Palmer Park, Rediscovering its Roots
Away From the Hustle, a Different Detroit
It was far out. After all, Detroit’s city limit reached only to about present-day midtown in 1874. So the sprawling estate Thomas Palmer assembled on land that stretched from Six Mile Rd. north all the way to 8 Mile Rd. was largely untamed countryside — the perfect setting for this prominent Detroiter and his wife to build their rural idyll.
During a long career Palmer was a successful businessman, U.S. Senator and a progressive thinker who supported women’s suffrage. The Palmers were also generous benefactors to numerous causes including the Detroit Museum of Art (now the DIA), and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Campus Martius. In the late 1880’s Palmer donated the southern-most 296 acres of his country retreat to create a park for the citizens of Detroit. Today Palmer Park is a lasting tribute to his philanthropic nature and commitment to city.
Look closely. Palmer Park still includes the largest stand of virgin forest in the metropolitan area. Some oak trees are estimated to be 350 years old. Besides the historic woodlots, the park includes an historic log cabin circa 1887, hiking and biking trails, an urban educational garden, a small lake, a splash park for summertime kids fun, a butterfly garden, stables for the Detroit Mounted Police, and lots more. In recent years a grass roots group of citizens has formed the People for Palmer Park dedicating themselves to the preservation and restoration of the Park as an important community asset. In partnership with the City of Detroit the group has created a long-range vision in keeping with Thomas Palmer’s original goal for “A park for the good of everyone.”
Hot Spots: Cruising Woodward from Royal Oak to Bloomfield Hills
Not surprisingly, Woodward Ave has had a profound affect on the automobile industry and more broadly, the way the world travels. Woodward Ave. adjacent to Palmer Park was home to the first mile-long stretch of paved concrete road in America. This historic stretch of concrete was poured from Six Mile to Seven Mile Rd. in 1909. And the cost for this major engineering feat? About $14,000! Naturally, Woodward would claim other’s firsts along the way including a painted centerline and traffic signals that improved safety for a burgeoning driving public. Following Palmer’s death, parts of his estate were developed as residential neighborhoods. The Palmer Park Apartment Building Historic District includes dozens of buildings that are excellent examples of then-exotic architectural styles such as the Mediterranean, Venetian, Tudor and Moorish Revival.