Mr. Midtown Risin

While out and about on foot in the New Center area late one night, I was arrested by the sight of something I did not expect. Through a storefront window my girl and I noticed that a recently gutted building had been hiding a secret...

It sorta looked like an old ballroom or theater used to be in here, but Sanborn maps of the area from 1921 just show a row of unnamed storefronts here. The old address used to be 1508-1510 Woodward (current address is 6534-6536 Woodward). Colleague Benjamin Gravel says that the c.1920 Polk's Detroit City Directory lists Woodward Trunk & Bag Co. as the occupant.

A lot of the buildings in this strip have been purchased by a California investor, heralding the gentrification of New Center, and the northern expansion of Midtown™. Since 2007 (which is as far back as Google Streetview goes) this storefront housed a string of businesses on either side, including Angeles Fashion, Rock-N-Soul (Fashion That Rocks!), Celebrity Apparel, Instant Tax Service, and Hilal Books & Imports...pretty much in that order.

Hilal Books is still in the area, having moved a few blocks west to the basement of an apartment building next to that one French restaurant.

My girl was getting wound up to do a triple-roundhouse karate kick to blow out the front window so that we could go in and have our way with the place, but just then a busload of nuns pulled up to the stop light and shamed us out of it with some very stern finger-wagging. Our innate Catholic guilt kicked in and we decided to behave.

Just a reminder, everything you read here on is totally 100% factual ;)

For what it's worth, my girl handles most of the B&E and kung-fu needs pursuant to, as well as making a pecan pie so damn good it'll make you slap ya momma...two times. I'm just The Hand That Writes and Quickly Moves Away.

Sanborn Map Vol. 3, Sheet 111 (1921)
Google Streetview

The Pandemic Blues, Part 2

CLICK HERE to go back to Part 1

In my first post about Maybury Sanatorium I told the history of the institution, and showed you four old houses that used to be part of the hospital complex, which are now demolished. In this second episode I will show you some of the other ruins of the sanatorium that can still be found in the woods today. I had heard a rumor years ago that there was still an underground tunnel somewhere in the woods that had somehow escaped demolition in 1972 when the sanatorium was converted into a state park, and I finally found on. Just remember that when those other copycat websites start talking about it, you saw it here first. As usual. Without advertisements or cookies.

Here's one of the old overgrown sanatorium roads that can still be seen in the park:

I have always thought that this overgrown concrete path may actually have a steam tunnel under it, but I was never able to find any entrance:

This is probably the most visible and recognizable ruin of the old sanatorium still visible today, as it sits right alongside a very busy intersection of several trails:

I believe there used to be an old valve station here for the water system.

This whole area is rather interesting, as there are several small earthen mounds gathered here where bulldozers apparently pushed a bunch of debris during demolition, and it was left there until the forest engulfed it. It would be a good place to go hunting for artifacts. I found an old-school glass lid to a mason jar, without even trying:

The trunk of this old tree reveals that the forest floor actually used to be a parking lot:

Still bushwhacking, I came across a fire hydrant all by itself in the middle of the woods:

It was stamped as having been made at the Michigan Valve Foundry, Detroit, in 1937...

As it so happens, I explored the ruins of that foundry in another post.

Uh-oh, it looks like one of the electrical transformers from the powerhouse was just bulldozed into the woods next to a pond...

Don't worry, I'm sure they removed all the toxic PCB oil from it first, rather than letting it spill into our groundwater...

Continuing up the ridge where the huge old Ambulatory Building used to stand, I noticed a few chunks of really old concrete tumbling down into a bowl in the woods.

Not really sure what these could have been.

Here are the ruins of the old watertower...if you find nothing else at Maybury, you should at least be able to find this, since it's right in the middle of a trail:

There's a large concrete pad in the center where the pipes used to go, with four smaller footings in a square around it, where the legs of the tower were once supported:

The watertower provided the 60 million gallons needed by the sanatorium per year, including needs for fire protection, steam heat, laundry, cooking, hospital uses, bathing, landscaping, ice-making, and cooking. The water was pulled from artesian springs on the eastern part of the property and piped into the tower via a pump station next to the powerhouse.

For that matter however, I have to say I believe there are also artesian springs in the southwestern corner of the property, because when I hiked there with my girl recently, we found water seeping right out of the ground in some areas.

Then, suddenly, I found it--

Can you see it now?

It's an access hatch, slightly ajar...the massive lid weighs about 300lbs with all that soil and plant matter on top of it, but I was able to scootch it open just enough to get inside.

Still expecting it to be a short, caved-in tunnel, I looked around for a pebble to throw in, to see if it was flooded. Fortunately I did not hear a "kerplunk," or any startled animal sounds, but the long echoes of it hitting the bottom indicated that it must be a pretty damn big tunnel, much to my surprise. Excitedly, I began wrenching the cover back some more so that I could go in. The air didn't smell bad either...another unexpected surprise.

Here's the other side of the lid:

After clearing the cobwebs away with a stick, I began descending. Pretty soon I realized that this was no tunnel, it was a gigantic underground room! To my left was a wall about 25 feet away, but to my right the nearest wall was another 50 feet away or more, and it was apparent that the room continued around a corner for an unknown distance...

It was so dark that my flashlight couldn't even show me how far the room went, but judging by the long echoes of my footsteps, it was a massive space around me. The distance from the hatch cover was about 15 feet:

...I fired a flash photo to see what it would show me:

This must have been the water reservoir near the powerhouse that was used for steam heating in the sanatorium. Clearly it was not a tunnel. I had been inside water reservoirs like this before, at Traverse City Asylum, and the Wayne County Training School.

Wandering out into the black abyss, I was glad I knew my camera's controls by feel. Beads of moisture shone on the ceiling, and calcium deposits marked the high-water point on the walls and columns:

The fact that the only sign of human presence to be found in here was a single can of Sprite laying next to the ladder that looked like it dated from the early 2000s proved that no one really knew about this place. And honestly the can could've been tossed down here by people curious about what was below, but who were unable to fit through the gap or move the heavy lid to get in. So I might be the first person to have entered this chamber since 1972 or whenever it was sealed. The fact that there's not even graffiti on the walls is surprising, since when it was abandoned after 1969 plenty of people were exploring the sanatorium, prying into its nooks and crannies, and vandalizing everything.

Steady dripping had worn a geometrical pattern onto the surprisingly clean floor:

Having reached the far corner, I turned to look back at the access can see that the room continues at least another 50 feet into the darkness to the left:

I assume that the location of the powerhouse and this reservoir have to do with the artesian springs; i.e., it was because the springs were located in this area that Mr. Maybury decided to locate the reservoir for the steam plant and ice plant here.

Well, there you have it, my friends...finally proof that underground ruins do still exist at Maybury State Park! Now don't do anything stupid like get hurt or killed, to ruin it for the rest of us. Don't ask me where the entrance is, and if you figure it out don't go broadcasting it just to feel popular.

Maybe later in the year I will go back out to the park with a Sanborn map and a compass now that I have a hard reference point to work from, and see if more actual tunnels still exist out there. I have a feeling they might.

Sanborn Maps of Northville Twp., February 6, 1943

Little Indiana

Photos from April 2006.

The year 2006 was the first time Chisel and I were able to pull ourselves out of the Packard Plant's considerable gravitational field and manage to explore this handful of handsome buildings that sat practically next-door. We assumed that they were originally part of the Packard Motors complex, but I later learned this was not the case.

The white building on the far left was built in 1915 as the Remy Engineering Laboratory, at 1623 E. Grand Boulevard. The Remy Electric Co. was founded in Indiana in 1896, making magnetos, generators, distributors, and crank-starters for early automobiles. They were a competitor of Dayton Engineering Company Laboratories (Delco), founded by Charles Kettering, inventor of the first successful electric crank-starter, which was installed on a Cadillac. Eventually Remy and Delco were acquired by General Motors and merged into one division under the all-encompassing GM corporate umbrella. The Delco-Remy name was still seen stamped on components of GM cars well into the 1980s (if I recall correctly from the Buick I once owned).

The two buildings in the middle (1627 and 1637 E. Grand Blvd.) were labeled "factory" and "beer warehouse" respectively, although I am not good enough to deduce what the Sanborn map's abbreviation stood for, and I can't remember offhand what brewing company in Detroit started with a "C"...Anyway, perhaps then it makes more sense that the sign currently hanging from this complex says "COMING SOON: Packard Brewing Company."

The limestone building on the far right, at 1651 E. Grand Boulevard, was built in 1926 as "The Udylite Company Plant No. 1" and labeled as "plating equipment & supplies" on the Sanborn map. Some of the plant had already been demolished, and in true Packard form, there was a stripped camper outside:

Apparently there wasn't much on the first floor, because I only have photographs from the second. I guess I was just interested in getting photos of the Packard Plant from here?

The Sanborn says that Udylite's first floor was "laboratory" and that the second floor was "offices." These photos are from the "factory" building next to it, which has now been demolished. The small warehouse building (seen above) was also demolished.

I have to say, for a factory, this was kinda snazzy...I mean dig those windows!

Udylite was another company that was originally founded in Indiana (in 1919), and found its way to this particular block in the Motor City. They relocated here in 1927, when this building was completed. It was founded by Marvin J. Udy, "who developed a method of electrode deposition of cadmium on metal." His company went on to develop many new electroplating processes, and also later gave birth to the subsidiaries Process Electronics Corporation (PEC) of Roseville, Michigan, and the Oxy Metal Industrial Corporation of Warren, Michigan.

There is an article on that goes into great depth on the "History of Chromium Plating," published on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the American Electroplaters Society. It was written by a noted Dr. George Dubpernell, who spent 60 years in the field of electroplating in Detroit, beginning in 1919 with the Detroit Battery Co., and then with The Udylite Corp. in 1924. He was retired in the posh suburb of Huntington Woods when his article was printed. Dr. Dubpernell held at least 10 patents, and was an emeritus member of the American Chemical Society.

Most of the article is technical and a little over my head, but I discerned a few things: In 1927 the General Chromium Corp. and the Udylite Process Co. may have been merged, from 1927 to '28 Philip P. Hale was a plant superintendent; a few months later this firm became Nicholl-Hale Chrome Service, Inc. Simultaneously, Marvin J. Udy of the Electro-Metallurgical Company spent much of his time in the General Chromium plant (also in Detroit), fermenting his engineering ideas on methods of chromium plating. Mr. Udy and Mr. Hale developed the "Hale-Udy composite bus bar," an invention that allowed for more "convenient" electroplating at a single voltage for all components.

Dr. Dubpernell wrote that "Udy's employment with Electrometallurgical Company was terminated in 1931, and he did not return to plating work"...huh, sounds ominous. Anyway, Mr. Hale filed a patent on the composite bus bar in 1932. A successor (Clarence Peger) dubbed it the "Reversible Rack 2 Bus Bar System," and using it he "made a good contribution to chromium plating technology based upon its use."
The practice in hard chromium plating was to calculate the exact surface area of the part to be plated and to apply sufficient current to get the required current density for good plating at a known speed. Udy took great pleasure often times in starting a discussion by announcing in a loud tone of voice, "All chromium plating should be done at 4.2 volts and the current to the individual piece disregarded." This brought on vigorous discussion as intended, but all were unable to discourage Mr. Udy. He and Phil Hale built a huge composite bus bar about 12 or 15 feet long, so that a number of parts to be plated could be attached to the cathode bar and a number of lead anodes to the anode bar, and the whole operated at a single voltage.
Make sense? Good.

There was also something called "The Dubpernell test," apparently named after our distinguished author. "This extremely simple test has been poorly described in the literature due to its clandestine origin," Dubpernell begins...
A thin layer of copper is plated over the chromium deposit and microscopically examined to determine the extent of porosity and cracking. In the early days, the writer and others were employed under conditions of strict secrecy up until about 1940, and it was pure chance that the test was disclosed to Professor E.M. Baker in a discussion on the train from Detroit to Ann Arbor, late in 1927. It then formed a basis for the Baker and Pinner paper published a few months later. Brief descriptions of the test have been given in all four editions of Modern Electroplating. However, the most recent edition is by far the most adequate and includes a discussion of the effect of moderate heat treatment (e.g., hot water rinsing to bring out the normal crack structure of chromium deposits). An excellent recent paper by J.W. Manquen describes the use of an electronic thickness tester with the Dubpernell test in a non-destructive manner for quality control purposes.
I have to say, that is always a cool story when top-secret info is leaked during a train ride between cities...sounds like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Most of the other Google hits for "Udylite" have to do with patents, court cases, or the Toxic Substances Control Act. But hey, those chrome tailfins back in the day sure were cool, weren't they?!

You may recall an older article of mine dealing with chrome plating, and the Michigan Chrome & Chemical Co. on Grinnell Avenue.

The buildings behind this one, fronting on Palmer Avenue were originally an ice company in 1915, but later taken over by the Jersey Creamery Co.:

Of course, the Packard Plant is seen looming prominently in the background.

Packard's Building 90 is still standing along the train tracks, and Building 92 hadn't yet really begun collapsing yet:

As an added bonus, here's a couple photos that I drunkenly took late one rainy night as we wandered on foot from the Packard Plant, I intended to come back for better photos at some point later, but never did.

According to a Sanborn map (which I can't find now), it was originally the Central Overall Linen Supply Co.

Admittedly this one was not founded in Indiana, but by local Jewish immigrant Morris Shaver, who started by making laundry deliveries while using the streetcar. His company eventually "became the largest of its kind in Detroit," according to author Sidney M. Bolkosky. Apparently there were quite a few cloth or clothing trade related businesses in Detroit like this one founded by Jewish immigrants, a "logical outgrowth of the tailoring profession and the traditional European work of itinerant agents, known as Wocher..."

It was demolished sometime around 2010.

Sanborn maps of Detroit, Volume 7, Sheet 36 (c.1915)
Harmony & Dissonance: Voices of Jewish Identity in Detroit, 1914-1967, by Sidney M. Bolkosky, p. 142-143