Strolling History

Preservation Wayne walking tours let participants step back in time to appreciate Detroit history — and new city developments


Going for a walk is one of life’s great pleasures, one that requires no specific reason. But if you need motivation for going bi-ped — beyond burning calories and not burning high-priced gas — there’s always sightseeing. Preservation Wayne, Detroit’s oldest and largest architectural preservation organization, offers warm-weather walking tours with itineraries that make us tourists in our own hometown. They also provide another way to entertain summer houseguests. The non-profit group offers 10 guided walks with a special annual tour of the theater district. The summer itineraries include:

1. Auto Heritage:
Tours begin at The Model T Automotive Heritage Complex, a new interactive museum, workshop, and event facility at the birthplace of the Model T. “T-Plex” is four blocks south of Grand Boulevard and three blocks east of Woodward. Parking is free on the street. Guides meet participants at the building.

2. Cultural Center:
This guided loop through Midtown features the main Detroit Library, the College for Creative Studies, the Scarab Club, the Hecker mansion, and the historic homes of Ferry Avenue.

3. Downtown:
This walk begins in Campus Martius Park next to the Au Bon Pain restaurant. Participants receive a guided view of historical sites and new development in Detroit’s changing business district.

4. Downtown Buildings of Louis Kamper:
Even many locals may not be aware of the architectural contributions of this Bavarian-born builder whose designs include the Book-Cadillac Hotel, the Book Tower, and the Water Board Building.

5. Downtown Buildings of Albert Kahn:
This tour highlights the National Theater, Free Press building, Detroit Athletic Club, and more than a dozen other landmarks designed between 1908 and 1931 by Detroit’s premier architect.

6. Downtown Sculptures, Fountains, and Art:

Detroit’s history is told through statues of historic city figures, world-famous sculptures, and several beautiful fountains.

7. Downtown Skyscrapers: 

Participants see Detroit’s most magnificent lobbies. Stops include the Buhl, Guardian, and Penobscot buildings, as well as newer noteworthy addresses.

8. Eastern Market:
This popular tour features the sights, sounds, and smells of America’s oldest and largest market of its kind. It explores the market’s 170-year history, from cemeteries to breweries, rum-running to art galleries, safe houses to prisons.

9. Midtown:
Explore a Detroit neighborhood that endured the ups and downs of changing times, from rural settlement to boomtown, charming enclave to artists’ hangout, skid row to Piety Hill. This tour begins at Detroit’s popular Avalon Bakery and proceeds to brew pubs, boutiques, loft developments, fire stations, and several 19th-century Victorian homes.

10. Theater District:
On Aug. 9 only, this tour offers a behind-the-scenes look inside seven historic venues that comprise one of America’s most important collections of early 20th-century theaters. This tour, led by theater-history buffs, is one of Preservation Wayne’s largest. Now in its 20th year, it includes the remnants of the magnificent Michigan Theatre, still visible above a three-story parking deck.

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