Highland Park is well-known for the Ford Motor Company’s manufacturing plant, the first of its kind in the world built to incorporate the moving assembly line. This opened the door to mass production of the automobile. It’s also the home of the infamous $5.00 a day wage structure Henry Ford implemented in the early 20th Century. But what many people don’t realize is that Highland Park has one of the highest concentrations of Craftsman Bungalows outside the state of California. Since I haven’t been there in a while, I decided to check them out.
I began my two-wheeled journey to Highland Park on 2nd Avenue just north of Wayne State University. The avenue took me through the New Center area past the Fisher Building, an Art Deco gem, to the Boston-Edison Neighborhood, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and once home to Henry Ford. I took a little detour through those streets to check out the large cluster of mansions. There are two on Boston Boulevard – the S.S. Kresge and the B. Siegel mansions – just west of Woodward that always wow me; they are so huge that they are the only two on that block.
After pedaling through those streets, I continued up 2nd Avenue. The homes in the neighborhoods along 2nd became much more concentrated with numerous apartment buildings sprinkled in. Some were in need of major repairs; others were in pretty good shape, and like many parts of Detroit, abandoned and stripped buildings were evident.
I crossed into Highland Park and was pleasantly surprised at the strides the city has made in getting rid of blighted structures and replacing them with new brick townhouses and other dwellings. This is a good sign in a community, much like Detroit, that has been devastated by high unemployment, crime and tough economic conditions.
A couple of streets later I took a right, crossed Woodward Avenue, and headed east on Mclean Street. The blocks on this street are full of Craftsman style homes. Each is unique, but all possess the traditional Arts & Crafts characteristics; low sloping roof lines with rafters exposed, wide welcoming porches with distinct square pillars, tall inviting windows and some even have stones incorporated into the structure. These are amazing homes built during a time when Highland Park was one of the richest cities in the country.
From Mclean Street I headed a little further north on Woodward to Moss Street where I proceeded west toward Hamilton Avenue. Like Mclean Street, the few short blocks I rode on Moss Street had a high concentration of early 1900’s Craftsman style homes. Impressive in their simplicity and clean lines, these homes are jewels that hark back to a simpler time. I was encouraged to see that many of these classic Craftsman Bungalows and Cottages were well-maintained and cared for.
As I was biking west on Moss Street to Hamilton Avenue for my ride home, there was a woman working in her front yard that must have been watching me. Peddling by I waved and said hi. “Hi,” she said, “We have some beautiful homes here, don’t we?”
Take a look sometime. I think you will agree with her.