Last days.

Fall 2008

I had an amazing time right after school finished as I came home with absolutely zero responsibilities. Visiting numerous friends, checking off 2 more American states and also checking off a few things from my to do list was an excellent way to spend a few months.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Running out of money and feeling like it was time to gain some responsibility, I started applying to various jobs.

If I was ever compiling a list of things I hate in this life, it without a doubt would include those things necessary to acquire a job - networking, cover letters and resumes. Therefore, when the fifth job I had applied to called back to offer me the job, I accepted it.

I stressed that I could make it to the job a.s.a.p. during the interview, so when they offered me the job on a Tuesday, I told them I would be there the next Monday - affording me 2 days before I would have to leave Thursday morning. I was at Don's house that day when I accepted the job and when he asked when I had to leave, he then asked if we would be crossing the border both today and Wednesday.

The answer was obviously yes. I was going to absolutely miss this, so I had to get my fill.

Don called Steve and since I was leaving, Steve was down for anything.

I only had one thing in mind that I HAD to get done from my list, so with time on our side, we stopped at this ballroom that I knew Steve & Don would enjoy.

Don's photo

There isn't much to the building besides the ballroom itself; but the ballroom is photogenic. Don & I moved about for a good hour while Steve wandered around and chugged Jooze.

We eventually made our way up the rickety staircase to the equally rickety roof and relaxed for a bit.

Leaving the ballroom, we took some strange way across town in hopes of coming across something new.

While we didn't find a building at first, we did come across this very strange park in Highland Park0.

0 - A small city completely surrounded by the D.

Continuing westward, I believe Steve had to use the facilities and while he did, this was the scene 40 feet away.

Yes, that is a Mercedes, and that building has looked like that for at least the last 5 years.

Into the west side, I remembered a tiny church that I found while leaving Red's house one day.

I quickly determined that the outside architectural flourishes were the most exciting part of the building. The inside was devoid of interesting artifacts and I quickly snapped the above picture while trying not to disturb the building's occupant a few feet behind me.

We continued on with our day and purchased a few more beers and some food.

The next stop was the one place I had in mind that I had to get done before I left for work.

About 5 years ago, the Free Press released an article which outlined 12 downtown buildings which sat empty. The dirty dozen article then became used by a lot of people like me as a checklist to complete. While I know a few people who did get all 12 done, I'll never be able to; as they tore down the Statler before my time1. They also rehabbed the Book Cadillac hotel, which means I really could only get 10 after I cowered out of trying the Book Caddy during rehabilitation2.

So you've done 10 then...right?

Well, no.

The funniest part about the conquest is that I'm currently at 9 and have been so for a very long time. The remaining (doable) building I had left was the Farwell, which is actually one of the more whored out buildings in the D.

For quite some time, I had told people I hadn't been in the Farwell and they actually didn't believe me. Most others have been there, but my inexperience wasn't for a lack of trying, as Don & I had been to the alley entrance several times with no luck - once we brought someone who wasn't strong enough to climb the rope entrance and also, a couple times we walked upon deals as this is a notorious crack slanging alley. Thinking we'd outsmart them, we even decided to come specifically on a rainy day - figuring the rain would extirpate the crack fiends from the alley; only to find that a long broken eavestrough now funnels all the rainwater directly onto the entrance (see photo at left).

It's not as if the Farwell appears to be going anywhere, but I didn't want to roll the dice and have it demolished or rehabbed while I was away.

It needed to be stricken from the list.

1 - I remember watching them demolish this building, but it was back when we just drove around without going in anything.
2 - I've been in the hotel now that it is open, but that doesn't count.

The first problem was that someone had removed the rope entrance long ago. What we needed now was a ladder, so a ladder is what we went in search of.

Don & I had retrieved a ladder once before for a different building. We knew where a ladder was this previous time, so Don went over and went inside the building, grabbed the ladder and we drove across town holding the ladder to the side of the car.

The previous ladder time was at midnight and in a rougher area. This time would be different as we had to drive right downtown and the shortest route of travel from the 'building we know has a ladder3' to the Farwell was 7 km (4.5 mi).

Nevertheless, we parked the car, ran inside the building and grabbed the old wooden ladder. Balancing the ladder next to the car, Steve and I got inside and each reached down and pinned the ladder to the side (of the car).

Aside from a few confused glances, the drive went smoothly and we were quickly downtown - carrying a ladder to the Farwell alley.

3 - A certain old medical centre on Jefferson Ave.

The above picture shows the exit, but the entrance was even sketchier.

Steve had recently undergone shoulder surgery, so he was under doctor's orders not to use his arms any higher than his head. As you can see, the ladder itself only reaches a height where you have to pull yourself onto the fire escape - so for entry we had the ladder atop the garbage can, holding it steady so Steve could make his way up.

Knowing Steve's deafening fear of heights and sketchy setups, I was pleasantly surprised with his resolve to make the climb solely based on the fact that I was leaving. Once onto the fire escape, it swung side to side as it was only held up by a loose chain. Steve quickly scurried to the third floor and into the building, where I'm sure he was happy to have floor beneath him instead of a ramshackle fire escape.

The Farwell4 was built in 1915 in the Chicago School style of architecture. It was constructed to fulfill a need for office space in a time before the auto boom gave the D its taller skyscrapers.

That's not to say that the Farwell played second fiddle to other skyscrapers though, as it stood proudly with its Tiffany glass ceiling and 5 story light court built to utilize natural light.

Its simple elegance and the renovations during the 50s and 70s couldn't save the Farwell and it closed in 1984. It has stood dead since then, but the company who is renovating the Broderick Tower promises to renovate the Farwell after the Broderick5.

4 - Image used from Wikipedia under their conditions. Somehow I've never took an exterior from the street.
5 - Anyone in the know has their doubts about this. The Broderick renovations have went as far as incrementing the year on their web site annually - "Broderick Tower Lofts Coming 2007, wait 2008, wait 2009, wait 2010.

Since Don had been here before and because the building is somewhat empty, we didn't search it very thoroughly.

In fact, we spent most of our hour inside admiring the 5 story light well.

By the time we reached the roof, the sun had almost set and the red light cast the buildings in a unique light.

The Farwell also provided an up close and great view of the nearby, stunning Industrial Building Apartments.

It was getting dark and we decided to depart from the building. Steve didn't drink while we were in The Farwell because he was worried about the climb off the fire escape.

Thankfully, he survived the climb onto the fire escape where we had to wait a second as a homeless man walked along and didn't notice the 3 of us on the fire escape. We kept quiet in hopes that he would continue through the alley but before we could do anything; he pulled down his pants and began using the washroom directly beneath us by bracing his back against the brick wall.

We couldn't yell now as he would wonder what the hell we were doing - so we waited patiently until he finished his business (about 9 or 10 minutes). Once done, he moved along and we hurried off the fire escape, watching our step.

Whenever people want to talk about the 'new D' and point to the outdoor rink on Woodward; I think of this alley, two blocks over, where you can see crack dealing and other things on a daily basis.

This was also right around the time when we were introduced to the greatness of the Old Miami Bar.

So after the rec center, we brought Steve over to show him the bar which resembles a house - you literally walk out the back door and it feels like a University backyard, with a pond, a fence and a few benches.

After the Old Miami, we stopped by a school for a second...

...and by this time, poor Steve was k.o.'ed by the strong American beer.

I went back over the next night with Roachie & Don, but it was more chilling and drinking than the first night.

We didn't do anything new, but just had a good time running around the city and for myself, enjoying it for one last time.

I woke up at Don's, drove home, packed the car and that was that.



1 - The Farwell Building - Forgotten Detroit.

2 - Farwell Building - Detroit1701.

3 - Farwell Building - MI State Historic Preservation Objects.

4 - Farwell Building - Wikipedia.

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