Archives for January 2016

What Would Mr. Varney Think?

In recent months, as the work on the El Moore has come to completion and the building has opened to both residents and visitors, I’ve thought a lot about our friend A.C. Varney, the building’s architect.  I can’t help but wonder what he would think of the place if he were able to see it today. The exterior of the building looks much as it did when it was built in 1898 except, of course, for the new entrance & elevator tower and the rooftop cabins.  A lot of effort went into restoring the exterior to its former glory - I’m thinking especially of the work that went into recreating the beautiful iron railings on the balconies. The interior, however, has changed dramatically.  The floor plan designed by Varney no longer exists in its original form and, instead of 8 apartments, the … [Read more...]

Walking Around the El Moore: Detroit Clothing Circle

The Midtown District of Detroit, located near Wayne State University, is known for its beautiful historic homes and multi-unit buildings, some of them dating back to the 19th century. Looking forward, Midtown and its businesses and residents are working hard to make Midtown and the surrounding Cass Corridor neighborhood into a walkable community. The El Moore, which is located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and West Alexandrine, is one of those 19th century historic buildings that has been beautifully restored as a model of urban sustainable living. The residents of the El Moore are enjoying more and more opportunities to walk and bike to local entertainment and cultural venues and to a variety of retail outlets. One of those very unique retail establishments is the Detroit Clothing Circle, … [Read more...]

Nighty night, St. Benedict

"Saint Benedict of Nursia, Nursia also spelled Norcia    (born c. 480, Nursia [Italy]—died c. 547, Monte Cassino; feast day July 11, formerly March 21), founder of the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino and father of Western monasticism; the rule that he established became the norm for monastic living throughout Europe. In 1964, in view of the work of monks following the Benedictine Rule in the evangelization and civilization of so many European countries in the Middle Ages, Pope Paul VI proclaimed him the patron saint of all Europe." He was a small man, strangely dressed (for wintertime Detroit, anyway) with a long grayish robe made of a very coarse material, sandals, and a staff that nearly equalled his own height.  But more than the relative strangeness of his clothing and … [Read more...]

Art From Trash – Repurposing Metal Window Frames

Way back in April of 2014, this is the way the bay windows looked on the facade of the El Moore. Wood window frames were surrounded by some well-worn metal. As we deconstructed the window frames to make way for the new, we made the decision to salvage the metal in hopes that it might be of use at a later date. Fast-forward about a year and a half. The building was nearing completion, and we were still looking for a use for some of the remaining metal. In October of 2015, Tom and I were visiting Greenfield Village when we happened upon the tinsmith shop. We listened to the tour, and it gave Tom an idea for how some of our metal could be used. He had me take this photo: Tom inquired a bit about how the patterns were made in the tin (basically just a screwdriver or chisel and a … [Read more...]

Mapping Detroit’s Past

When the El Moore building was first constructed in 1898, it offered a glimpse of a higher density urban landscape that the neighborhood would come to reflect in the following years.  At that time, the city's population was a modest 260,000 and its industrial economy was largely focused along the Detroit River.  By 1910, this had all changed as the city's population ballooned by to nearly half a million and the automotive industry had taken a stronghold on Detroit. While one of our key goals with the El Moore Lodge is to offer our guests the opportunity to experience a more sustainable future, we're also very interested in honoring our past. The map shown below is an original, 1895 Rand McNally & Co. map of Detroit and the surrounding vicinity. It hangs in the El Moore's parlor room … [Read more...]

Thanksgiving Day Parade – Priceless

My grandson (Tamere, 5 years old) and I attended the Thanksgiving Day Parade along Woodward this year.  It was just the two of us.  Grandma and Grandson. He was very excited, asking all kinds of questions, including, "Will Santa be there?"  I told him that, "He certainly will be there, he is the last one in the parade."  This was a concern for him as he wanted to know, "Why does Santa have to be last?" I explained that Santa wants to make sure that all the people that want to see him will be there before he makes his appearance. For a November day in Detroit,  there was good weather for the parade, overcast but 50 degrees. So we left the El Moore at 8:45 AM and sauntered down Alexandrine to Cass, then over to Woodward and were right on time for the beginning of the parade. Not only … [Read more...]

Curbs to Columns

I'd like to take a moment to bring some attention to the story behind the material we're using for our front columns, as well as well a long overdue introduction to Joe and Scotty, the masons that restored our building's grand facade. The El Moore's property is wrapped by century old wrought iron fencing.  This fencing is true iron and very heavy.  To give it proper scale and support, our design called for nine masonry columns to mark the corners of the fence, as well as to flank either side of our driveway and pedestrian gates.  To our knowledge, the original El Moore building never had an ornate fence and there are no signs of masonry columns, so we had to arrive at a design that would complement the building's unique architecture.  Several years ago, when we reconstructed our sister … [Read more...]