Like a ball that’s been slammed to the ground, Detroit has been slammed to
the ground. But like a ball, Detroit is bouncing back. Truly
America’s “Comeback City”, Detroit has hit a home run with
me. Detroit’s downtown occupancy rate is now at 98% and there is
a waiting list for downtown living. The Detroit Riverfront
placed number 9 in the “10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards for Best
|DETROIT’S RIVERFRONT VOTED ONE OF AMERICA’S TOP TEN|
Among the many nicknames of this largest city on the U.S.-Canada border,
my choice is “Motown” because of its musical legacies. A
recent trip to Motown gave me a first-hand look at many facets of this
resurging city. Please allow me to show you the good time that awaits
you in Motown. However, first things first…where to stay.
I love old ladies…not only the kind with wrinkled faces and lilac hair,
but also the historical icons that qualify as Grande Dames. Almost
every big city has one and in Michigan’s most populous city, that
regal lady is the 1924 Westin Book Cadillac
Detroit. This stunning lady, affectionately dubbed “The Book”
is a landmark hotel that reflects the resurgence of downtown Detroit.
|WELCOME AMENITY AT THE WESTIN BOOK CADILLAC DETROIT
The historic 1924 Book Cadillac Detroit Hotel has been restored to its
original grandeur. This luxury landmark has returned
its legendary style and splendor to
downtown Detroit. Built by Detroit’s famous Book Brothers,
this Italian Renaissance-style hotel, with sweeping views of the city
skyline or the Detroit River, is listed on the National Register of
At the 1924 Grand Opening, The Book was the tallest hotel in the
world. During the celebration, there was an endless flow of
champagne. Now the hotel’s 24grille has brought
Detroit its first Champagne Bar. After checking into the hotel,
a champagne toast was definitely in order since we had arrived on our
26th wedding anniversary. A glorious pre-dinner massage at the
hotel’s Spa 19, refreshed, relaxed, and readied me for a celebratory
evening. We could think of no better place to have our anniversary
dinner than at the hotel’s award-winning restaurant Roast, a
contemporary, uncluttered, and sophisticated dining establishment.
AN ANNIVERSARY TOAST AT ROAST
the restaurant terms the “Beast of the Day”. On our evening at
Roast, the “beast’ was a goat that roasted slowly on a spinning
rotisserie. An open kitchen was adjacent to the rotisserie.
AWARD-WINNING CHEF MICHAEL SYMON’S OPEN KITCHEN AND
the Motown magic. Motown is the great Detroit story…an
American phenomenon. What better place to start than at
the Motown Museum that preserves the history and legacy of
Esther Gordy Edwards, sister of Berry Gordy who founded Motown Records in
1959, founded the Motown Museum in 1985. The Museum opened in
the Hitsville U.S.A. building, “the little house that ROCKED the
world”. In 1987 it was declared a Historic Site by the State
of Michigan. In 1995, a gallery was added and the early Motown
offices, plus an upper flat in which a young Berry Gordy and his
family lived, were restored.
|HITSVILLE USA, “THE LITTLE HOUSE THAT ‘ROCKED’ THE
Almost six decades after the founding of Motown Records, I was in awe as I
found myself experiencing the actual place where the Motown Sound was
created. Standing in Studio A, in the footsteps of Motown Stars like
Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson Five, I viewed the
original 1877 Steinway grand piano. When Paul McCartney visited
the studio, the piano was so out of tune that he paid to have it restored.
Only the original finish was retained. Also, in the
museum is Michael Jackson’s crystal glove and his black fedora with
his name inscribed in gold on the hat’s sweatband.
Theatre. The Fisher Theatre opened as a movie and
vaudeville house on November 11, 1928. Its tacky décor, that once
included banana trees, a goldfish pond and wandering macaws that
audience members fed by hand, is now adorned with marble, Indian
rosewood and walnut paneling, and crystal and bronze decorative work.
EXQUISITE CEILING IN THE FISHER THEATRE
As luck would have it, the Broadway hit “Motown the Musical” was playing
at the Fisher when I was in Detroit. “Motown the
Musical”, is the “celebration of music that transformed
America”. It began as one man’s story… became everyone’s music…
and changed our culture forever. It is the American dream
personified…the story of Motown founder Berry Gordy, a featherweight
boxer who became a heavyweight music champion. What
better place to see “Motown the Musical” than in Motown itself?
The United Sound Systems Recording Studios (USSRS) is more than just a
Recording Studio – it is an institution that birthed a musical
legacy. USSRS was the first independent and full service
major recording studio in the nation that gave
artists, musicians, writers, and producers the ability to record music,
cut the record, and get airplay without being signed to a major label.
The Detroit Fox Theatre is one of five spectacular Fox
Theatres built in the late 1920s by film pioneer William
Fox. Opened in 1928, it was Detroit’s premier movie destination for
decades. In the 1930s, Shirley Temple made appearances when the
theater showed her films. Decades later, after a 1988 restoration,
the theatre staged notable performances such as a concert with Frank
Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli.
Another resurging downtown venue, not for music or theater but
for connecting people, is the Isaac Agree
Downtown Synagogue. Currently housed in a former
department store, bright red doors with Star of David door handles
open to welcome all people to share and learn from one another.
THE HIP DOWNTOWN SYNAGOGUE IS ANOTHER SIGN OF DOWNTOWN
Top of the Pontch, on the 25th floor of the Crowne Plaza (formerly
the historic Pontchartrain Hotel), offers spectacular views of the Detroit
River and Windsor, Canada. Along with the view is a menu
of locally sourced food that is artfully prepared. However, I
must admit, the divine Dover Sole is actually from Dover, England.
|VIEW WINDSOR, CANADA FROM THE TOP OF THE PONTCH RESTAURANT|
Bert’s, in the Eastern Market District, is a fun spot. If
Motown has already crept into your soul, you can opt for authentic
soul food. For the less adventurous, there
is down-to-earth comfort food like meatloaf and mashed
potatoes. In any case, it’s “food for your soul…”
You might ask: ‘What was the secret of the Motown sound?’ The
answer is not that it was the music. The answer is that it was
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, operating since May 1934, is the world’s oldest
operating Jazz Club. Many famous musicians, such
as Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Nat
King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing,
and Cab Calloway have performed at Baker’s. And the food
is down-home Motown. Believe it or not, I loved my short
ribs, collard greens, and mac ‘n cheese. All this,
plus a keyboard-shaped bar, and the Motown sound belted out by a
shimmering Audrey Branham-Northington and legendary saxophonist Allan
Barnes, one of the original Blackbyrds.
|AUDREY BRANHAM-NORTHINGTON BELTS OUT THE MOTOWN SOUND|
sound?’ The answer is not that it was the music. The
answer is that it was a feeling.
|LEGENDARY SAXOPHONIST ALLAN BARNES, AN ORIGINAL BLACKBYRD,
EXUDES THE MOTOWN FEELING
Michigan will also give you that feeling!
JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 40 travel writing awards and a Travel
Consultant with The Travel Authority in Mariemont, Ohio.