If you have walked by the corner of Alexandrine and Second in the last year you have observed a large construction fence, and behind it piles of materials that have slowly contributed to the formation of a 2-story retail building and the ‘hardscape,’ or permanent planting bed foundations, for the gardens. The building, garden beds, fence, columns and entrance tank have all come from reclaimed items, some sourced locally, and some from as far away as New York. Below you’ll see photos of some of the features of this new space, all developed from these reclaimed materials. This post focuses primarily on exterior features created from the reclaimed materials. In the next post, I’ll describe some interior features.
Let’s start with the scratch brick that comprises most of the building. The brick was harvested from the Marie Apartment Building at 438 Selden that was built in 1924 and deconstructed in 2016. When we were seeking out bricks for the retail building, we didn’t have to look far – the Marie was just a couple of blocks away from the El Moore and it was going to be torn down. The owners agreed to donate 30,000 bricks for free if we would pay to remove them and haul them away – a pretty good deal both for both of us. Here’s a story detailing the process, including a photo of the original apartment building. We were also able to find these lovely ‘leaf-print’ bricks from a house in Detroit that had also been deconstructed. Together these two bricks have become the primary exterior feature of the new building on Second Ave. Our designer, Woody Melcher, added some of the beautiful historic brick patterns to the building design (see photo above) and Juan Angeles, our mason, brought these designs to life in an amazing way.
The fence surrounding the gardens comes from Machpelah Cemetery in Ferndale, and is the same fence that surrounds the El Moore. Disenos Iron Works cleaned it up and provided repairs. The columns and their caps are leftover material from the building of the greenhouse at the El Moore on Alexandrine. The columns are made from limestone which was originally reclaimed from Detroit buildings that were deconstructed. The caps are part of the clay tile roofing material we used on the greenhouse, and it’s former life was as a roof for a Boston Edison home.
One of the things that gives the El Moore its unique look is the Lake Superior red sandstone that comprises the front of the building. We were lucky enough to find another red sandstone, Medina red sandstone, in Syracuse, New York, that had been used as curb material. We are using it to form the raised garden beds in the park. It will also provide some bench seating along the beds. In total, we purchased 140,000 pounds of this beautiful sandstone. Another view of the sandstone, stored on site for reuse, is below. Behind it (the more grayish material) is blue sandstone that formed the original front porch and walkway of the El Moore. That material will form some walkways in the park.
Finally, one of the more iconic features of this park has to be the old water tank from Dalgleish Cadillac that we moved from the top of the Dalgeish building to serve as our park entrance. As we await the iron gates (made by Carlos Niebock from fencing from the Thomas Edison Port Huron train depot/station built in 1858), we are adding reclaimed granite curb pieces around the inside and outside of the tank that also came from Syracuse, New York, and happened to fit the circumference of our tank exactly.
That’s enough for you to see how reclaimed materials from our past can be used to create a beautiful future for our neighborhood and the city. Next up we’ll be taking a peek inside the building and how reclaimed wood has created a beautiful interior design.