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Bartleby the Scrivener vegan27
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woodward's plan
Everybody knows that Detroit burned in 1805 when it was just a small frontier town, and that the brand new territorial judge Augustus B. Woodward drew up a new street plan soon afterward, which looked like this:

The plan was based on a 4,000 foot equilateral triangle divided into six equal sections. The center of the original triangle is the Point of Origin, which is clearly marked in Campus Martius Park today.

I had heard that this scheme was intended to be expanded symmetrically. I saw confirmation of this in an appealing image printed in the Detroit Free Press of April 12, 1909:

For some time I've wanted to blow up this image and create a piece of abstract artwork out of it. I emailed the image to lershee, a graphic designer, and after going back and forth she came up with this:

This image is more than just a pretty and symmetrical pattern. It's a symbol of humankind at its best, working to create order and unity out of chaos. It represents the concept of civilization itself. I know that building a city over a wilderness is considered bad in a liberalized society. But I also agree with something that Jim Kunstler once wrote--that if something built by humans is beautiful, functional, and in harmony with its surroundings, then we do not have to apologize for it. Aspiring to build the best possible society makes us worthy to take from that Earth what we need to create it. I'm also reminded of something Brian Mulloy said in his talk about Chief Pontiac, that "Detroit was created by a direct command from Louis XIV who wanted to create a Utopia, a sort of center of civilization where the French and Indians would live together in peace and harmony." Despite the horrors endured by the Indians elsewhere in the country, in early 18th century Detroit, the French and Indians did live in harmony--they spoke each others languages, adopted one another's customs, and intermarried. Although the British and the Americans were hostile to the Indians, and Woodward's plan was drawn up more than a century after the city's founding, I feel that his plan for the city draws upon its early Utopian roots.

I emailed the PDF of Kati's image to the same printing company that made the new signs for the recent home and garden tour and instructed them to print it 87 inches wide and to mount it on foam board.

Scott helped me make the necessary frame. We took two antique 2x4s from this house that had been sitting in my basement and ran them through his table saw to expose the good wood underneath the rough, grey exterior. Next, Scott routered the edges and cut a groove in the pieces to hold the mounted poster. On the left in the image below is what the surface of the 2x4s used to look like.

After that, I mitered, sanded, stained and polyurethaned the pices. I used the same color stain that I've been using for the staircase.

Scott helped me assemble the frame, which was very problematic due to small but compounded mistakes that we had made. But I later messed around with it got it to look halfway decent.

I wanted to hang the poster upstairs above the stairway, which added another layer of complication to the project. I really hate heights, but it became necessary to walk the plank for the sake of art. This is a lot more terrifying than it looks.

I had Scott come over one more time to help me lift the frame onto the screws coming out of the wall. The end result was just what I had hoped:

Obviously, only a small part of Woodward's grandiose scheme was ever implemented. I think the first part to be abandoned was around the fort in the southwest quadrant of the original plan. The surrounding area was owned by the Federal government, who preferred to replat the area as a simple grid. Instead of two diagonal streets running from Campus Martius, Fort Street was built heading west from that point, parallel with Jefferson Avenue and perpendicular to Woodward. This grid expanded into the oldest part of Corktown, until the system was realigned in order to match the borders of the old ribbon farms.

The Utopian visions of the city's original founders and the Americans who rebuilt it probably aren't realistic, but in my home I prefer to display a symbol of the hope that a better, more compassionate, and more civilized world is possible.


That is all. Can't wait to have you and Dr. Girlfriend over to watch Abbi. :-)


Seriously. Crazy cool idea turned into absolutely gorgeous art with masterful execution. Great job to all involved. Totes jealous.