There is a colorful painted building on the corner of Burt Road and Tireman Street on Detroit’s westside. Design wise, it’s a simple, non-discreet three level structure that at one time could have been a hotel. But more than likely, it was probably built as an apartment building. The long narrow place faces Tireman and extends a couple hundred feet from left to right. What’s remarkable about the old abandoned place is what’s painted on the outside.
Each of the building’s three floors has a unique paint job that covers its length. Reds, yellows, and various light shades of pink are painted in different sized blocks and squares along the top floor. The second level consists of painted block and squares as well, but a variety of different sized circles are incorporated into the design. The colors used on that floor are made from various hues of blue, greens, and yellows.
The bottom floor has the darkest color combinations of the three. Deep purple and blue shades that fade to gray dominate the first floor’s colorful circles and blocks. Those darker colors seem to anchor the building to the ground. The second and third floor colors gradually lighten as they move up, drawing the eye upward. The building’s unusual hand painted color scheme creates a natural flow from bottom to top.
A lot of effort went into this design
In addition to the brightly colored blocks and circles covering the building, painted along the top floor are three simple words: Few Screws Loose.
I’ve never seen the Few Screws Loose tag line before
The words are painted in large white block letters, outlined in black. The size of them reminded me of those found on billboards along the freeway. On my citywide bicycle rides I see plenty of colorful hand painted walls, buildings, etc. with many names and letters, but I’ve never seen these particular words before.
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It’s that time of the year already, unbelievable!
I hope everyone has a peaceful, warm Thanksgiving. As you enjoy the day, please take a few moments to look around and be thankful for all you have. Be grateful for a roof over your head and a warm house in which to sleep. Be thankful for having food on your table. Be thankful for family and friends.
Enjoy the parade, cheer for the Lions and savor your hot turkey dinner!
Detroit’s Thanksgiving Parade is one of the country’s oldest
A beauty of a holiday bird
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It’s autumn in Detroit, and most of the area’s tree leaves have turned from solid green to a colorful earth tone shade. They have since dropped to the ground to decay into the soil below. What are left are bare trees with gray limbs that can appear somewhat ghostly and eerie, especially in the evening moonlight. The naked trees can also expose the unforeseen, such as an active squirrel’s nest; a rotting limb that is infested with busy insects; or an old faded birthday balloon that has become tangled in the limbs. Sometimes, the most unexpected appears, such as the hanging head I spotted.
Well, it’s not really a hanging head in the truest sense, but a wasp nest that looks like one. It is round, about the size of a basketball, and appears to have a full head of hair made from ordinary falling leaves that have landed on top of it. The eyes and nose are made from unusual indentations within the sturdy paper wrap of the nest created from wood pulp crafted by the wasps. The round mouth of the hive has a natural look, made from the small hexagonal cells used to make and store honey within the hive.
It’s an interesting looking beehive. When I saw it hanging about 12 feet above the street I was riding down, it instantly reminded me of a human head. I never know what to expect or see while bicycling the streets of Detroit, and that’s one of the many beauties of riding here.
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I while ago I wrote an entry about an abandoned eastside gas station that has been painted in an unusual graphic pattern. The old building, pumps, and cinderblock privacy wall were all done in various bold colors that followed the outlines of the bricks. The outlines created an unusual sharp–edged geometric layout like something found on Native American artifacts. That story and accompanying photos can be viewed by clicking here: “Another Unusual Painted Building.”
In another entry I highlighted a couple of rail road underpasses in the city’s mid-town area that are also painted with similar geometric graphics. However, those are a bit more sophisticated than what’s found on the gas station. On one underpass the vibrant colored, multi-pattern almost looks three-dimensional. The other mid-town underpass, with its 45-degree angles, has the look of a pyramid that is anchored at road level and rises to the base of the overpass above. They can be seen here: “Wall Art Below the Railroad Tracks.”
A few weeks ago I spotted another of these unusual walls on the city’s northwest side. Like the others, it has a similar geometric pattern, but in this case, it looks more like a diamond that slowly fans out from its center. This particular one is painted on a tall, cinderblock wall and incorporates a simple, yet eye-catching design. It reminds me of something one may find on an antique quilt.
Reminds me of a quilt or a kid’s band-aid
There is some similarity between all versions, and that makes me wonder if it’s the same artist doing them all. Regardless of who painted them, in all cases it must have taken a tremendous amount of time and effort to figure out the various angles and color schemes.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged cinderblock wall, geometric pattern, Native American artifacts | Leave a Comment »
It’s no secret that Detroit has an abandoned house problem. Since the city filed for bankruptcy, the abandoned, blighted homes seem to be the main focus of many national news outlets. Contrary to what’s being shown or written about by the outlets, there are plenty of viable neighborhoods in the city where people care about their homes and strive to maintain and restore them to their past glory.
One such place is the Historic Woodbridge Neighborhood, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located just off Grand River Avenue near West Warren Avenue, about two miles northwest of the city’s center. It’s a good-sized neighborhood with hundreds of 100-year-old homes that have been, or are in the process of, being restored.
The charming old neighborhood is full of two-and three-story Victorian era homes and apartment buildings constructed of wood or brick. Most were built between 1870 and 1900. There are a variety of architectural styles represented there including Queen Anne, Romanesque, Second Empire and others that were popular at that time. The tree-lined streets of this quaint neighborhood (in particular Commonwealth and Avery) are filled with the historic places, and many are painted in period colors.
In addition to the large, beautiful homes found there, the neighborhood has a relaxed small-town feel to it. I’ve ridden through this tight-knit community plenty of times over the years, and I’m always impressed with its sense of community. It’s one of those densely populated Detroit neighborhoods where people seem to know their neighbors and take the time to stop and talk to each other.
Like many stable Detroit neighborhoods, Woodbridge is home to a diverse group of residents. There are artists living in the community that have installed sculptures in community gardens and have painted alley walls in vibrant colors. Due to its close proximity to Wayne State University, college students live in many of the area’s apartment buildings and flats. It’s also a place where families with small kids, in strollers or in-hand, take leisurely walks along the sidewalks. It’s not uncommon to see older folks out walking dogs, waving to others sitting on a large porch as well.
Quaint old neighborhoods like Woodbridge can be found across the city. They offer a refreshing contrast to what the national and local media coverage seems to show on a regular basis.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Detroit Historic Homes, Detroit Neighborhoods, National Historic District, Outdoor Art, Quaint Streets, Victorian Homes Detroit | 4 Comments »
Detroit is an old city, and it grew rapidly from the early 1900’s through the 1950’s. As the city spread and the major streets expanded, plenty of small businesses were built and lined the streets. Like today, advertising was a must for getting people into those small businesses to buy their products. One of the advertising methods used back then was hand painted signs created on the side of buildings.
Many of those vintage signs with beautiful, scrolled lettering, and product highlights can still be seen on old buildings along the city’s commercial streets. In most cases the colors have faded quite a bit. Despite the fading, it’s not unusual to see fresh-looking, pastel colors on the ornate, hand-painted illustrated signs.
Bank ad features classy letters outlined in black
Note the soft, paste colors on this cigar ad from long ago
In this blog entry (the fourth in a series) are some of the more fascinating illustrated signs I’ve seen on my bicycle rides. A couple of the vintage wall-side ads remind me of something that may have been printed on packaged goods found in a general store many years ago. There is a lot of history in this city, and unfortunately more and more of it is fading away, just like the signs.
Stylish, flowing letters of the flour brand name is the main focus of this old sign
Vernor’s, a Detroit classic
This vintage Stroh’s sign is fading quickly
Cool pickle illustration on this old Aunt Jane’s sign
This is the fourth of an occasional entry on Detroit’s fading wall signs. You can check out the earlier entries by clicking on the headlines below.
Fading Wall Signs
Fading Wall Signs – Part 2
Fading Wall Signs – Part 3
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Advertising, Brick buildings, Ghost Signs, Old Signs, outdoor ads, Pld Signs, vintage signs | Leave a Comment »
Like many intersections in Detroit, West Warren and Grand River Avenues are pretty nondescript. There is a used auto parts place on one corner; a former bank that now houses the Kunsthalle Detroit Museum of Contemporary Art sits on another. There is a small warehouse type building on the southeast corner of the intersection, and a grassy field spreads inward from the southwest corner where buildings once stood.
Like most, if not all major intersections in the city, the corner is home to bus stops. In this case, they pick-up and drop off riders for those traveling east and west on Warren Avenue and along Grand River from downtown to the far northwestern city limits. What struck me about the stops that service West Warren at this intersection were the bus stop benches. They are not the usual DDOT plastic encased units with benches that span the interior length.
The benches there are unique, hand crafted, one-of-a-kind benches. They are a simple, functional design, made from a variety of basic building supplies available at any home center. The materials used to build the intriguing benches include ordinary wooded doors, a couple of pieces of plywood, standard 10’ metal wall studs, and thin sheets of translucent plastic panels found in drop-ceiling lights of many new buildings. Various eye bolts, long threaded rods, clamps, and small turnbuckles hold them all together.
Simple, yet practical design
The seat art compliments the backrest
The simple x-frame structures are painted in bold colors and the new, shiny aluminum studs add a contemporary look to the unusual benches. The colorful, eye-catching designs of the handmade benches remind me of a swing set that may be found on a large front porch. Both of the imaginative benches are on Warren Avenue, a little west of Grand River. They sit across the street from one another and both add a blast of color and interest to a rather dreary, urban intersection.
Aluminum wall studs support the simple structure
The brightly painted backs are eye catching
The bench and backs are made from doors
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged grand river ave, Kunsthalle Detroit Museum of Contemporary Art, Street Art | 4 Comments »