Clarence Brewer Park and Rec Center – Park #84

Location:  Warren and Fairview; Eastside; Delorme Farm

Moody sky over the 8 acres of Brewer Playground.

Continue reading “Clarence Brewer Park and Rec Center – Park #84”

Russell Woods Park # 82

Park Location:  Broadstreet, Old Mill, Leslie and Fullerton

old survey
I love these cobalt blue surveys. This old survey indicates one L, however every city document I read indicates two L’s in Russel(l).  I went with two. But I must admit the deed I read was a typed copy, so we may never know the true spelling.

Continue reading “Russell Woods Park # 82”



Oscar Marx was born on July 14, 1866 in Detroit.  His parents, Stephen Marx and wife Eleanor [Busch] were German immigrants turned dairy farmers living on the cusp of Hamtramck Twp. and Detroit.

The Marx farm faced Gratiot Road with acreage running north along Mount Elliot. It was quite close to the small town of St. Anthony which was annexed by Detroit in 1891.   Image:  Wayne County Atlas, 1876.
Stephen Marx makes front page news.  Apparently vehicle theft has always been a Detroit problem. Source:   1.31.1868, Detroit Free Press.

The hard work and discipline of his farm based upbringing along with a touch of seminary school gave Marx the determination needed to become a successful civic leader and Detroit businessman.   Continue reading “PARK 81 – OSCAR B. MARX”

Park 80 – Harvey Barcus Tennis Center


Harvey Herman Barcus (1899-1973) described himself as ‘stylishly stout’, however he was known more for his raspy voice and the fresh, white daisy he wore in his lapel each day.   Continue reading “Park 80 – Harvey Barcus Tennis Center”

What’s going on…

We’re back after a long, long hiatus.

It’s pretty dusty in here, so we’re cleaning/updating up the site and taking all the returnables back.  : ) Thanks for being patient with the process.


SK2c Joseph Lloyd Pagel Park 78

SK2c Joseph Lloyd Pagel


It’s Memorial Day 2016.  Reflection and BBQ’s.  I see a lot of memes asking to remember “this day isn’t about the BBQ”.  If you think about it, a lot of personal history gets discussed and shared over food, so maybe it does go hand-in-hand.  We’ve covered a lot of veteran’s stories thus far in this blog.  This post hits a few categories:

  1. Gone – a park that was decommissioned or no longer exists
  2. Survivor – someone who received a namesake park / playground while living

Back in the day, the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department had a somewhat staunch rule about naming parks.  Specifically they were named for those persons who had died;  persons who contributed significantly to the City of Detroit and/or highly decorated war veterans.  Exceptions were sometimes made.  There are only a handful of parks  where the person was living when they ‘received’ their honorary park.   Joseph Pagel falls into this category.  Lyle Maxton Skinner,  John Yaksich, Robert Simanek and Leroy Messmer were other veterans with this honor as well as a few non-veterans. Continue reading “SK2c Joseph Lloyd Pagel Park 78”

US Navy Rear Admiral William Leroy Messmer – Park 77

Location:  Bremen, Bluehill and Minneapolis  

Super clean park just south of East English Prep Academy, formerly George Ham Cannon playground.
Super clean park just south of East English Prep Academy, formerly George Ham Cannon playground.


As a youth, Bill Messmer [1903-1973] found his love of music while attending Detroit’s Eastern High School.  Musically gifted, he directed and organized a 16 piece orchestra as a teen.  His mother recollected how Bill would purchase his sheet music at the Jerome H. Remick music ‘house’ in Detroit. One day, she ran the errand of picking up his sheet music and had an encounter with the famous composer Richard Whiting, [nice story at that link] who managed the desk as a fledgling composer.   Continue reading “US Navy Rear Admiral William Leroy Messmer – Park 77”

Father Jozef Dabrowski   – Park 76    

Here’s one from the gone file. It’s a bit long so here’s a summary.. This corner playground disappeared in 2015. It received little public use and was sold to the business next door.  It is the former site of Detroit’s Polish Seminary founded by Father Dabrowski.  The seminary moved out of Detroit in the early years of the 1900’s. Father Dabrowski finished this school to help educate the immigrants of this once heavily populated Polish neighborhood.  

In 2015, Mayor Duggan announced a new development of an urban agricultural area named Recovery Park and a reuse of the Chene-Ferry outdoor market just north of St. Aubin and Forest.  The aim is to create job opportunities for those Detroiters working to recoup their lives after addiction and other personal struggles.  In a way, the spirit of Jozef [Joseph] Dabrowski is resurrected offering opportunity to those most in need.  No eye rolling, good to be hopeful. 🙂  Thanks for reading. ag

Former location: St. Aubin and Forest


Jozef (Joseph) Dabrowski [1842-1903] was born in Zoltance, Poland into a wealthy family.  As a 12 year old, he assumed much of the familial responsibility when his father passed away.

Interested in math and science, he enrolled in Warsaw University on scholarships only to be sidelined by joining the failed Polish Revolt of 1863, an uprising against Russian rule over Poland.  Afterward, he heard the call of piety and Dabrowski headed for religious life in Rome.  He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1869.

Continue reading “Father Jozef Dabrowski   – Park 76    “

Sgt. David Stockton – Park #75

Stockton playground location: Dwight, Parkview, Detroit River

David Stockton playground was the starting point for the Gold Cup Races on the Detroit River in the mid 1960’s. Feel the thunder!
David Stockton playground on the right – directly east of the Mayor’s residence. Map courtesy of Google.


~ Thanks to Sandy L. and especially Linda G. who generously opened their digital family photo album. You meet the kindest-hearted, left handed folks through genealogy.  andreag

Local Yokel, Business Man, Soldier

This is a story of a life interrupted. 

David Frederick Stockton [1911-1944] became a Detroiter via the hills of Cookeville, TN.  His story is short and like many men who served in WWII, David’s life ended in an act of courage.  He was the only son of Houston Albert Stockton and Daisy Pearl Kinnaird.  Love those southern names.  The Stockton’s left the family cow in Tennessee and headed to Michigan in the 1920’s. [Sorry I didn’t get the cow picture.. but it exists].  They landed in Gratiot Township which would later become Harper Woods. Both father and son worked at US Rubber in the tire factory; Houston as a rubber former, David as a ‘box man’.

Stockton family courtesy of sandy l.
David with his sisters and uncle in front of their garage in Detroit. I always say that naming a child is the greatest gift.. these kids were super fortunate with gracious southern names. L to R – Minnie Jewel; Uncle John Quincy Kinnaird (visiting from Tennessee); Gladys Estelle (the tiny one), Edna Mae and a barefoot David Frederick. Photo use with kind permission of Sandy Lewis.

Continue reading “Sgt. David Stockton – Park #75”

Fred Nagle – Park 74

Here’s one from the GONE file.. Fred Nagle’s life and efforts stretched to many parts of Detroit – a boyhood home on High Street in Corktown; residence in the Madison – Lenox hotel; a boy’s club off Fenkell Avenue and  a long gone rec center and playground in the Elmwood neighborhood –  all of those haunts are gone.  The only thing left to his Detroit legacy is his burial marker in Mount Olivet Cemetery.  When I find it.. I will post a photo.


Location:  Gone – Rec Center and playground formerly at Congress and Larned; Boys Boxing Club north of Focus Hope.

Fred George Nagle [1885- 1954] was a lifelong Detroiter and Corktown native who graced the halls of the Trinity School and Detroit College [now University of Detroit].  Nagel crafted a successful 25+ year real estate career with an office located in the Penobscot Building.  He managed his cadre of rentals, business locations and developed local strip shopping malls in the 1950’s.  The confirmed bachelor lived with his two sisters in the long gone Madison – Lenox Hotel off Harmonie Park.  

Fred Nagle
Fred Nagle was camera shy and a man of few photos. Photo: Detroit Parks and Recreation Annual Report for 1940.

Continue reading “Fred Nagle – Park 74”

Lt. Colonel Lorwyn E. Peterson – Park #73

I have said it before and I’ve got to say it again.. I meet the kindest people when writing and researching these stories.  When details are scant; I go looking for folks.  

This time I found the Atwell family who are direct relations of Lorwyn Peterson. It was a great pleasure to meet you personally!! 

Thanks again for the tidbits of information and the use of the photos.  

Truly – ag

PS. We will get to Fred Nagle next..


Location: Pickford, Curtis and Greenfield

Lorwyn Elwyn Peterson (1908-1945) graduated from Michigan State College in 1930 with a degree in Business Administration. The son of Elwyn and Marie, he was raised in Brooklyn, a small town located in the Irish Hills area of Michigan.

 Photo of Lorwyn Peterson
The courageous and faithful Lt. Colonel Lorwyn Elwyn “Pete” Peterson circa 1943. Photo with kind permission from the Atwell Family.

Peterson enlisted for duty in World War II and rose rank to Lieutenant Colonel and Commander of the 716th Tank Battalion, 43rd Infantry Armored Division. Peterson’s relatives tell us he was to be made a full Colonel, however preferred to stay on with the men he trained for duty.    Continue reading “Lt. Colonel Lorwyn E. Peterson – Park #73”

John C. Nagel – Park 72

Hey – We’re gonna talk about the Nagels and the Nagles.. John and Fred.  Similar pronunciation, same civic mindedness, totally different guys.  Here’s the first installment. Thanks for reading. ag


A young John Nagel. The Detroiter Vol. 191X
A serious John C. Nagel sporting the mustache of the day. Photo: The Detroiter Vol. 7, 1916

In his obituary, John Conrad Nagel [1866 – 1935] was described as one of the most colorful members of Detroit politics. Born in September 1866 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Travels in his younger days were along the Mississippi River for six years laboring as a cabin boy on tugs and ships. Nagel weathered storms and waited hand and foot on ship’s captains. He landed in Pensacola, Florida, became a blacksmith and migrated north to Detroit in 1892. Continue reading “John C. Nagel – Park 72”


In the past I’ve noticed photos of this paved area on Detroit centric sites  with no explanation.  It looked odd. I never knew the location so I just filed it away in my brain with the rest of the clutter.  Recently, through an incident of like mindedness, a fine Detroit artist and photographer asked me to find the background on this “Mayan Temple” play area. 

 Mystery solved.  It’s a fancy schmancy Richard Dattner Adventure Playground and the remnants of a hopeful past


*Please note this is a condensed Campbell style soup gloss over of this federal program.*

Back in the late 60’s through 1974, Detroit and Highland Park were participants in  President Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Model Cities’ program which aimed to eliminate poverty and curb violence; create alternative municipalities and strong urban black leaders. With a Nixon era shift in politics, it morphed into a program of urban housing and development.  Detroit led the way; Highland Park got in for the ride in June 1969.  Both municipalities received a bunch of federal money and tried to create a model city within itself. Highland Park received high fives in local papers for good project management. Detroit received acclaim for participation; overall the Model Cities program was considered a large failure. Continue reading “THE MAYA TEMPLE PLAYGROUND – Park #71”

SSgt. Walter Sak – Park 70

One War, Four Brothers, and a City Park

Location:  Rich, Lovett and Kinsman Streets

The first thing I ever read about Walter Sak Playground was in a city report stating it was “a forlorn park in a forlorn neighborhood”.  Little evidence of a playground remained when I first rolled by.  The surrounding neighborhood was a mixed bag of hope and blight with some new construction and steadfast neighbors just trying to keep it all together. 

I'll replace this with a recent photo soon. Hope the dolphin and helix are still there.
Photo taken in 2015.  I’ll replace this with a recent photo soon. Hope the dolphin and helix are still there.  Notice the church steeple in the background. 

Continue reading “SSgt. Walter Sak – Park 70”

PFC. Thomas W. Boyer – Park 69

— A while back, I helped to clean up Boyer playground with a group of volunteers.  I met Kim Littlejohn that day and I told her I would find out for whom Boyer Park was named.  It took a long while to find the story, but here it is Kim. Sorry no photo of Tom Boyer could be found..  maybe one will appear soon. Super good link about the long gone Wilbur Wright High School below – take a look.  Thanks for reading.  Ag


“There isn’t much of his civil life to tell.  He died so young.  He was born April 15, 1924 in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania.  We brought him to Detroit on December 3, 1927.  He attended Harms Grade School, Wilson Elementary School and he graduated from Wilbur Wright Trade School.  He was a newspaper carrier when he was young.  After graduation he worked as an apprentice at General Motors Research Laboratory. He was getting along fine there until he was drafted into the Army on February 25, 1943…

Boyer Memorial Playground - Southwest Detroit - Dragoon and Vernor
Boyer Memorial Playground – Southwest Detroit – Dragoon and Vernor

Continue reading “PFC. Thomas W. Boyer – Park 69”

Sam Greene – Park #68

I’ve been sitting on this story for a long time.. On this gorgeously sunny Detroit day I stopped by Greene Playground to take a snap of the park.  I met Curtis Green [same name as the park] and his friend Baxter.  We chatted a while and they pointed me in another [the right] direction to my next destination. A lucky day; Baxter has an El Camino [luv the El Camino] and you don’t see many of those outside the southwest.  Yes, it was a lucky day indeed; time well spent.  It’s the small things..  PS This one is for you too Tim Bailey of the Detroit Mower Gang because I know this is your favorite pocket park to mow.  It is a sweet park. ag

Sam Greene - Ellis and Robson - sweet and updated pocket park
Sam Greene – Ellis and Robson – sweet and updated pocket park



How many people can be described like this?  A southern gentleman with a battered fedora, a grin, a dry laugh and a cigar that he smoked down until the ash smudged his lips.  This was Sam Greene.

greene photo 1935
Sam Greene, Detroit News, 1935. “He writes so vividly about the games that you feel yourself a spectator.” 

Continue reading “Sam Greene – Park #68”


Back in the day, streetcars ruled Detroit and then our ‘mass transit’ disappeared. With the advent of the short M-1 line now operating on Woodward, it seems fitting to learn about Fred who back in the day stood behind the idea of mass transit.  ag


Described as a man of integrity, Fred’s record was stellar. In 1940 Councilman John Lodge told the media, “Fred Castator was probably the most honest man I ever knew. I disagreed with him often and sometimes violently, however he’s the only man for whom I ever made a campaign speech.”

Lodge respected Castator and believed he should be elected, however he didn’t believe he was a strong enough orator.  Lodge knew his own political power and leveraged it as an investment for the greater good of Detroit.


A man of simple pleasures, Fred Castator (1882 – 1940) grew up as a farmer’s son in Carsonville, MI. He was proud to tell you his favorite beverages were pink lemonade and buttermilk; he never consumed coffee, tea or hard liquor. He lived in the Michigan thumb for his first two decades, moving to Detroit at 25.
In 1907, Castator found employment as a streetcar conductor with the Detroit United Railways. He was a card carrying union member and took an active interest in the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Motor Coach Employees of America. He believed in mass transit. As their business manager (1915 – 1917) he led the union to victory in several strikes; helped found the Detroit Labor News, and won streetcar workers their first pension system. Continue reading “FRED W. CASTATOR – PARK #66”

Corporal Robert C. Milan – Park 65

– For a super long time, Milan sat in my stuck file, he was an only child [no one alive to contact]; I had found little about him.  Things changed when I answered my phone.  My lucky charm is a retired chiropractor friend.  He checked in with me and I spent 50 quality minutes on the treadmill while he chatted me up.  He inquired, “So how is that park thing?”  I told him I needed a pep talk.  He then proceeded to tell me a story about how his mother once dragged him to a park dedication [“like a million years ago”] .. then something about his mom’s friend Gladys and her boy Bobbie.   Thanks god. 🙂 My lucky day. I found a little clarity and worked off that raw chocolate chip cookie dough I had abused the day before.  Honor the small things in life, they can change the landscape in an instant.  Thanks for reading.  ag

I'd love to credit this photocopied photo of Robert Milan because I feel so lucky to have found it. I can't. It was in a clipping file undated with no attribution. So thanks to that lost soul photographer who took this photo.
I’d love to credit this photocopied photo of Robert Milan because I feel so lucky to have found it. I can’t. It was in a  file undated with no attribution. So thanks to that lost soul photographer who took this photo.

Continue reading “Corporal Robert C. Milan – Park 65”

Hyde Park – Myron Wahls – Park 64


When I am sitting on that panel deciding cases, sometimes I find myself thinking that it’s like playing in a jazz trio and deciding how we’re going to play that tune most effectively so that it comes out sounding good..”  Judge Myron Wahls

Judge Myron “Mike” Hastings Wahls

Park location:  East of Livernois at Warrington and Chippewa.

Judge Wahls (1931-1998) was often referred to as a Rockefeller Republican, a term coined in the mid 1970’s to denote a moderate to liberal political stance similar to New York Governor / U.S. VP Nelson Rockefeller.  He was a unique, talented man confident and comfortable in his own skin.  The media described him as a tireless fighter in matters of the law and within his personal world.

Judge Wahls Photo: Motorcity Muckracker
Judge Wahls Photo: Thanks Motorcity Muckracker

Wahls was tireless.  He served on the Appeals Court from 1982 – 1998.  Reports indicate he reviewed cases at home up until his death from cancer.  Prior, he was nominated by the Republican party to run against Frank Kelley (D) for the position of Michigan Attorney General in 1974.  He lost the bid, but won an appointment to the Wayne County Circuit Court by Governor William Milliken in 1975.

Wahls was an Detroit Attorney and a member of the Michigan Employment Security Commission Appeals Board from 1969-1975.  He fought for civil rights by marching in Alabama and Mississippi in 1964 as part of the Freedom Summer.  He was tireless in his efforts to register people to vote. Continue reading “Hyde Park – Myron Wahls – Park 64”

Commander George Ham Cannon – Park 63

“The past can take you to the future.” – Shirley Burch, NE Detroit Community Activist

Last week I was at Bishop Field with a friend.  An older longtime Detroiter chatted us up.  He said “Oh Detroit will NEVER be great again.  It will never be like it was. And young people can’t make a living off being farmers, so we got to knock that off”.   This conversation seems to always present itself  when I randomly run into folks when trolling Detroit parks.  I think what’s really happening is people won’t believe it until they see it.  I say re-imagine the definition of great, ditch the negativity and believe instead.

There was a time when Detroit was first.. cars, industry, pharmaceuticals, the arsenal of democracy, leadership, a burgeoning film industry, parks system was in the Top 5.  I don’t find these stories because I want to harken back to the way it was.  I don’t revel or get off on WWII stories either [and there are a lot of them in this blog].  My plain aim:  Give Detroit something to think about.

George Ham Cannon Photo: US Marine Corp Public Domain
The handsome George Ham Cannon
Photo: US Marine Corp Public Domain

Fixating on the past isn’t productive but glancing backwards is a-ok.    Glancing backwards, we see Detroit was paved with the dedicated, the super smart, the kind and the exceptional and oh some crappy people too.  Glance around now and see the synergy that is taking place.. we can collectively say  ‘We still got it and maybe even more of it now..along with the trash, crime and blight’.

So, here’s a story about an exceptional Detroiter from way back.. despite today’s deficiencies, we were and are still exceptional.  And yes, back in the day, we were often first like Mr. Cannon.

Continue reading “Commander George Ham Cannon – Park 63”

Michael Herbert “Dad” Butler – Park 61


As far as I know, he’s the only man who gets his name listed in the telephone book as ‘Dad’.

 – George Stark, beloved Detroit News Columnist, 1948

Dad Butler’s incredible athletic ability set him ahead of the pack; a strong and homey nickname became his brand.  Butler simply didn’t want to be missed.  His response to Stark’s commentary:  “That’s to make it easy for the lads to find me.  They come from all over America, you know, and if they happened to be looking for me, I wouldn’t want them to miss the name, in all that fine print.” Continue reading “Michael Herbert “Dad” Butler – Park 61″

Maheras – Gentry Field  #60


7.25.2015 Yesterday, WDET published a wonderful story regarding Bronson Gentry.  Below is the other half of the story on Peter Maheras.

On Peter Maheras..

All who knew him, loved him and enjoyed working with him because of his patience and perseverance in surmounting obstacles. We felt that we had lost a true and good friend, when we heard of his passing, but his memory consoles us in our loss. We believe that he was all that being a good American means.  We who knew Peter believe we are better off, by having known him and having the privilege of calling him, my friend, Peter Maheras. Sincerely,  Curtis Laing – Mantle Club Secretary, 1947 Continue reading “Maheras – Gentry Field  #60”

Owen Francis Hammerberg – Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class – Park 26


Owen Hammerberg was born on May 31, 1920 in the small village of Daggett in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Owen Hammerberg Photo: Courtesy
Owen Hammerberg
Photo: Courtesy

Prior to service, Owen lived with his father downstate in Flint and worked as a shop clerk.  In 1941, he enlisted with the Navy as a diver, serving on both the Battleship USS Idaho and Sub Chaser USS Advent.  He attended Deep Sea Diving School in Washington DC in 1944 and eventually was assigned to the Pacific Fleet Salvage Force in Pearl Harbor, in the territory of Hawaii.  These experiences would prepare him for an assignment where his  bravery and skill would excel and consequently call his life to an abrupt end. Continue reading “Owen Francis Hammerberg – Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class – Park 26”


Edward Voigt is a fairly well known story.  Hopefully, I put in a few details outside of the norm.  Historic accounts of Voigt park call it a “breathing space” –  a great description.  One letter to the editor of a local paper (circa 1922) recommended erecting a memorial hall in Voigt park due to:  1) the city owned the land 2) the park’s lack of use  3) probability that the park would be there in 100 years [yep] 4) saving taxpayer’s money [genius].    Maybe the city fathers and mothers should have heeded that advice? ahh.  ag 


Edward Voigt (1844 – 1920) had a solid reputation for his work ethic and business acumen. 

Voight was a founder of the Detroit Museum of Art.
Voight had philanthropic tendencies and was a founder of the Detroit Museum of Art.

As a landowner, he turned his 150 acre farm off Woodward into Voigt Park Subdivision in the 1890’s.  We can thank him for Boston Boulevard, Chicago Boulevard as well as several of the surrounding streets west of Woodward.

Raised in Germany, he traveled to America with his folks Carl William and Pauline in 1854 on the trans-Atlantic ship, the Malabar. The trio crisscrossed the Midwest settling in Madison, Wisconsin where his father started the Capitol Steam Brewery. Edward began his education and attended the University of Wisconsin. He achieved the status of Brew Master at age 17.  In 1864, the family brewery was sold to Carl Hausmann, a local WI ale competitor.   William Voigt moved to Detroit to start a new brewery; his son Edward went on an adventure to California.  The Detroit Voigt Brewery was built on Grand River at High Street [today this is around Grand River and I-75 area).  Eventually, its 150 ft. chimney would grace the Detroit skyline.  Continue reading “EDWARD WILLIAM VOIGT  –  Park #59”