Saturday, September 23, 2017

Detroit Skyline, 1954

Both of today's photos feature views of Detroit (Michigan), as seen from across the Detroit River, circa 1954. 

The black-hulled vessel is the venerable "Eastern States" ferry, built in 1902 as part of the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Company, and providing service between Detroit to Buffalo. By 1954, the ships of the Detroit and Cleveland (etc) line had fallen on hard times, and in 1957, "Eastern States" was set ablaze in order to make it easier to salvage the steel.

The white-hulled vessel behind it might be the "Western States" ferry. But maybe not!

I did my usual 30 seconds of research in an attempt to identify some of the buildings. NAP TIME!

Here's a current-day photo scrounged from the interwebs; things have changed a bit, but you can see a few familiar structures, like the Penobscot Building (looking much cleaner and whiter here).

I believe that our photographer panned slightly to his right for this next shot; I couldn't ID any of these buildings based on modern views; as far as I can tell, all of these old buildings are long-gone. Of course, I am counting on the GDB readers to let me know if I am mistaken!!

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Detroit.


Nanook said...


Them's some mighty-big ferries-! Kinda reminds me of some of the ferries in the BC Ferries fleet - in terms of size. Although that 'white vessel' certainly looks huge. Some lovely images today.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

I've never been to Detroit, but from these pics it looks like it's no hum-drum 9 to 5 town. It looks like a growing, going, right alive town. After all, it is the land where golden chariots are molded out of dreams.

K. Martinez said...

Wonderful vintage pic of a once great American city. Being from 1954, this was Detroit at its peak.

The modern pic is interesting, but the only modern buildings/complexes I'm familiar with are the Renaissance Center (RenCen)and the Detroit Tigers' Comerica Park.

It's hard to believe that Detroit was once the 4th largest city in the United States with a population of 1.8 million in the 1950's. The poor city has been in steady decline for over sixty years and now down to around 700K in 2017. It's mind boggling to think that 1.1 million people have left Detroit. Has there ever been any other large city with such a huge loss in population?

TokyoMagic!, The Happiest Millionaire! I'm going to have to give that one another viewing.

Chuck said...

The white-hulled vessel behind the Eastern States appears to be the fellow D&C liner City of Detroit III. The largest sidewheeler in the world when it was launched in 1911 (a title it only held for a year), it boasted salons, a palm court, a winery, and the "Gothic Room," an ornate smoking room of English oak. It was taken out of service in 1950 when D&C ceased operations and scrapped in 1956.

The Gothic Room was preserved, and a portion of it can be seen today at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, apparently it was a popular thing to take an overnight ferry trip from, say, Detroit to Buffalo; you’d depart for an elegant evening of music, cocktails and dining, and wake up at your destination. Sounds pretty nice!

TikyoMagic!, I knew you were making some obscure reference, but I had to read Ken Martinez’s response to get it!

K. Martinez, it really is a shame that Detroit has fallen on such hard times. There are whole neighborhoods of cute old homes standing vacant and derelict. Supposedly parts of the city have undergone some sort of revival, but it seems to be a long way from the good old days.

Chuck, I think that most (if not all) of the photos I saw of the “City of Detroit III” showed a black-hulled vessel, but looking again, perhaps it was painted white for a bit. I need to go to that Gothic Room and smoke!

Melissa said...

Early this morning, I was dozing with Turner Classic Movies on in the background, and they showed one of those old Technicolor travelogue short films; the subject of this one was Michigan. It ended with a segment on Detroit, and the thing that amazed me the most was the sheer size of the ships plying the waters there. They showed cargo ships that were made this ferry look like one of Mike Fink's Keel Boats.

Chuck said...

Major, on further investigation, that second ship is actually D&C's 1923 flagship, the Greater Detroit, rather than the City of Detroit III.

According to this article (Page 11), the Greater Detroit was painted all white for the 1950 season. Page 12 of the same article shows a contemporary illustration of the Eastern States and the Greater Detroit tied up at Detroit in an identical position as shown in your photo.

Like the Eastern States, the Greater Detroit was also burned before scrapping.

With no steam available aboard when Greater Detroit was towed to its dismantlement, the anchor was cut loose and lay on the bottom of the Detroit River until November of last year.

TokyoMagic! said...

Obscure? I thought the Sherman Brother's song, "Detroit" and the movie, "The Happiest Millionaire" were just as well known as "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Mary Poppins."

Melissa said...

I've seen it! Then again, I've seen Zombies on Broadway, so adjust your grain of salt accordingly.

Nanook said...

@ TM!-

Don't get me started on The Happiest Millionaire-! In spite of the fact (or perhaps due to the fact) I actually saw the roadshow version twice, at Radio City Music Hall, no less, I 'love it' about as much as The Major does with I Love Lucy-!!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff, everyone. Special thanks to Chuck and the Major.

Any Gothic Room will be excellent for smoking...