Bringard – Boulder Playground Park 37

I meet a lot of kind and generous people when researching parks.  They come in the form of people who live in the neighborhood and start talking to me; folks I meet through online databases and those who contact me because they enjoy reading this blog.  I found this tiny story while randomly flipping through the card catalog at Detroit Public Library.  Little did I realize it would be tied to a Detroit Park. 

card catalog

It was just a small clipping glued to a card.  I read it and snapped the photo because I thought it was a really cool story of days gone by.  A time that would never return. I could easily imagine this couple living in the woods; it felt romantic.  I laughed with gratefulness 8 months later when I realized I could connect it to a playground. 

March 2016 Update:

The Kresege Foundation has announced an total grant award of 1.5 million dollars towards 21 different Detroit neighborhood projects. LIFEBUILDERS, an eastside non-profit will strengthen the Regent Park neighborhood with the renovation of Bringard-Boulder playground’s athletic fields and equipment. It’s gonna be a busy summer in Detroit!   Read about all the awards here 

ORIGINAL EASTSIDERS

Catherine with either Joseph or Xavier. Photo courtesy of Erica Amundson.
Catherine with Joseph. Photo courtesy of Erica Amundson.

Bringard – Boulder Playfield is a small park serving an eastside neighborhood just south of 8 Mile Road and east of Gratiot Avenue.  This park is located behind the shuttered Tracey McGregor Elementary school.  In 2014, the greenspace offered a decent backstop and fence for little league baseball, a field and a lone garbage can.

Actually the garbage can was a 55 gallon plastic drum; trash receptacles were a bit of a rarity in Detroit Parks.  I’m not complaining nor being a smart a##; I have visited a lot of parks and was happily surprised by its presence.

TWO STREETS, ONE FAMILY – THE FRENCH CONNECTION

[The French founding connection to Detroit.. that is.. Not the 1970’s movie.]

Bringard-Boulder Playfield is named after two intersecting streets and one family.  Bringard Street runs east and west through Detroit, eventually intersecting with Gratiot Avenue.

Map courtesy of Google.
Map courtesy of Google.  

In the mid 1800’s this point of convergence was complete wilderness in the township of Gross[e] Pointe.  It marked a homestead started by Pierre Joseph Bringard and his bride, Catherine [Gassman] Bringard.  Xavier Bringard, brother also owned property at this spot.  All were French immigrants.

map
The Bringard family land – Joseph and Xavier – the Gross[e] Point Township before annexation to Detroit.  Source:  Wayne County Atlas 1876.  
Joseph was born in Grosmagny, Territoire de Belfort, Franche-Comté, France.   Catherine was born Alsace, Lorraine, France in 1836.  She emigrated with her family and landed in Detroit in 1849.  At 19 years of age, she met and  married Joseph and they lived in the wilderness near this now busy intersection.  The couple brought 10 children into the world on their homestead.

The Bringard's outside their family barn. Undated. Photo courtesy of Erica Amundson.
The Bringard’s outside their family barn. Undated. Photo courtesy of Erica Amundson.

Eventually the land was cleared and it became a family farm.  In 1896, Joseph passed away leaving the land to Catherine.  She remained there until the early 1930’s when it was subdivided and Bringard Street was named for her family.  Catherine passed in 1933 at the age of 97 years.

The Bringard’s were some of the original Detroit east siders.  Can you imagine the changes in the urban landscape and simple technology Catherine witnessed in her lifetime?  Amazing.

A big thanks to Erica A. who gave me kind permission to use her wonderful family photos.  Again, I meet the best folks when researching these stories.  To me, the moral of this story is ‘pay attention to the small things’.

Bringard-Boulder Park on a dreary Detroit day. Sorry the holy trash can isn't in this shot.
Bringard-Boulder Park on a dreary Detroit day. Sorry the holy trash can isn’t in this shot.

©Andrea Gallucci, 2014.