for the residents of Leesville: Protestants went to Lees Chapel and Catholics went to Assumption Grotto (built in 1832 and is still standing) in the nearby village of Connor's Creek.
Lees Chapel was among the few country-style churches of its time in this area.
A number of years later, talk of building another church occurred when a group of residents, dissatisfied with the Methodist faith, began discussion of the formation of an Episcopal mission in their town and planned to start their own small Episcopalian church. This is said to have taken place as early as the mid-1860's. The Church of Our Savior was officially founded in 1874, with Thomas Lee among the founders. The church building, located two blocks over from Lee's Chapel, was completed in 1875, and was designed by William Cooper, the eldest son of Henry Cooper, who supplied the bricks for the building. William Cooper was not a trained architect, but had worked in the building trades and trained himself to design and build. This is the small building in the classical church style that you see in the picture (that I took in January 2012) below. This brick church—now painted white—was designed and built by William Cooper who was, presumably, a resident of this area.
It is certain that the Church of Our Savior is the last remaining building of the town center, which included, among other things, a general store, butcher shop and a sawmill.

The former Church of Our Savior: the only remnant left from Leesville still standing
By 1876, Leesville had more than 100 homes and many large farms. Bricks for many of the Detroit area's new homes were made at the Leesville and Peter Hunt brickyards.
Leesville, as stated before, was built on the site once belonging to a cucumber farmer, and that reputation stayed with the area well into the later part of the 19th century. In fact, a road in the village was named Cucumber Lane. The name was later changed to Georgia.
This early village was also a major interurban and streetcar stop, eventually becoming the site of the Detroit United Railway (DUR) streetcar barns at the turn of the 20th century. It also had its own postmaster from the 1870's through the 1890's.
Leesville got its first electric street lights in 1902, and by 1915 became part of the ever-growing city of Detroit, though some sources say it became absorbed by Detroit as early as 1896. Maybe it did at the earlier date but change and acceptance was slow in coming. Just an assumption...
There were many early villages such as Leesville on what was then the outskirts of Detroit proper - more than 40, in fact - and they all sooner or later were swallowed up and became part of Detroit itself. I chose to write a bit about the village of Leesville for personal reasons: this was where I was born and spent almost the first decade of my life, though, as you may have guessed, it was no longer Leesville by that time. The best part? Our home was on Cucumber, Georgia Street.

I found another wonderful description of the motor city when it was still the carriage city:
"Detroit in 1889 was still seven years shy of the first automobile appearance on its streets and a full decade away from the opening of its first auto factory. Hundreds of companies, large and small, produced an array of products: shoes, stoves, varnishes, paints, drugs, cigars, patent medicines, boats, railroad cars, steel rails, brass fittings, soap....
Huge elm, maple, and chestnut trees shaded the streets, and gracious homes, most of the frame and painted either white or dark green, gave the new residential areas an air of comfort and well-being. The streets were paves with cobblestones and cedar blocks, and the sidewalks were made of wood. 
Photo taken on Jefferson Avenue in the late 19th century. Note the wood-plank sidewalk

The widespread use of electricity was literally just around the corner - garish 125 foot towers illuminated intersections throughout the city - but in 1889 homes and businesses still used gaslight, and trolleys still were drawn by horses."
(From the book Detroit Land by Richard Bak)
And it was only four years later - in 1893 - that the city's first electric streetcar ran along Woodward Avenue.
In 1889, Detroit celebrated its industrial growth and growing prosperity by holding an International Fair and Exhibition, located on 70 acres of land in the early village of Delray located just south of *Historic* Fort Wayne (which, like Leesville, would eventually become part of the city of Detroit in the late 19th or early 20th century). The main exhibit building was, at the time, the largest in the world, with a frontage of 500 feet and an exhibit area of 200,000 square feet. According to local historian David Lee Poremba, "there was 4.5 acres of glass in its walls to illuminate examples of Detroit's manufacturing might. Special trains and streetcar lines brought thousands of visitors to the fair. Steamship lines brought people from Canada and Port Huron to see the many events" which ran from September 17 through the 27th.
A bird's eye view of the Detroit Fair and Exhibition - 1889
The visitors had never seen anything such as this before. Stations for everything from a ladies temperance union to a racetrack were situated inside the fairgrounds. There was also a jail, a post office, a bandstand and "buildings drip(ing) with gingerbread bargeboard and colorful bunting...which were illuminated by soaring towers topped with electric lamps." (Richard Bak).
Local businesses set up shop as well, including retailer Mobley & Company, Detroit Soap Company (which sold there ever-popular Queen Anne Soap), and the shoemaking Pingree & Smith. There were hot air balloonists showing off, a wild west show, a carousel - it was a real carnival atmosphere. Again, Mr. Bak in his book  Detroit Land describes it best: "There was so much to take in: threshing machines, presses, and other machinery, and a seemingly endless succession of mechanical and industrial halls. Features included a palm garden, a floral palace, and miles of stalls displaying horses, sheep, cattle, pigs, poultry, and pets. There were band concerts and piano recitals and competitions of all sorts: yachting, riding, shooting, track and field, horse racing, baseball, and lacrosse. Attendees could gaze at giant prize squashes and pumpkins while being entertained by a clarion player performing an aria from Rigoletto or sit on the veranda of the main hall and try to bounce peanut shells off a passerby's derby.
The ascension of the great balloons was a major draw, as you can see from an actual photograph taken at Detroit's fair in 1889

The grounds were open daily except Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission was fifty cents for adults, a quarter for children. Steamboats and trolleys disgorged visitors to the exposition in five minute intervals. Keepers of boardinghouses cashed in by lodging strangers everywhere from the cellar to the garrett."
I wish I could have attended. Unfortunately, we were on the other side of town and had our cucumber farm to attend to. But what a time those folks must've had...


George Washington Stark, born in 1884 and grew up near historic Elmwood Cemetery, noted in a Detroit News article that Elmwood “gave me my flair for the historical scene.” In 1951, for Detroit's 250th birthday celebration, he authored a pamphlet-type book entitled "Detroit At The Century's Turn." In this birthday celebration booklet, the recounting of the world of pre-automobile Detroit opens up to the reader in a wonderfully descriptive narrative:
"About 1890, when I was a small boy, one of the principal interests in my life was to watch the broad-beamed white mare, Nelly, walk a tread-mill. It was in Carrie and Conn's saw-mill located at the foot of Mt. Elliot Avenue, which was then the easterly city limit of Detroit. Nelly walked patiently, and by her endless walking she put in motion the big saw that turned cedar logs into neat paving blocks.
These blocks were hauled away from the mill in huge box-like wagons, and were dumped in piles at intervals along the dirt roads that served as streets. Soon workmen came and paved the street by laying the blocks side by side. The small spaces between the blocks were filled with tar which was poured from a large kettle that followed right behind the men who placed the blocks.
To a small boy, the tar kettle was almost, but not quite, as interesting as the cedar blocks and the saw mill. The blocks, while still in piles at the side of the streets, made wonderful play things. We children used them for our own building purposes: houses, sheds, and most often, castles in the air. We knew, of course, that sooner or later the pavers would come and knock down our lovely castles. But the blocks had to be laid and the tar had to be poured.
I now look on the cedar blocks as an emblem that represents an older way of life."

Another remembrance from Mr. Stark speaks of the delivery wagon from the same late 19th century era:
"In the warm months, Mr. Ritter, a stout German gentleman with fierce black whiskers, called around in a wagon drawn by a single horse. He had a triangular piece of steel, which he rang with another piece of steel, producing a sound that was real melody. It brought us rushing from the house with our milk pail, which Mr. Ritter filled without getting out of the wagon. The big galvanized milk cans were just in back of him, packed in ice. The milk was transferred from it to your own pitcher or pail by a measuring cup with a long handle. The process of ladling the milk from his big cans to the customer's pail or pitcher was a sort of domestic ritual.
Fresh vegetables and fruits in season were also delivered to our door. This was done by a dark-skinned farmer from beyond Mt. Elliott Avenue. He brought everything in from his farm, but I remember he was especially proud of his potatoes. He had a song about them which he continually chanted between clucking to his horse."

And then there was the local blacksmith. I have particular interest in this subject, for my great great grandfather, Wilhelm Lietz, was a blacksmith in Detroit in the 1880's and '90's. Here Mr. Stark gives his own story of the local blacksmith in his Detroit neighborhood:
"An exciting pastime for the youngsters was to look in the open door of Mr. Rivard's blacksmith shop, particularly on those days when he was busy with the big horses from Kling's Brewery. Mr. Rivard was a huge man, seemingly as huge as the horses, which he fitted with new shoes. He worked at his forge and anvil and there was no sight along our street to compare with this. The sparks flew in showers as he fashioned the new shoes with mighty blows. The shop was a long building, and in it Mr. Rivard kept rigs of all descriptions. Behind were barns where he had his own stable of fine horses. There he often rented to the people in my neighborhood."

Folks generally ate their breakfast, lunch/dinner, and supper in their own homes. Going 'out to eat' was not a common activity for the greater majority of the 19th century populace. But it did occur and, being the timely newspaper that it is, the following notation is from the January 22, 2012 (yes, today - the day that I am writing this!) Detroit News:
This advertisement proclaimed a new enterprise in 1850:
Patrick Collins has opened a new Eating House on Griswold Street. Mr. Collins is a stirring man and of course will be successful. The arrangements are all "tip-top."
Eating houses featured specialties like "all-you-can- eat" oysters or green turtle soup; they usually announced "a good accommodation for victuals" such as soup, potatoes, beef, ham and so forth. Nevertheless, complaints about the food were common. With the famous French chef and cooking instructor Professor Pierre Blott moving to New York City and becoming America's first celebrity chef by 1865, Detroit newspaper editorials hoped that students of chef Blott could "relieve the country from the reproach of having but one gravy."
The earliest restaurants appeared in the 1870s in Detroit, and by 1899 the city had 169. People had come to rely on restaurants for lunch, dinner and throughout the night as night shift workers, many living in lodging houses with no kitchen, began to depend on restaurants as their only source of cooked meals.

Interesting stuff, wouldn't you say? But what about those on the go? What about the workers who didn't have time to sit in an eating house, or worked the graveyard shift when no eating houses were open? You food? Well, since there was no such thing as fast food as we know it to be  today, the next best thing would have been a lunch wagon.

In the 1890's, Henry Ford worked as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company, which supplied electricity to businesses and also to the few residents who wanted it. According to a Ford cousin, Ford Bryan, in his book Clara: Mrs. Henry Ford, Henry Ford patronized the Owl Night Lunch Wagon during his years working at Edison Illuminating. It was pulled to and from the curbside at Michigan and Griswold streets in Detroit by Reddy the bay horse, owned by John Colquhoun. There were stools inside the wagon and a window for take-out service. It opened at 6 p.m. and left at daybreak - this at a time when restaurants in Detroit closed up by 8 p.m. 
I don't know about you but when I read this information for the first time I looked at the city of my birth quite differently. Too many contemporary historians tend to concentrate solely on not only the automobile era, but its extreme crime-ridden blight.
In other words, the 20th century.
Detroit's history is so much more rich and full than most realize, and it's this history that needs to be told.

For further reading on Detroit's early history you might enjoy reading of its Colonial Roots

The information presented here about Leesville came from the following three sources:
Detroit Beginnings: Early Villages and Old Neighborhoods by Gene Scott
Michigan Place Names by Walter Romig
And from the Church of Our Saviour website.

Other Sources used for this post:
Yesterday's Detroit by Frank Angelo
Detroit: A Motor City History by David Lee Poremba