Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Eastpointe: Then & Now

When you walk around the town that you live in, do you ever think about what originally stood where that modern gas station now stands?
Have you thought about how the busy concrete intersection may have once been a dirt road?
How about that building over there? What was there before?
I think these thoughts all the time.
Even while waiting at a red light in my car I look around and wonder what this exact spot looked like 100 or more years ago.
You see, most of the buildings from a century (and before) in my city of Eastpointe have been long torn down; I'm an old soul living in a very modern suburban city.
So I decided to do some super-sleuthing and find out about the ghosts of buildings past.
As a board member of my local historical society, I have access to the hundreds of original photographs in the archives. As I made the attempt to piece the 100+ year old puzzle together and align the photos in some sort of order, an idea popped into my head:
why not try to locate the original location of the buildings pictured in the old photographs? In that way I can actually *see* what was originally in that spot, thus allowing me to live out (to an extent) my fantasy of traveling back in time while in my own hometown.
To take it a bit further, I took photographs as close as possible to where the photographers once stood way back when.
The following photographs are my results:

NW corner of Gratiot Blvd & 9 Mile Rd THEN
St. Peter's Lutheran Church
This church was razed and the cemetery was relocated to the new St. Peters located almost directly across Gratiot Ave. Halfway was the original name of my hometown of Eastpointe. It was changed to East Detroit in 1929 and then to Eastpointe in 1991.

 NW corner of Gratiot & 9 Mile NOW - A BP gas station

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9 Mile Rd looking west from Gratiot Blvd THEN

It was just a country lane known as School Road because there were multiple schools along this road within a relatively short distance from each other. Note the wood-plank sidewalk. This photo was taken around 1900.

 9 Mile Rd looking west from Gratiot NOW.
 No longer a country lane, 9 Mile and Gratiot is a very busy intersection. And schools are still located along this strip.

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This was the west side of Southbound Gratiot THEN.
  Eastpointe was a rural country town where one could buy, sell, or trade horses here. The inter-urban tracks were laid in the early 20th century photo.
The west side of Southbound Gratiot NOW.
Here is the exact same location of the previous picture -
The horse market is long gone...
  That spot is now part of the parking lot of a shopping plaza

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 SE corner of Gratiot Blvd. and 9 Mile THEN.
 "Then" being in the 1930's. If you look to the left of the brick Kaiser building you will see a framed structure. That was the original school house that was moved from its location along 9 Mile to here in the 1920's. It has since been moved back to within 100 feet of where it was originally stood and beautifully restored (see link at bottom of post)
  SE corner of Gratiot Blvd and 9 Mile NOW
The original Kaiser building was razed a few years ago and an ugly Rite Aid was built in its place

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 Gratiot Blvd. just south of 9 mile THEN.
This is even before the brick Kaiser building from the above "THEN" photo!
How cool it would be to see my hometown during the late 19th or early 20th century! Notice the portion of the Ameis Hardware store on the extreme right
  Gratiot just south of 9 mile NOW.
 Bland and boring...

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 Is it just me or are modern cities sterile looking? They all just seem to run along the lines of never-ending conformity from one to another, sameness abounding, never knowing where one city ends and the next one begins, whereas in the old days each town or village had a unique style and character of its own, separated by miles of farm land or untouched forests...a beginning and an end.
I guess I have an old soul indeed.



About Me

My photo
My wife and I and members of our family practice living history and portray citizens during the era of the American Revolution (1770s) and Civil War (1860s). You'll find us very often at mid-18th or 19th century reenactments doing our best to replicate the eras as accurately as we can in clothing, manners, speech, and other ways in order to bring the past to life. I believe knowledge has to be the top priority in living history; knowing about the time period you are presenting - absolutely knowing - can make all the difference in how serious you are being taken. Too many focus solely on clothing...but what I am attempting in this Passion for the Past blog is to help living historians and general history fans to look beyond the obvious - to study life as once lived. Yes, clothing is important, but it only tells a small part of the story. To give a more complete picture one needs to look at the 18th or 19th century world around them - to put themselves in that world - and then they will be able to develop more fully a presentation of greater interest for not only the general public, but for themselves as well. I hope you like it.