What to See in Detroit in 1939

September 21st, 2015 in Inspiration

A letter from my boyfriend’s grandfather, John Seguin, March 1939. He was in high school when he wrote this piece. A few paragraph breaks were added for readability in the Internet age, but it is word for word in his voice.  What I love most about the letter is that almost every icon and place he describes in 1939 still exists in Detroit 76 years later. 


What to See in Detroit in 1939museumdia

Goodby Detroit and Hello New York. Yes you guessed it, another customer to join the happy and excited crowds at the World’s Fair. New York is an old and familiar place to me. I was born there, so it is an annual delight to return and visit old friends and places. There isn’t much left for me to see except the fair and that is plenty.

New York is not the only place that i am going to visit. Detroit is the other place. Such places like the Detroit Institute of Arts. This white building, one of the purest examples of early Renaissance architecture in America, houses a notable collection of paintings and statues representing many countries and periods. It's three main departments are those of European and American, Asiatic art. Unusually extensive exhibit of Egyptian and Japanese art are also included. The famous Diego Rivera fresco and the Scripps collection are two of the many priceless permanent exhibits here.

Greenfield village. Here in a 200-acre area one of the most extensive collections of Early American buildings and relics in the world has been accurately assembled and arranged about the green to represent in every detail the typical Colonial Village. Excellent examples of manufacturing plants of that period are included in the village. Where it was impossible to find original structure, accurate replicas have been built.

The Village is not confined entirely to the Colonial Period. The Rose Cottage and Sir John Bennett’s jewelry shop with its historic clock and collection of medieval jewelry were brought from England and reassembled here. Several buildings and relics associated with Henry Ford’s life are also part of the collection. A complete re-creation of Menlo Park with the originals or replicas of virtually all of the Edison’s building, tools, and instruments is adjacent to the Colonial Village. Included here are Sally Jordan's boarding house where Edison installed the first practical lighting system and Edison’s office, library and laboratory. In the laboratory the finest incandescent lamp, phonograph, microphone and telephone transmitter had their humble beginning.

WWJ Radio Station. This ultra-modern building is one of the finest broadcasting plants in the world. Visitors may see as well as hear programs being broadcast. This building is located at 630 W. LaFayette Blvd.

University of Michigan. One of the oldest state universities, opened in 1841, and the first school of its kind to become educational. Ann Arbor provided a beautiful setting for the university, whose shady campus is enhanced by the picturesque Heron River near by. It offers one of the most varied curricula in the world to a student body that numbers over 10,000. Included in the colleges are those of literature, science, and the arts municipal and administration, journalism, chemistry, landscape design, engineering, architecture, forestry and conservation, nursing, pharmacy, medicine, dentistry, law, education, music, graduate school and business administration. One of the World’s most varied cirricula.

Shrine of the Little Flower. One of the most picturesque and famous churches throughout the country.

Penobscot Building. Detroit’s tallest office building has an observation roof at the 47th story as you know, the red light on top is an aviation beacon and not an ornament.

Detroit Zoological Park. One of the most widely known zoological gardens in the country. Its large collection of animals is confined without the use of cages or bars and they appear to the visitor to be among their natural surrounding. Pits and hidden barricades prevent their escape, yet give them unusual freedom.

Cranbook Foundations. Five educational institutions and a church comprise this 300 acre foundations, established in 1926 by Mr. And Mrs. Geo G. Booth who contributed approximately $15,000,000 and conducted the project.  The building, designed by  Eliel Saarinen, have won national recognition for their architectural beauty. Masterpieces of sculpture and decorative art adorn all of the institutions.

Edison Museum. A fascinating pageant of technical knowledge is revealed in this Institute named for Thomas A Edison by his friend, Henry Ford. Among the outstanding collections already installed are stoves, furniture, agricultural implements, electrical equipment the largest and most complete collection in the world, and transportation, from primitive man to the present time, including horse-drawn vehicles of all types, steam locomotives, motor car, and bicycles. I am spending this summer visiting many of the places that I have mentioned.

comments powered by Disqus

About Me

Amanda Lewan - Digital StorytellerOn a mission to inspire and unite others. Writer & Entrepreneur living in Detroit. This is my personal blog. Read more about me.

Popular Posts


Join my newsletter and I promise to send you updates on my writing and special projects!