Jonathan Chambers moves into the El Moore – in 1898

A historic photograph of the Cass Corridor, near the location of the El Moore.

A historic photograph of the Cass Corridor, near the location of the El Moore.

With our new residents getting ready to move into the El Moore on June 1, we were imagining what it was like when the first residents moved into the newly built El Moore in 1898.  And here’s the story that emerged.

 


 

Jonathan Chambers was determined to be in a good mood, despite it all.

“Detroit is a city on the rise like none other!” his father had told him several years ago, which was surprising considering the fact that his father, Jonathan Chambers Sr., was a well-respected businessman in New York City. It wasn’t a common occurrence for anyone from New York City to be expressing positive remarks about anywhere that wasn’t New York City. And yet his father had been insistent. So much so that upon his graduation from Harvard Business School, rather than being invited to join his father in business, as was the fate of many of his classmates, his father instead encouraged him to venture west and see what he could make of this Michigan city that he himself had only visited once during his younger years but could never quite forget.

“I am telling you, there is something about that city. Something magnificent. And when you settle there, find yourself a comfortable place to live, you will see it for yourself. You will thank me, Jonathan. Of that I am certain.”

Not many months later, after he had collected his diploma, followed by a sturdy handshake from his father and a tight embrace from his mother who wore her bravest face on the day of his departure, Jonathan Chambers stood outside the front doors of the newly-opened El Moore Flats. He held a large suitcase in each hand, staring through the pouring rain at the peculiar  (he thought) green lettering announcing the building’s name across the top of the arched doorway of the large, four-story apartment building he was preparing to occupy at the recommendation of a Harvard classmate from Michigan. Charles had not returned home but his family, one of the more prominent in the Great Lakes region, was somehow connected to the man who had designed the El Moore, as well as a number of other well-appointed buildings in the area.

The doorway lettering of the El Moore was eye-catching to be sure, but as Jonathan allowed his gaze to drift upward it became apparent that the building itself, with its bright red sandstone and the castle-like turret poised at the very top like a sentry, was the true standout. Even in the midst of a steadily increasing downpour that was beginning to feel like an assault of nature, the El Moore exuded an irrepressible charm that would not be washed away by any mere storm.

“What a remarkable structure,” he said to himself.

As Jonathan stood there debating whether that former classmate had done him a favor or not, the door opened suddenly and a rather stocky gentleman with a thick full beard and round wire-rimmed glasses smiled down at him from the top of the stairs and motioned brusquely for him to come inside out of the rain. Which made sense.

“You must be Chambers!” the man said as he came down the stairs partway to assist with the luggage. “Here, let me help you with that.”

“Yes, and thank you. So how did you know…?”

The man arched his furry eyebrow, then shook his head and laughed.

“Who else would you be looking so lost? Besides, I know everyone who lives here, being a resident myself. As a matter of fact, I happen to be your neighbor. Truth be told, I’ve been keeping an eye out for you. Name’s George. George Farwell. And I suspect you’ll be wanting to shed that wet overcoat of yours and perhaps get into something a bit more dry. If you like, since we’re neighbors, I can show you your room and you can get yourself changed. Perhaps it’s difficult to tell from standing out there in the rain, but the rooms here are quite spectacular as you’ll see. Even being from New York, I’m sure you’ll approve.”

With that last comment, Farwell winked mischievously, then grinned. Jonathan put down his suitcase, then extended his hand. He smiled.

“Jonathan Chambers,” he said. “Please. Show me the way.”

 

 

 

About Keith Owens

Keith Owens is a freelance writer, columnist, blogger and musician whose most recent work has been featured in Model D Detroit, BLAC Detroit, and the national political affairs blog PoliticusUSA. He has also published three novels through Detroit Ink Publishing (www.detroitinkpublishing.com), the eBook publishing company he co-founded with his wife, Pamela Hilliard Owens. Keith and Pam live in a 100-year-old home in the Historic Boston-Edison District a few miles north of the El Moore.

El Moore