Saturday, August 17, 2013

Borderland - Windsor and Detroit - part two

With early morning coffee, I walk to the river. 

In 2013, there are still said to be Windsorites who live comfortably from the legacies of fortunes made during Prohibition. The Detroit River’s bottom is, anecdotally, carpeted with liquor bottles - by now well covered in silt - dumped as American authorities swooped on Canadian bootleggers. Studies suggest only five percent of the alcohol smuggled into the States was ever seized.

More than ninety years later, new fortunes are made from trade between Canada and the States, the biggest of any two countries. 

Kaye E. Barker - a self-unloading bulk carrier for ore and coal - passes under the Ambassador Bridge. A quarter of Canada-U.S. trade crosses that span.

This is the Baie St. Paul, another bulk carrier. The second picture gives a sense of the length of Great Lakes freighters.

Other than shipping, a Night Heron, quite unusual to spot during the day ...

… and a gaggle of irritating, self-important, territorial Canada Geese whose defecatory output is unbelievable. Still, they are lovely in flight. 

Speaking of flight, pleased to see a large, model, World War Two Lancaster, supported by an arch, soaring over the riverfront park. It commemorates Canadians who served in Bomber Command. Nearby, another monument is inscribed ‘Pray for Peace.’

And, in the city’s central Jackson Park, a Spitfire and Hurricane take off, one of a number of war memorials.

There are signs that Windsor - like Detroit a city with car manufacturing in its blood - has had difficult times.

The main street has a number of boarded-up stores and shabby shopfronts. Shanfields Meyers, a fixture since the 1940s, is closing (although locals say it's been closing for years).

However, there’s a proliferation of outlets happily selling expensive Cuban cigars to Americans, who then - in a replay of the Twenties - smuggle them past U.S. Customs. For those who don’t know, Cuban products are verboten in the States. 

But, the visit’s revised my uninformed (having briefly been here once thirty years ago) opinion of Windsor as a down-at-heels dump. Take Windsor’s glum, former bus terminal. 

At first glance, another of those lovely, streamlined, Greyhound stations architecturally abused and then abandoned. Here it is in the 1930s with steel and neon (and Union Jack).

One would assume destined for demolition, but it’s to be taken over by the University of Windsor and the art deco style restored.

The 1927 Windsor Star building - opened when newspapers made money - is empty, but also slated for university use. 

A downtown campus will bring hundreds of students into the relatively small core revitalizing the area. Hurrah for Windsor! Good grief! Is someone from Toronto actually saying that?

To the north, Hiram Walker distillers, unlike newspapers, continues to make pots of money, even without Prohibition. The source of much wealth dominates Walkerville, now part of Windsor, 

St. Mary’s Anglican Church was consecrated in 1904 as a memorial to Hiram Walker and his wife. It suggests how accommodating the Church of England could be to rich purveyors of intoxicating beverages. Presumably no sermons on demon rum here. The very English Gothic Revival church and Tudor rectory were designed by a New York architect.

The neighbourhood’s lovely homes thrill my Anglo heart.

As with this eavestrough downspout and brickwork, there are delightful decorative flourishes.

Even these modest apartments command respect with a castle gateway.

Walkerville’s jewel is Willistead Manor House, a Tudor-Jacobean mansion built in 1906 for one of Hiram Walker’s sons. For all its English style, it also was designed by an American architect.

As you can see, the home is operated by a Windsor City department that clearly could use a copy editor.

Walkerville is so trendy, it doesn’t have a funeral home, it has a Life Celebration Centre - ugh! What happens if your life isn’t worth celebrating? 

Signs like this bring out my insecurities. I’m reminded of how unfashionable I am, more a common-garden, blueberry muffin sort of a guy.