“B” is for Broadstreet

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the “Family History Through the Alphabet” challenge.

In 1969 I moved into my first apartment at 11750 N. Martindale and Elmhurst in Detroit.  I was working at the Black Star Clothing Factory.  To get to work I would walk a block down Elmhurst to Broadstreet.  There I stopped by for a fellow sewer who lived on the corner. We would walk the 1.2 miles down Broadstreet to the Black Star Clothing Factory on Whitfield. According to Google Maps it takes 24 minutes to walk it.  I think we were faster.

"Black Star clothing"
Sewing machines on Broadstreet

By the time the factory moved into the basement of the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center on Livernois, at the other end of Broadstreet, my walking partner was no longer working at the Clothing factory and I walked the 1.1 miles by myself. Google Maps says it takes 22 minutes.

I worked at sewing from March 1969 to November of 1969. I was not chased by dogs, accosted by maniacs, or any other disasters on my walks. The only outstanding event was that one day I bought an ironing board after work and carried it home the whole 1.2 miles.

The sewing factory moved to the basement of the Cultural Center after the church acquired it.

View Broadstreet Avenue in a larger map

My aunt and uncle, Anna (Cleage) and Winslow Shreve lived at 12636 Broadstreet until 2010. Whenever I visited Detroit from Idlewild I tried to stop in for a visit.
My uncle Winslow Shreve
My aunt Anna Cleage Shreve

We would have cookies and coffee or tea. One time Winslow was making oatmeal, so I had oatmeal. They would tell me about how things used to be in Detroit, how it was living there now. And always had a good family story or two.

While working on this post I spent several hours “walking” through my old Detroit neighborhoods on Google Maps. Seeing the buildings that are gone, the ones that are trashed, the ones that are well kept and the ones that are boarded up, was depressing.  When I do the next street, I will try not to go traipsing down side streets to see how the neighborhood is doing because most of my old neighborhoods are doing terrible.  Here’s something good though, Anna said that one thing that made their house livable through all of the decline was that there was a park across the street so that she could look out of the window at trees.  The park seems to still be in good condition.

The park across the street from the Sheve’s

14 thoughts on ““B” is for Broadstreet

  1. What a great idea to use Streets as your theme for the challenge Kristin. I enjoyed your story and love love love your Aunt & Uncle’s home. It’s just beautiful. Cheers, Catherine

    1. I’m finding it interesting to remember those streets and houses. If only I could think of something for Q and X!

  2. Good way to tell your story and w/pics, too!

    Terrible, what’s happening to cities like Detroit. There should be creative solutions to preserve and restore the cities.


    1. That is the same thing I was thinking as I went down the side streets and saw the devastation. Creative solutions.

  3. I’m Glad It Isn’t Just Me That walks through my past via Google Maps.Although Maps have been around for several years,I still find reminiscing with it rather surreal! What would you have done if you saw a figure walking with an ironing board!!!???:)

    1. I would have wondered what I’d do when I got to the apartment building that isn’t there any more with the ironing board. And if the apt was there… write myself a letter with all kinds of hindsight advice.

  4. Funny — my Sepia Saturday post is similar to this with pictures snagged from Google maps. Like you, I “drove” up and down streets in a total funk over the current state. And here’s an idea for X — pick a significant crossroads or crosswalk. Q – maybe some Quiet street you remember.

    1. Those are good ideas! I had thought maybe I’d do a post about all the xtremely depressing photos of my old neighborhoods but maybe it could just be some cross streets. I’m sure there must be at least one that I can think of… and you’re right, there must be a quiet street. Or somewhere I’m glad I quit living.

  5. It sounds like this tour was a mixed blessing. Great to record your personal history in this way but sad when you see the deterioration. I loved your aunt and uncle’s home with its beautiful trees -it would have added to the pleasure of visiting them. I was amused by the vision of your making your way home, ironing board in hand.

    1. Yes, it was. My aunt and uncle’s house looks great and was in good shape but when you go down the side streets it’s not so good. I think I would be amused to see young self doing that now. I don’t remember it being extra heavy or anything, just rather awkward.

Comments are closed.