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December 13, 1991 - Image 91

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-12-13

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Preservation Wayne hopes to see the renovation of Ferry Street,

once home to Jewish merchants and institutions.


Assistant Editor


etroit had never seen
a funeral like it.
Rabbi Yehuda Leib
Levin, after whom Yeshiva
Beth Yehudah is named,
organizer of Detroit's first
Hebrew day school, a
leading Zionist and the city's
chief Orthodox rabbi, died
March 26, 1926. News of his
death filled the front pages
of the Detroit Times and the
Detroit News, which re-
ported the following:
Mourners filled the rabbi's
home at 404 E. Ferry Ave. at
the corner of Brush; another
3,000 waited outside. They
walked down Ferry to

Looking down
Ferry Street as it
appeared in the
late 1800s.

Rabbi Yehuda Leib

Mogen Abraham Synagogue
on Farnsworth, then to
Shaarey Zedek at Willis and
Brush streets for the
memorial service. Among
the guests were Rabbi Leo
Franklin of Temple Beth El
and Rabbi Leon Fram,
founder of Temple Israel.
Few remnants of Ferry
Street's Jewish history exist
today, though the avenue
was once home to Jewish
families and Jewish organ-
izations, and just around the
corner from numerous Jew-
ish institutions. Some of the
houses are still extant, used
as private residences or
Wayne State University
fraternity houses. Others
are boarded up, abandoned,
William Colburn is more
than familiar with such
disrepair, and it troubles
him. Executive director of
Preservation Wayne, Mr.
Colburn believes Detroit
must not forget its history.
"Why preserve?" he said.
"Because it lends to our
sense of place, our sense of
recognizing who we are and
where we came from.
"These buildings sym-
bolize people, our parents.
We understand their con-
tributions when we can
visibly see their efforts, that
is, the institutions they
The 15-year-old Preserva-
tion Wayne, headquartered
in the Mackenzie House on
the Wayne State campus,
has encouraged the restora-

tion of historic sites
throughout the area and the
designation of city land-
marks. It also offers
technical assistance for res-
toration projects and docu-
mentation of historic Detroit
Preservation Wayne's
latest target for restoration
is East Ferry Street, which
opened in 1874. In addition
to its importance to the Jew-
ish community, the avenue
was once home to many
secular organizations of
historical significance.
Still on Ferry Street are
the Smiley Brothers Music
Co:, founded in 1947, and the
Detroit Association of Wo-
men's Clubs, founded in
1941. The Hansbury Music
Foundation, Detroit's only
black classical music school,
was on East Ferry, as were
the homes of DIA founder
Dexter Ferry, Sen. Thomas
Palmer, art collector Charles
Freer and railroad baron
Col. Frank Hecker.

The Ferry Street proper-
ties also provide excellent
examples of classic architec-
ture, including Queen Anne,
French Chateauesque, Cola
nial Revival and Mediterra-
nean, Mr. Colburn said.
Mr. Colburn envisions
East Ferry, specifically the
two blocks between Wood-
ward and Brush, becoming
an arts and heritage district.
It would include private and
nonprofit facilities compris-
ing museums, restaurants,
bread-and-breakfast inns,
art galleries and offices for
arts, cultural and commun-
ity organizations. It is just
one block north of the
Detroit Institute of Arts.
Preservation Wayne re-
cently completed a feasibili-
ty study of the proposed
Ferry Street renovations.
The study was made in con-
junction with the Detroit In-
stitute of Arts Founders
Society, which owns five
properties on the street.

Located between
Woodward and
the Chrysler
Freeway, Ferry
Street was once a
home to
numerous Jewish
families and



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