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« Positive Detroit, Local Female Bloggers, and Operation: Kid Equip Collaborating to Provide Dictionaries for Area 3rd Graders | Main | The Guardian Building: Detroit's Beauty »

Postcards from (old) Detroit

While at City Bird a week or two ago, I happened on a box of old postcards of Detroit. I flipped through them for a bit, or ages by the way my husband was pacing, and found two that called out to me.

I’ve been waxing on about the Belle Isle Ice Tree, as I have come to call it, since I first caught a glimpse of it last February. Something about it has me mesmerized. If it spoke, I would listen.

I didn’t become smitten with The Guardian Building until a few months later, during the summer. The gloriousness of the building coupled with how little recognition it receives mystifies me. This building should be celebrated!

So, of course, the two postcards I picked were of The Guardian Building and of a predecessor of the Belle Isle Ice Tree. 

The predecessor of the Ice Tree was the Ice Fountain on Washington Boulevard, which I briefly mentioned in my original post. 

Ice Fountain on Washington Boulevard, Detroit.

The blurb on the postcard reads:

ICE FOUNTAIN, WASHINGTON BOULEVARD. One of the unique features of Detroit in winter is the famous ice fountain on Washington Boulevard. Several jets of water are allowed to play all winter, and the result is a massive berg of ice which sometimes reaches a height of nearly thirty feet and contains many tons of crystal.

I didn’t realize until I got home that I was holding a postcard that was originally sent in 1910. The postmark reads June 20, 1910, to be exact. It was sent to a Mrs. J.H. Beck in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. No street address was included, just “To Hospital,” at the bottom. 

The writing on the postcard is faded and quite difficult to read. The salutation is “Hello Sister.” I believe it starts, “How are you? Hope you are feeling fine.” It may or may not ask how long she is staying in the hospital and what is John doing. 

The postcard from The Guardian Building is titled after its old name, “Union Guarding Building, Detroit, Mich.” The blurb on the backside reads:

This building located on Griswold, Detroit’s Wall Street, is 30 stories tall and is in the bizarre Mayan architecture. Its towers are flooded at night with many colored lights. 

Union Guardian Building

The postmark is September 29, 1950 and is addressed to a Mr. and Mrs. Lisa in Los Angeles, California. On the bottom of the card it says Lisa Beauty Parlor in parentheses. The card reads:

Hello: My trip east has been most delightful. The whole country seems at its best this time of year. ‘Harvest Time.’ Sincerely, Greta M. (and her last name, which I can’t make out)

The first thing I thought of when reading these postcards was that there was an Ice Tree or an Ice Fountain in Detroit since 1910! I told you, I’m obsessed with this thing.

But then my thinking drifted to the Detroit of old, both in 1910 and 1950. Detroit was the “Paris of the West” and an industrial leader. People flocked to our city for jobs and opportunity.

Questions flooded my brain.

Who were these people in these snapshots of Detroit? Did Mrs. Beck make it out of the hospital? Who the heck is John? Was it a brother or sister that sent her this postcard?

And what of Mr. and Mrs. Lisa, is that their real last name? How did Greta know them? Were they her hairdressers? How very Californian to send a postcard to your hairdressers!

What will people say about our Detroit in 60 or 100 years? Will they mourn our demise or marvel at our ingenuity, perseverance, and innovation? That is up for us to decide. Choose carefully.

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Reader Comments (3)

Love old postcards! These are great finds...thanks for sharing.

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

You're welcome, Dominique. I think I might have found a new hobby in old postcards, like I have time for that!

December 7, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

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February 21, 2017 | Unregistered

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