The Way It Was

Midtown neighborhood, 1929


Published:

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE WALTER P. REUTHER LIBRARY, ARCHIVES OF LABOR AND URBAN AFFAIRS, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY (THE DETROIT NEWS PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION)

1929This photograph of Canfield Street and Second Avenue, in what came to be known as Midtown Detroit, looks simultaneously to be old fashioned and timeless. Certainly, the quaint 1920s automobiles, the Red Crown gas station, and other businesses are from a period long gone, but the lovely old Victorian homes are still standing on Canfield, due in no small measure to the efforts of urban pioneer Beulah Groehn (later Beulah Groehn Croxford). In 1965 she came to an estate sale on Canfield, which at the time was decrepit and dowdy. The former prime neighborhood had become home to flophouses, drug dens, or brothels. But where others saw a tatty place in ruins, Groehn saw possibility and the promise of restored grandeur to a neighborhood that once was home to wealthy Detroiters in the pre-automotive era. The impressive domiciles were built from the 1870s to around 1900. Instead of buying a few antique trinkets at the estate sale, Groehn and her lawyer husband, Henry, bought the whole house, pulling up stakes from their suburban Franklin home. She helped fight blight and spearheaded efforts to make the neighborhood Detroit’s first historic district in 1970. A year later, it was added to the national register. The nearby restaurant called Traffic Jam and Snug, which is still in business, also opened in 1965. Eventually, others were attracted to the block between Second and Third avenues. When the Renaissance Center was being built, scads of bricks were taken from the uprooted Atwater Street and placed on Canfield’s thoroughfare. If Canfield seems exceptionally wide, it is. As the auto industry mushroomed, It went from 100 to 200 feet side to accommodate busy crosstown traffic. Beulah Groehn Croxford died in 2001, but it would likely gladden her heart that the home she once owned recently went up for sale in January 2017 — and sold within the day.

 

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Inside Detroit Mercy's Civil Rights 'Immersion' Course

The program is taking students to iconic sites in three southern states

An Hour With... Steve Neavling

Aka the Motor City Muckraker

Essay: Why Being an 'Ally' Can Be More Complicated Than You May Think

Even good intentions can miss the mark

Why Your Next Wood Project Should Be Made Out of These Salvaged City Trees

Ann Arbor's Urbanwood Project is taking the reclaimed lumber trend to the next level

New Cranbrook Exhibit Remembers Keith Haring

The show comes 30 years after the contemporary artist's visit to Bloomfield Hills
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Excellence in Care: Beaumont Health
    Hour Detroit presented Beaumont Health with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary...
  2. Pinot Blanc: The Charming Cousin
    Traditionally derided or ignored, this varietal is attracting a swell in interest at Michigan...
  3. Michigan's Microbrew Scene is Stocked with Some Edgy Labels
    But when does clever cross the line?
  4. The Sky’s the Limit
    Pilot opens second winery location in Irish Hills
  5. Hour Detroit and Detroit Home’s Downtown Living Tour 2017
    On Aug. 11, Hour Detroit and Detroit Home magazine held the first annual Downtown Living Tour,...
  6. Excellence in Care: DMC
    Hour Detroit presented the DMC with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary medical...
  7. Excellence in Care: McLaren Macomb
    Hour Detroit presented McLaren Macomb with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary...
  8. Excellence in Care: Henry Ford Health System
    Hour Detroit presented Henry Ford Health System with an Excellence in Care Award for this...
  9. Excellence in Care: St. Joseph Mercy
    Hour Detroit presented St. Joseph Mercy with an Excellence in Care Award for extraordinary...