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...]

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...]

Growing a Community

We hear the word community used a lot these days, so much so that it is often diluted to mean any situation in which a group of people are assembled.  But simply having a group of people working or living in close proximity to one another does not, by itself, create a community.  It's only when meaningful relationships begin to form between those people that a true community can emerge and start to grow, organically, over time. That, in a nutshell, is the approach we've used to form and grow the Green Garage community of businesses over the past four years.  It started with a set of goals centered around a deep exploration of sustainability in an urban environment (in this case Midtown Detroit) and the intention to create an environment within the Green Garage that would help grow and … [Read more...]

Raising the Roof

It's been another exciting week on the 600 block of West Alexandrine, with lifts hoisting materials to the rooftop cabins, continued earthmoving around the green alley, and crews working 50 feet in the air to install the top sections of our metal bay windows. Amid all of this buzz, a small crew from Esko Roofing began sifting and sorting through pallets of red clay roofing components, plotting how they'll be reassembled for the roof of our greenhouse. Typically the installation of a new roof the size of our greenhouse's would simply involve selecting the color of the shingles, and work would be completed in a matter of days.  If you've been following the work we've done at both the Green Garage and now the El Moore, you can imagine that the installation of … [Read more...]

More from the Underground

Work continued last week on the alley behind the El Moore.  Following the removal of the concrete alley surface, deep holes were dug 15 feet down to expose the sewer line.  This allows us to create a new sewer connection for the El Moore building. It also allowed us to open a section of the line so that a robotic camera could be run down the sewer to gauge the condition of the line in case repairs needed to be made. Exposing the sewer line gave us yet another fascinating glimpse of local history -- this time, the history of the infrastructure buried underground. In the city of Detroit alone, there are nearly 3500 miles of sewer lines, enough to stretch from Detroit to the North Pole (with 200 miles left over for Santa's village). The section of city that includes the El Moore was … [Read more...]

Another Find While Digging in the Dirt

When you're working on a site whose history is as layered as that of the El Moore, you're bound to discover remnants of the past.  This week we made two such discoveries. As we broke ground on the El Moore green alley in the beginning of the week, our site contractor, J.D. VanOverbeke, was removing sections of the old concrete alley.  As they reached the edge of the twenty foot wide alley just west of the El Moore building, they scraped across an orange brick foundation that had been buried below a foot of dirt.  Further exploration revealed a four sided foundation measuring a building footprint of roughly 20 by 30 feet, complete with the concrete flooring still intact. Upon inspecting Sanborn maps of the property that reveal the various structures that have occupied the site … [Read more...]

El Moore Green Alley Breaking Ground

Last week marked the groundbreaking (well, it was already fairly broken) of another Green Alley in Midtown.  Having completed Detroit's first Green Alley three years ago two blocks north of the El Moore, The Green Garage has begun work on improvements to the alleyway that runs behind the El Moore building.  In planning for this alley we had similar goals to the one next to the Green Garage, including: Making the alleyway a safe, welcoming pedestrian pathway option for the neighborhood Implementing a passive system to allow the rainwater that falls on the alley to be taken naturally into the water table and diverted away from storm drains Allowing a space for native plantings to take root which creates habitat for native animals and insects Three years after the completion of … [Read more...]

Growing a Greenhouse

One of our early goals in creating a sustainable residential community at the El Moore was to provide an opportunity to residents to participate in growing their own food.  The nearby North Cass Community Garden has shown that there is a strong demand for garden space in Midtown and that community garden space can not only support growing vegetables but also provides an activity that brings people together outdoors and builds relationships.  When studying where this activity could best be located on our site it was determined that this activity should be brought forward, towards the sidewalk and it quickly became clear that this could also help solve another problem we were having with our plans…. How to effectively screen the required parking area from the street. At one time, our … [Read more...]