July 30, 2012

The Future Home of the Detroit Institute of Bagels

Left: 1230-1242 Michigan Ave., early 1970s. Courtesy Bruce Beresh.
Right: The future look of 1236 Michigan Ave. Courtesy Detroit Institute of Bagels.

The first landmark one encounters when entering Corktown from the east is an unassuming shoe box of a building on the north side of Michigan Avenue. Although it could be mistaken for a mid-century utilitarian structure, it is in fact the last remnant of a massive commercial building erected in the 1890s.

On April 6, 1893, the city of Detroit issued a permit to the architecture firm of A. C. Varney & Co. to construct a three-story brick building measuring 120 feet wide by 86 feet deep, containing six stores and twelve apartments. The estimated cost of construction was $30,000. The chief architect of the firm, Almon Clother Varney, was one of the most productive architects in Detroit at the time. Some of the homes he designed for wealthy Cass Corridor residents stand today, including the George W. Loomer House at 71 W Hancock, the William C. Boydell House at 4614 Cass, and El Moore Apartments at 624 W Alexandrine. Varney also authored Our Homes and Their Adornments, a guide on home construction and decoration published in 1883.


Newspaper notices advertising the availability of space in the new building on Michigan Avenue began to be printed in early 1894:

Source: Detroit Free Press, January 24, 1894.

The sole surviving portion of this building, 1236 Michigan Avenue, was originally addressed as 350 Michigan Avenue. The first listed occupant was a furniture dealer, George W. Winterhalter, in 1885. Winterhalter was co-owner of Liphardt & Winterhalter, a contracting firm specializing in sewer construction. It's not known why a sewer contractor would decide to get into the furniture business, but perhaps he wanted to cash in on the family name. His father, George H. Winterhalter, had been very successful in the furniture trade but had retired by that point. The business was evidently successful, as the store expanded to include the adjacent store to the west (352 Michigan Avenue) in 1896 as well as the unit to the east (348 Michigan Avenue) in 1897. Winterhalter's luck ultimately soured a few year later when his business partner and father died, he declared bankruptcy, and his wife filed for divorce all in the same year.

342-352 Michigan Avenue, containing six stores and twelve apartments, in 1897.

From 1898 to 1903, the three units formerly occupied by Winterhalter were rented by The Sumner Company, another furniture business. The proprietors were Charles Augustus Sumner of Detroit and his son, Carl Sumner of Akron, Ohio. The elder Sumner moved to Detroit in 1888 after failing in business in Akron. His company outgrew 348-352 Michigan Avenue and he moved to a new location closer to downtown in April of 1903. He died from pneumonia just seven months later at the age of 72.

Charles A. Sumner.
Source: Detroit Free Press, November 4, 1903.

After Sumner moved, the three spaces that included 350 Michigan Avenue were occupied by George C. Becker & Company, yet another furniture company. The proprietors were George C. Becker and, once again, George W. Winterhalter. The partnership, however, was dissolved in February of 1905. Becker immediately reincorporated simply as the George C. Becker Company and continued to run his business from the same location.

Source: Detroit Free Press, March 6, 1904

In April of 1907, Becker's company consolidated with J. Brushaber & Sons, a furniture store on Gratiot Avenue. The store on Michigan Avenue was then referred to as Brushaber's west side location, which Becker continued to manage. Becker ultimately went on to become vice president of the Brushaber company.

Source: Detroit Free Press, January 16, 1921.

In 1910, Brushaber moved its west side location to a larger building on the corner of Michigan and First. By 1911, the company still rented 350 Michigan Avenue (presumably for storage), but 348 and 352 Michigan Avenue were leased to other businesses.

The following year, the store was occupied by McClintric & Yancey, a pool hall run by Samuel C. McClintric and Walter Yancey. The business didn't last more than a year, and no business at all was listed at the address from 1913 to 1915.

From 1916 to 1925, 350 Michigan Avenue was used for storage for Glunz's Store Fixture House. This business, owned by Fred C. Glunz, was located one block to the east at 302 Michigan Avenue and dealt in accessories for retail establishments, such as shelving, display cases, and cash registers.

Fred C. Glunz.
Photo courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

342-352 (1218-1242) Michigan Avenue in 1921.

The 1926 directory lists a restaurant run by James Eglinton at this address, which by then had changed to 1236 Michigan Avenue. In 1927 and 1928, the address was listed as vacant.

From 1929 to 1933, the Cut Rate Upholstering and Manufacturing Company, owned by Morris Becker of 3670 Rochester, operated out of this space. In 1934, the Clay Pipe Cafe, managed by a man named Philip Slaght, set up shop at 1236 Michigan Avenue, but like the restaurant and pool hall before it, did not last for more than a year.

The Cause of--And Solution to!--All of Life's Problems

After this point, 1236 Michigan Avenue was to become a drinking establishment for the rest of its operational life. Beginning in 1935, two years after the end of Prohibition, Preston E. Wood opened a beer garden at this location. He ran the business at least through 1941, but the library's collection of city directories is incomplete after that. The directories for 1956 and 1958 list the Ferris Bar, operated by Albert Ferris, at this address.

The last business to run out of 1236 Michigan Avenue was Musial's Bar, an enterprise of Ferdinand J. "Fred" Musial and his wife, Frances. The earliest available directory that lists Musial's Bar at this address was published in 1964.

The construction of the Lodge Expressway in the 1950s necessitated the demolition of the east half of the building that contained 1236 Michigan Avenue. The three remaining units can be seen in the aerial photograph below, taken not long after the freeway's completion.

Michigan Avenue and the Lodge Expressway looking south, circa 1960s. (Source)

1236 Michigan Avenue is the center unit pictured here. The
ground floor facade had suffered many "improvements" since 1893.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Beresh.

The 1973 directory still listed 1230 and 1242 Michigan Avenue--the spaces on either side of Musial's Bar--but indicated that they were vacant. The portions of the building surrounding the bar were torn down not long after that.

North side of Michigan Avenue, west of Lodge Expressway, early 1970s.
Note the Lager House on the left. Photo courtesy of Bruce Beresh.

When the following photograph was taken in 1976, Musial's Bar was all that remained of A. C. Varney's six-store, twelve-apartment building. Fred Musial passed away on October 26 of that year, at the age of 58.

1236 Michigan Avenue in 1976. Courtesy State Historic Preservation Office.

1236 Michigan Avenue in 2012.

The Detroit Institute of Bagels

The DIB originated in March of 2011, when brothers Ben and Dan Newman began making bagels out of their Corktown flat. What started out as a few batches for a synagogue fundraiser turned into a brisk business at Eastern Market. Recognizing the demand for quality bagels in the city, the Newmans sought a suitable brick-and-mortar location where a new bakery could be established. In December of 2011, they announced plans to set up shop at 1236 Michigan Avenue. Since then, they have been occupied with the endless planning and fundraising--not to mention building renovation--necessary to make this happen.

Brick arches denote long-unused entryways to adjacent spaces.
A stairway still leads to a second story that's been missing for thirty years.
Photo courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Bagels.

Ben and Dan Newman ask for the community's patience as their work slowly progresses:
We know you want bagels (like now!), but we plan to be around here for a long time and we're building a space to reflect our long-term plans. This means not cutting corners or merely investing the minimum required to renovate the space into a bagel shop. We're confident that once we're done renovating, you'll be impressed. We'd go as far as saying that this will be the best designed bagel shop in the world! No joke. (Source)

The future look of the Detroit Institute of Bagels. One of the old
inter-store passages will be used as the building's main entrance.
Photo courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Bagels.

To keep updated on the DIB's progress, visit www.detroitinstituteofbagels.com.