In May, I wrote about “A Fascinating Neighborhood” on Detroit’s eastside called Creekside. (Click here for story) This out-of-the-way community abuts the Detroit River, and one of its unique landmarks is the three or so miles of canals that crisscross the neighborhood. During Prohibition, rumrunners used the web of canals to smuggle liquor into the U.S. from Canada. In the May 26th entry, I mentioned that I’ve had a long fascination with the area and I’d be writing additional stories on the neighborhood.
In this second entry, I’ll be focusing on the array of residential architectural styles found throughout the Creekside community. This area of the city, tucked away on the far eastside, south of Jefferson Avenue, has many quaint, brick paved, tree-lined streets with well maintained homes and surrounding landscape. However, like many Detroit neighborhoods I’ve ridden through, some blocks are showing signs of urban blight and decay with dilapidated homes needing major repairs. I saw several homes that have been stripped of their brick and others that have been scarred by fire. There are weed-filled lots, and I spotted open fields in some sections of the neighborhood.
Regardless of a particular street’s condition, the community as a whole has a large concentration of well-preserved early 20th Century homes that include Arts and Crafts style bungalows, English Tudors, and small cottages. Most are brick, but many of the cottages backing up to the canals along Ashland Street are wood frame structures. Originally they may have been built in the early 1900s as summer cottages and over the years been converted to year-round residences. Larger, two-story frame homes are also found in the neighborhood.
Other streets, such as brick paved Marlborough, have a large collection of traditional 1920s Craftsman style bungalows, much like those found in Highland Park. Built in the warm, inviting traditional Arts and Crafts tradition, they feature tall vertical windows, attractive wide porches with sloping roof lines and have natural materials, such as stone, incorporated into their design.
Riding south off Jefferson Avenue on Manistique and Lakewood, I noticed the homes were much larger the closer I got to the Detroit River and the parks along its banks. That section of the neighborhood appears to be quite stable and the homes well maintained. Many of Creekside’s Tudors and other large brick homes are located in this part of the community. One street in particular, Harbor Island, features a variety of beautiful brick homes. Quite a few of them face the Detroit River, and all have access to the canals leading to the river.
The neighborhood has a history of wealth. The Fisher Mansion, Lawrence Fisher’s ornate 22,000 square foot Spanish influenced designed home, was built-in the Grayhaven section of the neighborhood in 1928. Fisher was one of seven brothers involved in the early days of the automobile industry. The home is now owned and maintained by the Hare Krishna religious group. Other notable mansions that once stood in Grayhaven included the Koerber family estate, founders of the Michigan Brewing Company, and the estate of boat builder and racer Gar Wood. Wood’s 46 room mansion was once used by motorcycle clubs and hippies. It eventually fell into disrepair and was destroyed by neglect and fire in the mid-seventies.
Bicycling through this neighborhood, I’m amazed at the great housing stock, canals, well-maintained parks and its access to one of the world’s busiest rivers. I often wonder why the beauty of this little corner of the city has been overlooked for so many years.