This town's on fire!

May 28, 2008 at 12:00 am

Wooden and brick houses with lavish embellishments, turrets and decorative spindles; a San Franciscan palette of deep purple, baby blue, lemon yellow and lime green; old-style wraparound porches and neatly manicured gardens and lawns, these are some of the characteristics that make Corktown, Detroit's oldest neighborhood, a delightful anachronism.

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of Greater Corktown Development Corporation's Corktown Home and Garden Tour. The neighborhood event features 16 sites, open to the public for a sneak peek inside the life that seems so appealing to the residents. Take a guided tour by carriage through the neighborhood or choose to walk the area at your leisure.  

"The buildings of Corktown are definitely representative of small-scale working-class housing built during the 19th century," says Tim McKay, director of GCDC. Founded in 1834 by settlers from County Cork, Ireland, the neighborhood features diverse architectural styles, including Federal, Italianate, Greek Revival, Victorian Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and English Revival/Arts and Crafts. 

Nonresidential historic buildings are included in the tour, such as the Most Holy Trinity Church and the former Trinity Episcopal, now the Spirit of Hope. There'll be an archeological dig demonstration at the Workers Row House. Built in 1850, the structure's three units housed immigrant laborers during Detroit's industrial boom, and is believed to be one of the oldest residences still standing in Detroit.

The department of archeology at Wayne State has been working on this site for two months, during which time they've exhumed more than 5,000 objects. McKay says this year, in addition to the Historic District, the tour will also venture into North Corktown to show off new residential development modeled after the numerous architectural styles in the area.

"The tour is not so much about the candles and old lace," McKay says. "It's more about the culture of Corktown," stories that show the longevity and history of this unique community. —Meredith Quinlan

Corktown Home and Garden Tour, sponsored by GCDC and the Workers Row House, runs noon-5 p.m. Sunday, June 1. Guests can meet at 1438 Michigan Ave., Detroit. Call 313-965-5853 for further information. Tickets are $15.