FATHER OF THE FIRST UNOFFICIAL DETROIT PLAYGROUND
The Diack family has deep roots in Detroit. They were a clan that used intelligence and creativity to make things happen. Let’s refer to them as ‘a family of doers’.
There were three generations of men that bore the name Archibald Warren Diack – a father, his son, and a grandson. They were known as Arch and Archie – never the formal Archibald.
Archibald Warren Diack [Sr.] was a Scottish immigrant born in 1838. He served in the Civil War and later worked as a molder for the Michigan Stove Co. Diack became interested in labor unions and was successful at forming a union at the plant where he worked. Eventually, workers struck and all men settled except for Diack – a lone holdout. Diack was known as a stubborn man, not to compromise. The stove company considered his influence and stature among the other workers; they settled with him separately. Obviously he was a man of principle and action and he raised some remarkably driven children too.
His eldest son, Alexander Diack stopped school to work, but later resumed his studies becoming a successful becoming a dentist and a steamship operator. He pursued his love of skating and was considered an expert figure skater and curler. He studied criminal law and was one of the first and outspoken advocates that worked to appeal the prohibition amendment. Sweetly, he created a bird sanctuary at his home in Birmingham, MI.
Born in 1870, Dr. Archibald W. Diack [Jr.] was multi-talented. He earned degrees in both Dentistry and Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan. At heart, he was an entrepreneur and an inventor. He opened his own laboratory in Detroit in 1909 and later formed a partnership resulting in Diack & Smith (Chemical Engineers and Analysts) in Detroit in 1920. He designed a sterilization system for bandages that was adopted by hospitals across the United States and by the US Navy. The Diack Sterilization Monitor business continues on today in 2013. Before he could forge these accomplishments, Archie served as a Seaman aboard the USS Yosemite in the Spanish American War. The crew on this ship was considered highly educated with approximately 46 men serving from the University of Michigan.
His most unspoken accomplishment was his concern for others- especially youth. During his days as a dentist, the family lived at 942 Congress between Mount Elliot and Leib St. This beautiful address was marked by elm lined streets where neighbors tended to French Pear trees in their yards and well-spoken parrots perched on the large front porches. Back in the day, the neighborhood to the south – the Franklin Settlement – was considered somewhat rough and tumble; the other side of the tracks. Little was available for young men in regards to recreation. Diack befriended the boys of the Franklin Settlement, found them a field, and provided some sporting activities and games. He created one of the first unofficial playgrounds in Detroit. He impressed the importance of education upon them. Ultimately, he made a difference in their lives as many of them became prominent businessmen. Arch passed in 1946.
Archibald Jr. had two sons who both became doctors. Archibald [III] [1907-1993] and was the one of the first persons to conceive of an automated electronic defibrillator; he held the patent. In 1937, he moved from Detroit to Portland, Oregon where he began a long career as a private physician. In Portland, Dr. Diack became heavily involved in environmental stewardship founding a recreational coalition and river basin education project. His strong advocacy for protection of the Sandy River Basin resulted in the “Diack Decision” by the Oregon Supreme Court which changed water laws. Before his death, he began the Diack Family Ecology Fund to sustain his environmental work after he took his last breath.
The park that honors Dr. A. W. Diack is located between Thatcher and Curtis -just north of Outer Drive in Northwest Detroit. It was dedicated on August 10, 1950 many of the ‘Franklin Boys’ attended the dedication ceremony. Personally, I think this park honors the entire Diack family who gave of themselves to make Detroit and the world a better and more interesting place.
Detroit needs to channel that Diack spirit right now.