“After the great fire of 1805 which destroyed most of Detroit, Judge Woodward was appointed to oversee the city’s rebuild plan to lay out the streets, squares and lots with the assistance of the best surveyors from Canada. They placed their instruments and astronomical devices on the summit of a huge stone from which they viewed the planets and meteors in order to determine “true North.” Today, we still call this the “Point of Origin,” which is located in center of Campus Martius at the junction of Woodward and Monroe. It is from this point that the City of Detroit’s coordinate system was created.
Years later, former Detroit Mayor Dennis W. Archer set the goal of creating Campus Martius Park as the best public space in the world.”
Where else can you find a sandy beach in summer or ice rink in winter, situated in the downtown core of a large city? Cathryn and I have been to Detroit hundreds of times over the years and driven through the area without giving it much thought. After hearing rave reviews from friends and family who’ve enjoyed the new Campus Martius Park, we decided to check it out ourselves.
We parked in the lot beside the old Checker Bar, one of Detroit’s landmark watering holes, on Cadillac Square. A wine and craft beer tasting was just wrapping up there when we arrived. A short walk west through the square brought us to an oasis in the middle of the Motor City’s towering sky scrapers. The park was full of smiling people, adults and children.
Food and beverage patios ring the park, it’s center a giant sand box where toddlers filled plastic pails with shovels of sand. Some parents sat on lawn chairs along side their family while others enjoyed sipping on chilled drinks, under a shady patio umbrella.
We walked the streets around the park, with the sole purpose of seeking out unique bars or taverns to sample local brews. We hit the Firebird, Jacoby’s, and the Grand Trunk to name a few. The latter still has the best grilled Rueben you’ll ever find. Our unique find of the day was a cellar bar called The Keep, in the basement of a Cadillac Street building constructed in 1895. They specialize in cocktails. It was like hiding out in an old Speak Easy.
Walking back to our car at dusk we were blown away by all the people on the street. Detroit is back!