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”

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″

Joe Louis Barrow – Park 22

Joe Louis Barrow – Park 22

joe louis artwork

“Joe Louis is the hardest puncher that I’ve ever seen… He’s a good man. Anyone who plans on beating him had better know what they’re doing.”
— Max Schmeling, before the first Louis-Schmeling fight

His story is well known.  A Detroit original via Alabama.  One of eight children raised by a single mother.   As a young boxer, he  won his first 27 fights of his professional career – 23 of them with knockouts of the opponent.  He trained often at the Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center.  He retired as an undefeated champion.  Louis served in World War II – boxing in the military to raise the spirits of other soldiers.

Despite his incredible personal success and earnings, he endured terrible racial discrimination.  Joe was a lover; he married and divorced several times.  He was known for his personal generosity and his large tax bill owed to the IRS later in life.

A line from his memoir reads “I almost always did what I wanted to do.”  

Joe passed away in Las Vegas in 1981 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery  – an honor bestowed upon him by Ronald Reagan.

Langston Hughes celebrated Joe Louis in his poetic form

To Be Somebody by Langston Hughes

Little girl
Dreaming of a baby grand piano
(Not knowing there’s a Steinway bigger, bigger)
Dreaming of a baby grand to play
That stretches paddle-tailed across the floor,
Not standing upright
Like a bad boy in the corner,
But sending music
Up the stairs and down the stairs
And out the door
To confound even Hazel Scott
Who might be passing!


Little boy
Dreaming of the boxing gloves
Joe Louis wore,
The gloves that sent
Two dozen men to the floor.
Bam! Bop! Mop!

There’s always room,
They say,
At the top.

–The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, p. 374


Our beloved Red Wings play in ‘his’ arena, kids play in his neighborhood park, and a 25ft bronze fist stands proudly on Jefferson Avenue reminding all passersby of his personal dedication, physical strength, his trials, and triumphs.   Joe Louis was a fighter unlike any other.

Louis Park is located adjacent to the Johnson Rec Center.  Near 8 Mile and Wyoming.
Louis Park is located adjacent to the Johnson Rec Center. Near 8 Mile and Wyoming in Detroit, MI.