Architecture lecture

Dec 25, 2002 at 12:00 am

Riverfront promise

The Detroit riverfront just east of the Renaissance Center is home to its fair share of abandoned buildings. Among these is the crumbling brick remains of a 13,560-square-foot warehouse at 1461-1469 E. Atwater. The building, identifiable only by the words “Ambassador Steel Shipping and Receiving,” is currently owned by the City of Detroit.

It’s part of the land purchased by the city back when Mayor Dennis Archer had visions of three riverfront casinos dancing in his head. There were shouts of joy recently when Kilpatrick unveiled grand plans to transform the deteriorating riverfront into public-friendly parks, housing, and shopping. Which means that this week’s abandoned structure may not be with us that much longer.

Architecture lecture

In other abandoned building news, this missive from Katherine Clarkson, executive director of Preservation Wayne: “In the spirit of enhanced accuracy and perhaps education, I would like to point out that the structure selected as your pic of the week for Dec. 11-17, 2002, is not a bungalow — it is an American Foursquare. A bungalow would be, at most, 1-1/2 stories high, not 2-1/2. The term bungalow, from the Hindi word for small house, has been elected to be used to refer to low, broad-roofed homes usually featuring wide porches. The American Foursquare term has become standard for 2- to 2-1/2-story houses, usually simple squares or rectangular without the complexities of the Victorian Queen Anne or the horizontal emphasis and modest rambling aspects of the bungalow. The Foursquare was a lot of house for the money, easy to build and put up by the millions during the same decades as the bungalow (1900-1930) which, in part, accounts for their common use of Craftsman-style details such as wide bargeboards, broad eaves, exposed raftertails, battered porch piers and ganged windows. Well, I could (and have) gone on, but you get the drift. While ‘Bungalow Bill’ is a cute alliteration, I object to the inaccurate appellation. Perhaps ‘Forthright Foursquare’ would have been accurate and pleasingly alliterative. I enjoy your writing style and content and only yearn that the pitiful places portrayed in your column were less bandied about for purposes of ridicule or outrage and more for remedy and restoration.”

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