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”


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”