Exclusive: Two Military Research Libraries are Hidden Gems at Detroit’s Fort Wayne, a circa 1840’s military fort!

Exclusive: Two Military Research Libraries are Hidden Gems at Detroit’s Fort Wayne, a circa 1840’s military fort!

Fort Wayne

Detroit is a mysterious city.

Filled with hidden gems galore and deeply laced with history, Detroit is like some kind of unexplored video game realm awaiting a protagonist whom, swept up in the spirit of adventure, eagerly unearths its treasures to win the game.

One such beautiful example of Detroit’s fascinating history lies in the oft overlooked neighborhood of Delray in the Southwest part of the city, near the cavernous underground salt mines.

Between spooky Zug Island and the old Boblo Docks, stretched out along the Detroit River in an area soon to be populated by the nearly 2-mile long Gordie Howe International Bridge, is historic Fort Wayne.

Fort Wayne aerial photo c. 1980 (photo courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

This beautiful national treasure is also located down the street from Flor-Dri (5450 W. Jefferson), which was once the original site of Michigan’s first printing press in 1809, thanks to Gabriel Richard.

Fort Wayne is an old military fort comprised of around 40 buildings and sits on 96 acres.

87 acres are owned by the City of Detroit Recreation Department & run by the all-volunteer Historic Fort Wayne Coalition (HFWC).

9 acres are owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is referred to as the Detroit Boatyard.

 

Exploring the HFWC’s Two Military Research Libraries

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

I’m exploring the libraries at Fort Wayne with Will Eichler and Tom Berlucchi.

Will and Tom are the two fearless leaders of the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition, a non-profit group of around 20 volunteers who run weekend operations at the fort and whom have been fixing up the fort and fighting to save it from neglect and decay, since Tom founded the coalition in 2001.

Will and Tom are historians and historical preservationists. They are Civil War reenactors and passionate about Living History and honoring the richness of Detroit’s military history, which is why they’re created and curated two outstanding (and growing) military-themed libraries here at the fort.

Will

The two military reference libraries here are not lending libraries, they’re private appointment-only and designed for research. We’re currently accepting donations of military books and we’re hoping to open the libraries up to the general public sometime in the next five years.”

“I would say our largest concentration of books is Civil War material. Our next largest segment is World War II. Beyond that, we have military-related books, maps and ephemera from all over the world and all different time periods.”

Tom

“These libraries help deepen and expand our appreciation of the tremendous amount of history here at Fort Wayne.”

In 1812, the British landed at Fort Wayne on the spot where kids play soccer nowadays.”

“1838 was the Patriot War. Some Detroiters sailed from here into Amherstburg, Ontario on a schooner and shelled Fort Malden and they also took the barracks in Windsor. At the time, there was a revolution going on within Canada. Officially, the USA stayed neutral, except for some private individuals who got involved. Some were executed, some were sent to the Hudson Bay Barges.”

“Then in 1840, there was an initiative by the government to build a series of Northern Frontier forts and the property of Fort Wayne was acquired at that time.”

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Will

“Fort Wayne was designed by Lt. Meigs and construction began in 1843. It was finally completed in 1852. The fort was actually dormant until the Civil War erupted, then it reopened. In the interim, an old Irish couple were the caretakers.”

“We’ve been trying to fix up the fort and bring it alive with military reenactments in ways that are as historically accurate as possible. It’s difficult to generate revenue for preservation. The Fort Adams Trust in Rhode Island might be a good model to follow in terms of making Fort Wayne sustainable long-term.”

What I love is that everybody has a different reason for wanting to visit Fort Wayne. Part of the joy of interpreting this place is finding out for yourself the best way you personally connect with history.”

Tom

“In terms of maintenance, we’re looking to establish a professional service agreement with the City of Detroit. This would provide much needed funds for our ongoing restoration efforts.”

“And for the record, Fort Wayne is not a star-shaped fort.”

“It’s a four-bastioned square fort with an external fortification, which is the 5th part, thus, it’s technically not a true star-shaped fort.”

 

Who are Will and Tom?

Will Eichler & Tom Berlucchi @ Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Will

“Being apart of the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition is my passion.”

“My interest in Living History started when I was 15. I read a book called ‘Rifles for Watie’, a fantastic kid’s book about the Civil War. I read it and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

“I attended the James Madison College of International Affairs at Michigan State University, where I studied political theory. I have a 1,000-volume personal library at home, mainly Civil War and political books.”

“Currently I work in television as camera and Steadicam operator on NBC’s Chicago Fire.”

“I also shoot a bi-weekly video series called Civil War Digital Digest where we cover all aspects of Civil War History.”

Tom Berlucchi @ Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Tom

“My first exposure to Fort Wayne was back in 1974 when I started doing Civil War reenactments here with the Loomis Battery.”

“In 2001, I founded the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition, a non-profit of which I’m chairman. In 2003, we were granted our 501(c)(3) status on Christmas Eve.”

“Prior to that I served in the U.S. Navy from 1979-83.”

“I’m most interested in documenting the history of the Red Scare in Detroit during the 1920’s-30’s. We held 300 Communist prisoners right here at Fort Wayne from 1920-21. It’s a largely unknown history lesson.”

 

Why is Fort Wayne Historically Important?

Fort Wayne historic aerial (photo courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

The land that Fort Wayne sits on used to be known as the Springwells Mounds, a series of old Native American burial mounds dating to at least 1,000 AD. Only one mound still exists at Fort Wayne.

During the 1700’s, the area was a Potawatomi Indian village until around 1780, when they moved away. At the time, the area was prized for being a large sand hill and thus, a good vantage point.

In 1781, Irish fur trader, John Askin, moved to what is now Fort Wayne. He traded furs here until he became Justice of the Peace in Detroit from 1789-1802. Then he moved to Canada.

Shortly after the War of 1812 started, the British entered the US via Sandwich, Canada and landed where Fort Wayne is now and stayed here for over one year.

In 1815, the Treaty of Spring Wells, a 6-foot long parchment roll, was signed here by eight Indian tribes and future president Gen. William Henry Harrison, formally establishing peace between the native tribes and the new occupiers of the Michigan Territory.

old Fort Wayne (courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

Then in 1841, Congress wanted to build fourteen Northern Frontier Forts as a barrier against potential British attacks. Based on the survey of Lt. Macomb, they selected this spot for Fort Wayne, because it was the closest point on the Detroit River to Canada.

Fort Wayne was constructed over an eight-year period from 1843-51. It was named in honor of American Revolutionary War hero Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne.

During this time, future president Ulysses S. Grant lived nearby at 253 East Fort Street, Detroit from 1849-51. It is not officially known if Grant spent any time at Fort Wayne but the general consensus is that he most likely did due to his military involvement and close proximity to the fort.

On April 12, 1861, the Civil War exploded when the Confederates fired on Fort Sumpter, South Carolina. Two days later, President Lincoln began mobilizing the Union into action.

Fort Wayne immediately became a training center and infantry garrison for Michigan’s 1st Infantry Regiment, including the Coldwater Cadets, some 780 men, who fought in the First Battle of Bull Run.

Several other regiments, totaling an estimated 14,000 troops, passed through Fort Wayne during the Civil War.

old Fort Wayne schematic (courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

In 1885, Springwells Township, where Fort Wayne was located, was annexed to the city of Detroit.

During World War I, over 500 African American troops were stationed at Fort Wayne.

In the 1930’s, the Great Depression hit the country hard and hundreds of homeless families lived in the old Civil War-era limestone barracks.

During World War II, the city of Detroit was the “Arsenal of Democracy.” Some 2,000 people moved to Fort Wayne and helped coordinate the supply of military vehicles and tanks to the U.S. military overseas via the Fort Wayne Ordinance Depot.

Fort Wayne was also used as a training and induction center. POW’s from Italy were housed here. Several of them, including Eduardo Barbieri, became permanent residents of Detroit after the war ended.

Fort Wayne (courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

In 1949, the U.S. Federal Government officially transferred ownership of Fort Wayne to the City of Detroit and the property was run by the City of Detroit Historical Commission.

During the Cold War, Nike Ajax missiles were installed here in 1957 and replaced by Nike Hercules missiles in 1959.

The Fort served as an induction center during the Vietnam War.

In 1967, Fort Wayne was officially deactivated.

From 1967-71, families whose homes were burned down in the Detroit Riots, lived in the old limestone barracks.

Over 200 years after its construction, the fort was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The empty fort fell into decline and decayed for almost four decades before the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition stepped in in 2001. Then in 2006, the City of Detroit Recreation Department assumed ownership.

 

Unknown Facts about Fort Wayne

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Will

“Fort Wayne still has the original limestone barracks from 1845 and also the original 1880’s houses on Officer Row.”

“There used to be a cemetery here. Over 150 graves were moved to nearby Woodmere Cemetery (9400 W. Fort St, Detroit) around 1896.”

“Also, not many people know this, but there were three jails, called Guard Houses, on-site here at Fort Wayne. They weren’t here all at once, so it depends on the decade.”

Tom

“In 1887, a man named Arthur Stone tried escaping Fort Wayne and Sgt. Clark shot him dead here.”

“A woman named Elsie Woline committed suicide in Building 108, the Commandant’s Building. She was African American in the employ of Captain French and was jilted by a lover. She took her own life by drinking carbolic acid.”

“One of the most incredible things about Fort Wayne is that we’ve had somewhere between 23-27 Medal of Honor recipients tour the fort, including Surgeon Irwin, a U.S. Army surgeon during the Apache Wars, whom had one of the first ever-issued.”

My personal goal is to obtain copies of all of these medals and display them here with stories.”

Tom Custer, George’s little brother, was in the 6th Michigan Cavalry and was the only person in the entire Civil War to win two Medals of Honor.”

 

Annual Civil War Reenactments @ Fort Wayne

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

Will

“Tom and I are both huge Civil War fanatics. I follow Michigan’s 5th Infantry and the 3rd Regiment the most.”

“In the library here, we have a framed photo of Texans retreating from Maryland to Virginia after the Battle of Antietam, which was the single bloodiest day in American history.”

“We also have a ton of great Civil War books in the reference library, including a series of pamphlet-size blue books, which talk about small arms used by Michigan troops in the Civil War.”

Tom

“Our reenactments are extremely specific recreations. The soldiers even stay in the original barracks and pay in period script, not modern money.”

What does it for me, what brings history alive, is getting to walk on the same floors, the same stairways that those soldiers did. Thinking of how many thousands of people have passed through here over the years, it’s incredible.”

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Will

“During our reenactment, Maj. Gen. Israel Richardson, killed during the Battle of Antietam and whose grave is under a big oak tree at Oak Hill Cemetery in Pontiac, Michigan, his original jacket was here in the museum inside our Visitors Center.”

“The 2nd Michigan Regiment is here and we garrison the fort the way it was in the 1860’s.”

“I’m also hoping to have my documentary about Fort Wayne completed at some point this year. The documentary is produced by my own company, Ravelin Films.”

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Tom

“I cried back when we opened the barracks for the very first time and the Union reenactors marched through. It was a touching moment.”

“I also cried when we fired a salute with real canons here in honor of a man named Luiz who drowned in Lake Erie back in 2008. Luiz went to Southwest High School and played soccer here and a ton of his friends and family came out for the memorial.”

“As for the fort, I’m a preservationist but I’m also realistic. It’s not all going to be saved. We still have WWII-era electrical here, no insulation on the power lines. The plumbing needs updating. There’s probably $250 million dollars’ worth of restoration needed. But we’ll continue doing what we can.”

Will

“If you haven’t been to Fort Wayne yet, make plans right now to come visit us. It’s a must-see destination!”

 

To donate your military books to Fort Wayne, please contact:

Info@HistoricFortWayneCoalition.com

 

Fort Wayne

6325 West Jefferson Ave.

Detroit, MI 48209

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

 

Historic Fort Wayne Coalition

https://www.historicfortwaynecoalition.com/

 

HFWC Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/HistoricFortWayneEvents

 

Annual Civil War Reenactment (2nd weekend in June)

https://www.historicfortwaynecoalition.com/cwdays.html

 

Civil War Digital Digest (bi-weekly; run by Will Eichler)

https://www.youtube.com/civilwardigitaldigest

 

Hold My Horse: A Short Film about Israel Richardson by Will Eichler

https://www.facebook.com/groups/HoldMyHorseMovie/?ref=group_header

Hold My Horse: A Short Film about Israel Richardson by Will Eichler

 

Detroit Parks & Rec

https://detroitmi.gov/departments/parks-recreation/fort-wayne

 

National Register of Historic Places (Fort Wayne tracking # 71000425)

https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/AssetDetail?assetID=7edfca5e-4fb0-4644-95fd-912173c5d0f4

 

Civil War Medal of Honor database (1,522 recipients)

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/medal-of-honor

Historic Fort Wayne Tours

Flor-Dri (5450 W. Jefferson, Detroit), which was once the original site of Michigan’s first printing press in 1809, thanks to Gabriel Richard (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

 

Exclusive Interview: Detroit music legend & founder of rock band The MC5, WAYNE KRAMER, on his new memoir ‘The Hard Stuff’!

Exclusive Interview: Detroit music legend & founder of rock band The MC5, WAYNE KRAMER, on his new memoir ‘The Hard Stuff’!

*Special thank you to Book Beat & Street Corner Music for allowing us in your stores*

Wayne Kramer probably shouldn’t be alive right now.

A normal human would’ve folded up and exploded decades ago from a pulverizing combination of “Hard Stuff,” like hard music, hard drugs, hard living and hard lessons. Thankfully, however, Wayne is here with us, alive and well enough to tell the ongoing tale of his fascinating existence.

Wayne Kramer and his Detroit rock band the MC5 changed rock music by cranking the dial to totally immersive no-holds-barred high-intensity levels of DNA-mutating volume and they’re also widely credited with inadvertently creating what was later labeled as the genre of ‘punk music’.

While the band itself disintegrated in 1972 in a cyclone of heroin, revolutionary Sinclair politics, disenchantment and becoming alienated and disconnected from each other, the MC5’s music has withstood the brutal and purifying test of time. They came, they saw, they melted faces with blistering full-body knockout attack music and helped forge Detroit’s enduring sobriquet, Detroit Rock City.

It has been said that listening to the MC5 live was like having an out-of-body experience, like exorcising daemonic barnacles and freeing your soul, like a psychedelic journey to pre-birth regression, a glorious stripping away while being thrashed to the point where you suddenly Wake Up, Fully Emerged.

I’m sitting here right now with Brother Wayne Kramer in the back room at Book Beat bookstore.

Wayne is in town from Los Angeles and bookstore owner Cary Loren, formerly of Ann Arbor arthouse band Destroy All Monsters, has kindly given us a fun space to chat.

We’re discussing Wayne’s life and memoir ‘The Hard Stuff,’ which will be published on August 14th by Da Capo Press.

Buy The Hard Stuff here 

https://www.dacapopress.com/titles/wayne-kramer/the-hard-stuff/9780306921537/

Later this year, Wayne is going on a 35-city tour with his band MC50 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of MC5’s Kick Out The Jams. Their tour will culminate in an October 27th show at the newly renovated Fillmore Detroit.

Wayne is also a prominent solo recording artist and has done countless collaborations with people like David Peel, Johnny Thunders, Don Was, etc.

Parts of my life have been written about extensively, especially my time in the MC5. Less so my time in prison and my work with Jail Guitar Doors. Just wanted to have a record from my perspective, straight from the horse’s mouth.”

“I wanted to understand myself better and chronicle the realizations. To sort out the order that things happened in and review some of the stupendously terrible things I’ve done in my life. For years, my friends have prodded me to write a book but I could never figure out how to end it, since the story isn’t finished. The arrival of my son Francis, who is turning five soon, the whole life I’ve lived up to his arrival was one life, so now I can begin the other life. If I die tomorrow, I want my son to have a record of my life straight from me not vicariously from news articles.”

I started writing the book in 2006. Started just casually jotting down thoughts and memories in a notebook. A lot of stuff was in the front of my thoughts and therefore easily accessible. Then I got about forty 3 x 5 cards and put them on a corkboard and created a chronology of events.”

“After a while I had the shaping of what looked like an actual book on my hands, so we engaged an agent and secured a publisher. I’m a musician. Telling stories is my business and lifelong passion and it’s always a pleasure. The book was completed in November 2017.”

MC5: The Motor City 5

Born April 30th, 1948, Wayne Kramer was the founder and guitarist of rock band The Motor City Five, which was later shortened to MC5 in honor of being more in tune with the Detroit auto industry.

Wayne started the band in 1963 at Lincoln Park High School in Lincoln Park, Michigan, a Downriver suburb of Detroit.

At the time, Wayne was the band leader of The Bounty Hunters. He met Fred Smith of The Vibratones and Fred soon merged his band with Wayne’s band into The Bounty Hunters. They played venues like The Crystal Bar on Michigan Ave & Central in Southwest Detroit until changing their name to The Motor City 5 in the Fall 1964.

The MC5 consisted of:

Wayne Kramer guitar, Rob Tyner vocals, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith guitar, Michael Davis bass, and Dennis ‘Machine Gun’ Thompson drums.

Wayne explains:

It started off innocently enough with ‘Hey, any kids want to be in a band with me?’ Ultimately, we ended up with the MC5.”

“The MC5 started at Helen and Gregory avenues in Lincoln Park, Michigan. Tyner lived 4 blocks away, Dennis lived 10 blocks, Fred lived 10 blocks in another direction. My Mom’s house was the center for all of us and she kindly let us practice in the basement.”

“Rob Tyner and I could draw. Rob’s friend Gary Grimshaw could draw chrome, the finish on hot rod cars. So, Gary and Rob ending up designing a lot of our handbills and posters, especially the Grande Ballroom ones. Rob was indeed a gifted artist and cartoonist, not many people know that.”

And yes, it’s true, Rob reinvented everything. He nicknamed Fred ‘Sonic’, shortened our name to the MC5, nicknamed Dennis ‘Machine Gun’, even renamed himself from Bob Derminer to Rob Tyner. He was a very creative man.”

“The MC5 used to play everywhere: school cafetoriums, dances, record hops, bars, clubs, outdoors, indoors, sideways, upside down, you name it, we were there. When you love to play music, it doesn’t matter where you play it. You just establish a good band and put your 10,000 hours in playing your asses off anywhere-anyway you can.”

The MC5 played 400-500 performances over the lifespan of the band. I was 16-20 years old when all this happened, my formative years. At 19 or 20, you’re pretty crazy since your brain isn’t done growing. You’re basically insane until 30.”

“We all have powerful experiences and changes at that age and to be in the center of larger forces at that time like the youth culture movement, government oppression, phonetaps, the FBI building a file on us (yes, I have a copy of the file), was just overwhelming. I remember when I caught my federal coke case, the officer said to me, ‘Kramer, we got shit on you going back to the Sixties’.

“What set the MC5 apart from our contemporaries is we addressed the audiences concerns directly. Since we all shared the same concerns, we felt it our responsibility to help voice these concerns and voice them LOUDLY.”

We were a rock band in a time when rock music came of age and we were a part of a community of young people in agreement to reject the established ideas of how life should be. The hypocrisy and corruption we saw was unbearable as a community. We were being forced to fight a war 30,000 miles away when there was no direct threat to the United States. It was illegal, it was immoral and America, which claimed to stand for equal rights, didn’t give equal rights to all citizens, only a chosen select few.”

“And even 50 years ago, we felt and knew that weed was less toxic than the government claimed. We were commenting directly on this stuff and we were the only band doing so heart to heart, face to face. You felt our music, boy, and you could never un-feel it. Hearing the MC5 live touched you deeply and forever.”

“In terms of people considering the MC5 and The Stooges as the “godfathers” of punk music, I can see where you can connect the dots. The Clash, The Damned, The Ramones, etc, when you asked all those early punk bands who they listened to and were inspired by, almost all of them say the MC5 and The Stooges. To me “punk” has always been around, we just didn’t use that expression. Beethoven, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, all those guys were punks in the sense that they had to reinvent music for their generations. It’s important to have your own sound and be original.”

“The MC5 was not frilly, not snobby, not elitist, it’s just in your face, grab you by the throat, rock and roll.”

MC5 played opening night at the Grande, Detroit’s psychedelic ballroom, thanks to Russ Gibb. The Grande was a magical place.”

We all lived together in the same house as a band. We lived in Detroit, then we moved to Ann Arbor to a place called the Hill Street House for a while, then we had a house in Hamburg, Michigan on Hall Road. It was not far from Hamburg Lake. Beautiful, remote spread in the middle of 10-acres of wooded land, just absolutely spectacular. We loved it. We were a bunch of maniac musicians. You could run around with no clothes on, shoot guns, smoke weed, do whatever you wanted to do, it was great.”

“Our bassist Mike Davis wrote a memoir about his life and MC5 and many stories in Mike’s book are consistent with mine, at least, the fundamental facts. I don’t blame Mike for some of the stuff that was written. I’m sure I was an absolute nightmare to be around. The bad behavior was rampant and eventually, the MC5’s shared creative vision had disintegrated into drugs. Heroin was all-pervasive in Detroit back then and we were young musicians, so everywhere we went, it was already there waiting for us, in our face, you couldn’t escape it.”

“Rob tried quitting the MC5 for 2-3 years. Every year, he’d make a declaration that he didn’t want to be in the band anymore, but he never left. Finally, he and Fred got into a fistfight, and he said he’d had enough. Our last show was New Year’s Eve 1972 at the Grande. I walked off stage mid-show and that was that. The end of an era.”

 

The MC5 Eat LSD with Timothy Leary at Tim’s House in California

“On March 23rd, 1969, we played a free concert in Provo Park. Timothy Leary was there, he liked our show and invited us back to his house in the Berkeley Hills.”

“He had all this liquid LSD that we poured into a big bottle of dark red wine and we drank LSD wine with him in front of a roaring fire in his living room, while his mother-in-law was there!

“The band wanted to go out carousing. I wanted to stay with Leary and have the total LSD experience with the guru and then the funniest thing happened.”

Machine Gun Thompson and I are sitting in front of the fire with Tim’s mother-in-law, Tim walks in with his wife Rosemary and announces “welp, we’re going to bed, you guys have a good night.” He walks away, Machine Gun and I look at each other and I’m thinking, ‘Whoaaaa. I’m tripping my brains out with Timothy Leary’s mother-in-law’. Then I say to Dennis, ‘Maybe we should go back to the hotel.’ Dennis agrees and he somehow drives us back to the hotel.”

 

Wayne’s Favorite Authors

“Dozens of favorites. I read a lot. They run the gamut: Philip Roth, Christopher Hitchens, Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Hemingway, Sam Harris, Luc Sante, etc. My son is going to be five soon and he’s reading some elemental stuff already. I told him that the whole world will open up to you through reading. Plus, you can travel in time through books.”

 

Wayne’s Parents

“The MC5 was formed during our teen years when we were young and trying to break out and establish our own identity beyond our parents, which is important.”

I had a father that abandoned our family when I was little. I was an angry little boy who grew into an even angrier young man. I thought changing my name to “Wayne Kramer” was the perfect revenge, since he would never share in my glory.”

“Later, in my 40’s, I met my father. He was a community activist in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania and he was in the hospital. We built a relationship, I mean you can’t dial it back and recover what was lost to time, but I got to have a more mature perspective on this man whom I was biologically connected to.”

“He had been a U.S. Marine in the South Pacific during WWII. He came back profoundly damaged and treated what we now called “PTSD” with alcohol, which he said kept the daemons at a distance. It didn’t stop the endless horrors, but it helped create a cloudy buffer.”

“The hole in my development as a boy, not having a model of what manhood is, being left to deal with challenges, responsibilities, dangers without a father was very difficult.”

My Mother did a great job as a single working mom. She’s my hero to this day. I also had 2 younger sisters. My Mom raised us three kids on her own. Single working mothers are the hardest working humans on planet earth.”

 

Wayne Helps Iggy & The Stooges Get Signed

“I was responsible for getting The Stooges a record contract with Elektra Records. Danny Fields asked me if I knew any other group like the MC5. I said ‘No Danny, there’s nobody like the MC5. But, you should see our brother band The Psychedelic Stooges.’”

“We loved Iggy and The Stooges, all of us hung out together, got high together, listened to the same free jazz music. Before then, Iggy was a drummer in a great blues band called The Prime Movers.”

I actually tried recruiting him into the MC5 one time but he left for a brief stay in Chicago with The Prime Movers. Iggy and I are still great friends to this day and I’m proud of how successful he is.”

 

Wayne Gets Arrested During the Detroit Riots

“In July 1967, we were living on Warren and Forest in Detroit by Wayne State University and we had a telescope in our upstairs window. The Riots kicked off and the cops saw the telescope and thought we were snipers.”

“Next thing I know, my doors being busted down and there’s a U.S. Army tank pointing its canon at our house! It’s in the street, right outside our front door! The cops swarmed in, slammed us down and took us to 1300 Beaubien Street, the Detroit Police HQ. They eventually let us go but it was an experience that stuck with me.”

 

On Being Incarcerated in America

From 1975-77, Wayne Kramer did time at Lexington Federal Prison in Lexington, KY for selling cocaine. The experience had a profound and negative impact on him.

MC5 bassist Mike Davis, Stooges roadie Hiawatha Bailey, writer William S. Burroughs, actor Peter Lorre, musicians Red Rodney, Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, etc, all did drug time at Lexington.

Going to prison is a traumatic experience. You are discovering for the first time what it means to not have liberty, to not be free, to be totally under the control of systems and people.”

You never feel safe. You’re surrounded in very close quarters by dangerous people with mental health issues constantly. You have no power over your own life. The sort of helplessness and hopelessness you experience in prison is impossible to accurately communicate unless you yourself have experienced it directly.”

The prison experience is embarrassing and shameful and I don’t know anyone whose come out better. Prison has never helped anyone, myself included. It’s a medieval concept that just lives on and on and on and on. 90% of inmates can be held accountable for breaking the social contract in their communities but imprisoning people runs against a sense of fairness, which really doesn’t exist in America.”

 

Jail Guitar Doors USA

In 1978, London punk band The Clash wrote a song about Wayne Kramer called ‘Jail Guitar Doors’. That song title served as inspiration for Wayne Kramer, his wife Margaret Kramer and his friend Billy Bragg in naming his non-profit Jail Guitar Doors USA in 2008.

“Jail Guitar Doors is a non-profit with a mission to help rehabilitate prison inmates by teaching them to express themselves positively through music.”

“Since my release, I’ve watched the prison population rise for over 40 years. There were 350,000 people in state and federal prisons combined back then. Today, in the United States, we have 2.3 million people in prisons.”

“This tragedy has deeply affected every single community in the country. Sending people to prison is not a deterrent. You come out worse, not better. With Jail Guitar Doors, we try to mitigate the damage by helping the individual rehab through music and change for the better.”

“Just think about it: 600,000 prisoners are released every year. Who do you want standing in line with you at the store? Someone bitter, defeated, revengeful or somebody who has hope and music?

“Earlier today, we took some local musicians to the Ryan Reentry Center in Detroit to establish a songwriting workshop. Today we wore a song about freedom, we helped inmates there talk about childhood trauma and forgiveness. Doing the work itself is the reward.”

“I don’t ever expect to see true justice reform in my lifetime. It’s like turning the Titanic away from the iceberg. But we will continue doing what we can to help.”

 

Detroit to Los Angeles

I’ve been in L.A. for 25 years, it suits my activities. I pay the rent by writing film and TV music. You have to go where your job skills are marketable.”

“Most of the year the climate is spectacular, but it’s been very hot lately. Great community in L.A., lot of friends there.”

“Jail Guitar Doors is based there. We’re on 10 prison yards in California and we have acoustic guitars in 120 prisons in America.”

I visit Detroit often to see family and friends and play gigs and the city will always be in my heart forever.

 

Wayne Kramer Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/waynekramer/

 

Wayne Kramer @ Industrial Amusement

http://industrialamusement.com/artists/wayne-kramer/

 

Buy The Hard Stuff here 

https://www.dacapopress.com/titles/wayne-kramer/the-hard-stuff/9780306921537/

 

MC5 Calendar of Shows

http://makemyday.free.fr/mc5calendar.htm

 

MC5: An Incomplete (But Interesting) Timeline

  • 1963-Wayne Kramer forms The Bounty Hunters. Fred Smith merges his band The Vibratones with Wayne’s band.
  • 1963-Gary Grimshaw moves to apartment building 633 Prentis St, Detroit. Michael Davis moves to the same building and Rob Tyner’s girlfriend lives across the hall from him. Mike meets Rob and gradually becomes the bassist for the MC5.
  • December 1963-The Bounty Hunters play The Crystal Bar (Michigan Ave & Central St, Detroit)
  • Fall 1964-The Bounty Hunters are re-named The Motor City 5
  • May 1965-Rob Tyner shortens the bands name to MC5
  • 1966-MC5 move to the Warren Forest neighborhood in Detroit’s Cass Corridor near Wayne State University at apartment (659 W. Canfield)
  • September 1966-Plum Street (Detroit’s Haight-Ashbury psychedelic district) opens
  • October 7th, 1966-Russ Gibb opens the Grande Ballroom. MC5 plays opening night.
  • October 1966-LSD made illegal
  • November 20th, 1966-MC5 & Velvet Underground play ‘Carnaby Street Fun Festival’ @ Michigan State Fairgrounds, Detroit

  • 1967-MC5 move to Detroit Artists Workshop building and live upstairs (1252 W. Forest) and The Lodge at Warren
  • 1967-John Sinclair morphs Artists Workshop into Trans-Love Energy Collective
  • April 30, 1967-Trans Love produces Love-In concert on Belle Isle @ Remick Music Shell. MC5 plays for 6,000 people. The Outlaws motorcycle gang starts riot.
  • Summer 1967-The Stooges live at first Stooge house (1324 Forest Ct, Ann Arbor)
  • June 9th, 1967-MC5 blow main act Cream offstage at the Grande.
  • July 1967-Detroit Riots
  • August 1967-John Sinclair becomes manager of the MC5
  • Halloween 1967-The Psychedelic Stooges first show ever @ UofM Student Union
  • November 22nd, 1967-The Who play Southfield High School
  • November 24-26, 1967-The Fugs & MC5 play the Grande
  • January 4th, 1968-Russ Gibb finances the MC5 recordings of Looking At You and Borderline @ United Sound System studios (5840 2nd Ave, Detroit). Gary Grimshaw designs the cover. Jeep Holland’s A-Square label releases only 500 copies.
  • February 23rd, 1968-Jimi Hendrix, MC5 & Soft Machine play the Masonic in Detroit
  • March 3rd, 1968-The Stooges first play the Grande
  • April 11th, 1968-MC5’s first-ever show with The Stooges @ UofM Union Ballroom
  • May 1968-Trans-Love move from Detroit to Ann Arbor’s Hill Street House (1510 and 1520 Hill Street). MC5 join the commune.
  • July 1968-MC5 play free concert at the West Park bandshell in Ann Arbor
  • August 25th, 1968-MC5 play Lincoln Park, Chicago during riot
  • September 7th, 1968-JC Crawford first introduces the MC5
  • September 21st, 1968-Danny Fields sees MC5 live at the Grande
  • September 22nd, 1968-Danny Fields sees The Stooges @ the Union Ballroom, Ann Arbor
  • September 1968-Danny Fields gets Elektra Records to sign both bands: MC5 sign to Elektra for $20,000 and The Stooges sign for $5,000. Elektra is known as the label of The Doors.
  • October 30-31, 1968-MC5 record debut live album ‘Kick Out the Jams’ at the Grande Ballroom. The Stooges were the kicker act. Free show.
  • November 1st, 1968-John Sinclair creates White Panther Party based on idea from Pun Plamondon
  • November 1968-The Stooges move to The Fun House (2666 Packard rd, Ann Arbor). MC5 hang out here frequently. Nico lives here for a bit.
  • December 12-14, 1968-MC5 plays on bill with Velvet Underground for 3 days in Boston
  • December 23rd, 1968-MC5 opens for The Crazy World of Arthur Brown @ Olympia
  • January 4th, 1969-MC5’s Rob Tyner is on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine
  • February 1969-Detroit’s famous Hudson’s department store refuses to stock MC5’s albums. In response to this, MC5 runs a full-page ad entitled ‘Fuck Hudson’s’ in local magazines The Fifth Estate, Ann Arbor Argus, The Sun. As a result, Hudson’s department stores pulls all Elektra Records albums from their shelves.

  • March 1969-Creem Magazine debuts
  • March 1969-Elektra Records drops the MC5
  • May 1969-John Cale brings The Stooges to NYC to produce their first album
  • June 1969-MC5 sign to Atlantic Records and get a hefty $65,000 advance
  • October 18th, 1969-Led Zeppelin, MC5, Grand Funk play Olympia in Detroit
  • January 15th, 1970-MC5 release their 2nd album ‘Back in the USA
  • May 1970-MC5 move from Hill Street House (Ann Arbor) out to Hamburg, Michigan
  • August 3rd, 1970-MC5 @ Mt. Clemens Pop Festival in Sportsman Park
  • August 7-9th, 1970-MC5 and The Stooges play Goose Lake Music Festival (200,000 people)
  • April 1971-White Panther Party dissolves
  • July 6th, 1971-MC5 release ‘High Time’ album
  • 1972-Rob Tyner and Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith get into a fistfight
  • December 31, 1972-MC5’s last show ever. Grande Ballroom. Wayne Kramer is so disgusted, he leaves mid-show.
  • MC5’s proposed 4th album, ‘Live on Saturn’ never comes to fruition.
  • 1975-Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith starts Sonic’s Rendezvous Band
  • 1975-77-Wayne Kramer does time at Lexington Federal Prison. Fellow inmates include Mike Davis and Hiawatha Bailey

 

 

 

Exclusive Interview:  Author, Lawyer & Former Detroit Mayor DENNIS ARCHER on his memoir ‘Let the Future Begin’!

Exclusive Interview: Author, Lawyer & Former Detroit Mayor DENNIS ARCHER on his memoir ‘Let the Future Begin’!

Photo Courtesy of Detroit Archives

 

“Ding!” the elevator door opens. I step inside. Whoosh! The marble-paneled elevator cruises fast up to the 40th floor of Ally Detroit Center, tallest office building in the State of Michigan and the 2nd tallest building in Detroit.

I spill out onto the 40th floor, immediately enraptured by the fantastic vantage of Detroit’s cityscape, including spectacular views of the Guardian Building, Detroit’s main US Post Office and the Ambassador Bridge.

 

Photo by Ryan M. Place

 

619 feet tall. 43 floors. I’m almost at the very top of the building, here inside the world headquarters of the Dickinson Wright law firm where Dennis Archer is Chairman Emeritus.

Dickinson Wright has 450 lawyers in over 20 offices in the United States, helping people in 40 different areas of law.

I’m here discussing Mr. Archer’s new memoir, Let The Future Begin’.

 

 

The title is based on the slogan his mayoral campaign manager, David Axelrod, created for him. Axelrod later became President Obama’s chief strategist, senior advisor and CNN commentator.

Mr. Archer’s memoir is a fascinating, thorough and riveting account of his incredible life and career.

Sitting here now with me, Dennis is soft spoken, careful, measured, brilliant, a natural tactician and we have an absorbing 2.5-hour long conversation, going well beyond the initial 45 minutes we originally intended.

 

Photo by Ryan M. Place

 

Dennis is a patient listener and thoughtful conversationist. Listening to people, rather than telling them what they want, has always been his leadership style.

Archer was a popular Mayor because he was perceived by most people, regardless of political affiliation, as someone who truly cares about the city of Detroit and its residents. Speaking with him, you can tell his concern is sincere and genuine and not some contrived act for the cameras.

Widely admired for his strong moral philosophy, Archer has spent his life relentlessly focused on the value of education and encouraging people to learn as much and as often as they can to help improve their lives and communities.

 

 

Having attended Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Detroit College of Law, Dennis Archer went on to become:

A husband, father, teacher, Michigan Supreme Court Justice, partner at Dickinson Wright law firm, two-term Mayor of the City of Detroit, the first African American president of the Michigan Bar Association and of the 400,000-member American Bar Association, president of the National League of Cities and creator of the Dennis W. Archer Foundation, where he’s given out $1.5 million dollars in scholarships to students.

Dennis Archer is a hard-working, dedicated, no-nonsense, man of action and this is his tale.

 

Quick Biography

Photo by Ryan M. Place

 

Born New Year’s Day 1942 at Rogers Hospital in Detroit, Dennis Archer lived here until 1947, when he moved to Cassopolis, a rural village in Southwest Michigan.

Dennis grew up poor in a house with an outhouse and he bathed in a big metal tub every Saturday night.

 

Cassopolis Court House

 

His father’s family was from North Carolina and Logan County, Ohio and he had one arm, a 3rd grade education and was an extremely hard worker. His mother’s family was from Virginia and both were very influential in Dennis’ life.

Cassopolis was small town USA. Cat litter was invented here in 1947 by resident Ed Lowe. Dennis grew up here listening to doo wop, caddying & golfing and working at the local pickle factory. In 1959, he moved back to Detroit after high school graduation and enrolled at Wayne State University.

 

MLK in Detroit c. 1963 (photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)

 

He was a drummer in the school marching band when they played for President JFK in Washington, D.C. in 1961. Two years later, Dennis marched with 125,000 people led by Martin Luther King Jr. down Woodward Avenue in Downtown Detroit when he gave his first ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963.

Dennis eventually transferred from Wayne State to Western Michigan University to become a teacher. He graduated and returned to Detroit where he met fellow teacher and future wife Trudy DunCombe, an EMU grad, in 1965.

After that, he enrolled in the Detroit College of Law, got married and became involved in the fields of law and politics in Detroit.

 

Kresge’s Department Store (photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)

 

“What do I like most about Detroit? Everything. I was born here. I remember my first five years on earth here. My dad sent my mother, who was pregnant with me, from Cassopolis to Detroit to be born in a hospital. Cassopolis had no hospital and our house didn’t have a telephone.”

“The first place I lived in Detroit was my Aunt Hattie’s on McDougall Street, a few blocks down from Joe Louis’ mother’s house, they lived at 2100 McDougall. Then we moved to my Grandma’s on Rivard and Lafayette in the Black Bottom neighborhood. We’d walk downtown to Kresge’s Department Store frequently. Detroit has always been a fascinating and wonderful place to me.”

 

Writing His Memoir

Photo by Ryan M. Place

 

“I did not keep diary or journal but my wife kept news articles. I wrote the book after having been encouraged by a number of  people who finally convinced me that it might be very helpful and enlightening to my sons and grandsons and the general public to have a record of my experiences.”

“My grandsons were 11 and 8 years old when I started writing the book in August 2015. Took me a while to figure out how best to write a book without a lot of emphasis on “I”. If you pass by a fencepost and happen to see a turtle sitting on top, you know it didn’t get there by itself.”

 

Eliabeth Ann Atkins (photo courtesy of Atkins Greenspan)

 

“By working with a co-author, Elizabeth Ann Atkins, she could interview the people who were a part of Detroit and my life and they could share their true feelings with her. The book was finally published in December 2017.”

 

People of Color

Dennis Archer playing golf (photo courtesy of Doug Ashley)

 

“People of color used to not be able to join the Detroit Golf Club until Coleman Young helped change that. Cardinal Szoka nominated Mayor Young and he became a Social Member in 1986, which paved the way for other people of color to join like Walt Watkins, Walt Douglas, S. Martin Taylor and myself, etc.”

 

The Detroit Riots

Detroit Riots 1967 (photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)

 

“The Rebellion of 1967 increased my motivation to be a lawyer. In Spring 1966, I started at Detroit College of Law. I taught school during the day and attended law school at night and graduated January 1970.”

“In 1967, I was a student law clerk at the firm of Damon J. Keith. I got married on June 17, 1967. My father-in-law and I liked to play golf, so I picked him up the morning of July 23rd . We were coming home, and we could see smoke in the air, hear sirens. A lot of sirens, more than usual. Distant yet deafening. I dropped him off and drove home to our apartment.  That’s when Trudy told me how things had started.”

Gov. Romney and Mayor Cavanagh asked for troops to come in. We lost 47 lives and over 7,000 people were arrested and were housed on Belle Isle.”

“Detroit Recorder’s Court judges put a call out for all lawyers to come out and help the people held in custody by explaining to them the legal process and what they were charged with. I watched Judge Keith’s firm participate in providing people legal assistance and I saw how important lawyers were in the process of protecting people’s rights and the whole experience really increased my motivation to be a lawyer.”

 

Being Mayor of Detroit

Mayor Dennis Archer (photo courtesy of Detroit)

 

On January 1st, 1994, Dennis Archer became the 67th Mayor of Detroit, which at the time was America’s 8th largest city. He served two terms and ended his service on December 31st, 2001.

 

Dennis inherited a monumental task of revitalizing the city. He experienced:

photo by Ryan M. Place

 

General Motors purchasing the Renaissance Center which changed the city in a very positive way.

The Nancy Kerrigan knee bashing at Joe Louis Arena.

The creation of 3 casino’s in Detroit: MGM, Motor City and Greektown.

Allowing Detroit Electronic Music Festival (aka: DEMF, Techfest) to start in Hart Plaza. This festival continues today and is known as Movement.

The creation and flourishing of Campus Martius.

Encouraging Peter Karmanos to move his Compuware Corporation from Farmington Hills to downtown Detroit.

And more.

 

Photo by Ryan M. Place

 

“Well, my motivation to run for Mayor was built up over several years and came from a broad spectrum of people who encouraged me to seriously consider running for Mayor.”

“For the longest time, I thought ‘Me run for Mayor? I’m just happy to be on the Supreme Court!’”

“I saw the businesses leaving the city, crime rate going up, city having fiscal problems, buses not running on time. People were taking 2-3 buses just to get to their jobs, which were outside the city. We’re the largest metropolitan area in the USA that did not have a rapid transit system.”

 

Loveland’s Detroit Map (image courtesy of Detroit Archives)

 

“Detroit in the 1990 U.S. Census was said to have 1,027,000 people and led the nation with the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line, 32.2%.”

“It was ironic that in the Motor City, 35% of our residents could not afford to own a car.”

“At its peak, 1953-54, Detroit had almost two million residents.”

“When you fast-forward to the early 1990’s and subtract over 800,000 people who were no longer living here, the same housing stock was not needed and, thus, we had many vacant homes and empty blocks.”

 

Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives

 

“Some blocks only had 1-2 houses on them and there was a lot of illegal dumping of trash and waste. Our residents didn’t have jobs. Businesses had left the city. We were having challenges with public schools. There’s was not a lot of optimism or hope here. But there was a deep yearning for change.”

“I was fortunate to be able to attract over 6,000 campaign volunteers who believed in our thoughts for a greater Detroit. I had asked the people directly what were their real problems and what did they want for their city, their children and what would make them excited? Together, we devised a plan of action.”

 

Inheriting a Deficit

Photo courtesy of Detroit Bail Bonds

 

“We had a big surprise after the election and I found out from the head of my financial transition team, Jay Alix, that the city of Detroit was anticipating an $88.5 million-dollar deficit.”

“We went to New York and met with the powerful ratings agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. They knew every detail about the city of Detroit, it was incredible. We were at junk bond status. The city had to actually buy insurance in order to sell our bonds.”

We brought us back up to investment-grade status.”

 

Kevin Orr (Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)

 

“When my successor Kwame Kilpatrick stepped down, Mayor Bing inherited a $315 million-dollar deficit. Governor Snyder tried working with the city of Detroit to avoid appointing an emergency manager, however, when the Consent Agreement failed, he had to appoint Kevyn Orr.”

“Kevyn ended up doing a masterful job and helped guide Detroit through the largest municipal bankruptcy in USA history. $18 billion dollars in debt was successfully restructured and a revitalization plan was implemented.”

“Back in the 1960’s, Mayor Cavanagh had predicted unless he had help, Detroit faced bankruptcy. One of the main reasons was population decline. Revenues in the form of income tax & real estate tax were not coming in to help fund the running of the city.”

 

Being a Big City Mayor is Tough

Photo by Ryan M. Place

 

“We had some very outstanding plans for the city but when you find out you’re facing a deficit and there’s no money to implement those plans, that money goes to balancing the budget.”

We had a modest surplus, a rainy-day fund and every single year I was in office, the budget was balanced and at one point the two pension funds were overfunded. The hardest part was not being able to live up to the citizens high expectations for the city of Detroit.”

 

Photo by Ryan M. Place

 

“By earning an Empowerment Zone designation, President Clinton’s urban renewal program gave us a hand up. Governor Engler’s Renaissance Zones helped us bring in new business. I convinced Vice President Al Gore to have an EZ (Empowerment Zone) meeting in Detroit. We had the most successful EZ out of all the EZ’s in the USA. The number of investments were staggering.”

While I was in office, we were able to attract $20.2 billion dollars in new investments to the city.”

Brenda Schneider documented the investments and number of projects that came in every year. Her findings are in the Appendix of my book.”

 

Dennis Helps Attract Investments to Detroit

Greektown Casino (Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)

 

“In 1994, we had a ballot initiative for a riverboat casino at Atwater and putting an Indian-owned casino in Greektown.”

“The casino ballot passed for Greektown and Gov. Engler appointed a commission to study casino gaming. We convinced them we could have up to 4-5 casinos in the city of Detroit. We had several proposals.”

 

Trump Casino in Detroit rendering (Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)

 

“Even Donald Trump wanted to build a Detroit-themed Trump Casino here. Another casino mogul, Don Barden, later tried getting pop singer Michael Jackson to be a casino partner with him here. Barden eventually went to Ohio to support a statewide ballot. The issue lost there and we won a statewide privilege of having up to 3 privately owned casinos in Detroit.”

MGM and Motor City opened in 1999, then Greektown in 2000. Without revenue from those casinos, the city of Detroit would’ve been bankrupt a long time ago.”

 

Ilitch’s, Gov. Engler, Mayor Archer (Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)

 

Comerica Park, the new Tigers stadium, was on its way. Mike Ilitch had bought the Detroit Tigers from Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan.  Like Mayor Coleman Young, we wanted to help Ilitch keep the Tigers here in the city.  I investigated the feasibility of upgrading the stadium.  The upgrade could not be done to accomplish their goals and the fans’ needs. We were able to get funding from the state and city to help build a new stadium.”

“Then the Lions came to Detroit from Pontiac. Bill Ford Jr. of Ford Motor Company couldn’t work out a new deal with the city of Pontiac, so we worked with him to bring the Detroit Lions football stadium downtown. We were blessed to have the Ilitch and Ford Families to work together.”

 

Devil’s Night

Devil’s Night Detroit (Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives)

 

Devil’s Night in Detroit was the name for the night before Halloween. It was notorious because of the arson. In 1983, there were 650 fires on Devil’s Night.

In 1984, there were over 800 fires. After I became Mayor, I said this has to stop, especially since we had a problem in 1994.”

We created Angel’s Night after the idea was presented to us by John George. It took a few years, but it has been deemed a complete success. ”

 

Detroit Fire Department t-shirt (Photo courtesy of Detroit Fire Dept.)

 

Urban Renewal of the Sprawling Motor City

Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives

 

“New housing was being built in the city. Bob Larson (Vice Chairman of Taubman Co.) led a group that developed a zone concept to deal with vacant land in Detroit.”

“They divided the city into 10 zones. We invited representatives from each zone to Cobo Hall and we engaged them to elect people from each zone to talk to citizens in their zone to find out what they wanted done to help improve their lives.”

“Like I said in the book, when I was Mayor, the pace was frenetic, crisis management was constant, but the crime rate declined every single year I was in office.”

“We also helped beautify the parks. At the time, many were overgrown, dangerous, had no basketball nets. Bill Davidson, owner of the Detroit Pistons and his colleagues installed basketball courts and baseball diamonds. Then we helped to generate 30 more parks being cleaned and fully upgraded. Later they set up a $1 million-dollar endowment to help keep up the parks. The deal was that the City of Detroit Parks and Rec Department would keep it mowed and maintained.”

“Community organizers were painting houses, fixing porches, etc. Habitat led to a major effort within the city. ”

 

Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives

 

Edsel Ford II said yes to being our Champion to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of Detroit on July 24th, 2001. He raised millions of dollars for Detroit.  He also started the RiverWalk from Cobo to Ford Auditorium. We had tall ships, a 100-person choir singing. Part of the funds Edsel raised helped to build Campus Martius.”

Roger Penske got the Grand Prix to come back to Detroit, spent a lot of his own money to do so.”

“I remember I was looking at Belle Isle with the Parks & Rec Department, thinking what would it take to redo Belle Isle? Our bond rating had gone up and we could borrow up to $80 million to redevelop Belle Isle. I said, we could charge per car and that money would go toward the maintenance of the park and we could pay off the bond in 14 years.”

Had we done that, it would’ve already been paid off by now. But, as a result of Detroit’s bankruptcy, the state of Michigan has Belle Isle for 30 years and are upgrading the island.”

 

Advice from President Clinton

 

“A few weeks after I got elected in 1994, I spent the night at the White House in the Lincoln Bedroom. President Clinton lost his voice after the State of Union address that evening, but we still talked while watching the Arkansas basketball game.”

“At the time, I was doing 3-4 speeches per day, trying to promote the city of Detroit. I asked him ‘how do you do this all the time?’ He said, ‘never make an important decision when you’re tired.’”

 

Deciding Not to Run for Mayor Again

Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives

 

“I decided not to run again because I was physically tired. I was working 16-18 hour days 7 days per week. Religious entities have church on Sunday, so I attended multiple functions every single Sunday. I enjoyed being mayor but also felt a new person with new and different ideas could take us to the next level and would be more helpful.”

“A few years later, I became President of the American Bar Association and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Detroit’s Regional Chamber.”

 

What Makes a Great Mayor

Photo by Ryan M. Place

 

Caring more about the people they’re serving than about themselves makes a great mayor.”

“Someone who is not afraid to stand up and fight for what’s right for the citizens of the city, help those less fortunate, improve opportunities for everyone, improve the police and fire department, listen to people and help solve their problems, etc, there’s a lot of components. Treat everyone fairly and with respect.”

 

The Law firm of Dickinson Wright

Chairman Emeritus is a title of appreciation for my accomplishments on behalf of the Dickinson Wright firm while I was chairman.”

“When I left the Michigan Supreme Court in December 1990 and joined Dickinson Wright as equity partner in January 1991, I was trying cases, having meetings, and searching for solutions to the problems of the city of Detroit.”

“I was delighted that I could also help open doors for minority businesses and it allowed them to show that people of color can be successful.”

 

Some of Dennis’ Favorite Detroit Spots

Central Kitchen + Bar (photo courtesy of CKB)

 

Central Kitchen + Bar (“my son’s and his investors’ restaurant”)

London Chop House

The Caucus Club

Joe Muer’s Seafood

The Rattlesnake Club

Sinbad’s

Bakers Keyboard Lounge

Jimmy D’s Celebrity House (used to be on Livernois, it’s gone now)

Lafayette-Orleans Bar (also gone now)

 

Favorite Authors & Books

 

“I like John Grisham books. ‘Bobby Kennedy’ by Chris Matthews. Authors Charles Ogletree, Jesse Jackson, Robert Harris, and other Civil Rights leaders. ‘Dr. Martin Luther King’ by Taylor Branch.”

“Usually, I have to do a lot of required reading as a lawyer, so my reading-for-pleasure time is very limited.”

 

Eastern Market: A Detroit Gem

Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives

 

Eastern Market is an outstanding resource for the city. Go by and visit Father Norman Thomas at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. One of the things on my agenda was to try and have Eastern Market open seven days per week, not just Saturday.”

“I asked Fr. Thomas to chair the initiative and he became head of the Eastern Market Task Force to help make Eastern Market a more attractive destination. My family and I still go down to Eastern Market frequently. We buy real Christmas trees there and buy BBQ at Bert’s and we’ll be at Detroit Bookfest.”

 

The Legacy of Dennis Archer

Photo by Ryan M. Place

 

What do I want to be remembered for the most? I’ll leave that to historians.

Just remember, when you put people first, good things will happen. And yes, the small things in life do make a difference.”

 

Let the Future Begin

https://www.amazon.com/Let-Future-Begin-Dennis-Archer/dp/1945875127 

 

Dennis Archer profile 

https://www.dickinson-wright.com/our-people/dennisw_archer?tab=0

 

Atkins & Greenspan

https://www.atkinsgreenspan.com/blog/2017/12/11/former-detroit-mayor-dennis-w-archer-to-release-memoir?rq=archer

 

American Bar Association

https://www.americanbar.org/diversity-portal/diversity-inclusion-360-commission/commissioners/dennis-w–archer.html

 

Photo courtesy of Detroit Archives