Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Eloise: Hospital of Horrors

It was the largest asylum in the country, the first to perform lobotomies. These procedures were carried out in the tunnels of the vast hospital. After it closed, in rooms off the tunnels were found vials containing bits of brains from the lobotomies, and the study of the brain.

In 1839 Michigan’s Wayne County purchased 1000 acres of land for $800 in what was then Nankin Township (later renamed Westland).The site was chosen because it was far away from the city.  On it they built the Wayne County Poorhouse.  The first patient, Bridget Hughes, was 16 when she was admitted in 1842; she died there in 1895.

 It became dumping grounds for people whose families couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of them, and for the vagrants, vagabonds and the poor, looking for a home with food and beds.

During the 1840’s there was no distinction made between rational and mentally ill patients. Harsh restraints were used to separate the population.  Patients of all ages, sex, idiots and the rational were all kept huddled together. The mentally ill were housed on the second floor of a building used to hold pigs. For the first few years, people in the surrounding areas complained about hearing the roaring and shrieking cries of despair that was in discord with the squealing pigs. 

In 1894 it was renamed Eloise, after the 5-year-old daughter of the County board.

A sewage plant was constructed in 1896 because the Rouge River was insufficient to carry away the nearly 80,000 gallons of sewage drained into it daily. 

In 1934 the inmate population (not patients) numbered 8,300, about 50% of them mentally ill. People often had to bring their own mattresses in order to be housed there.  Boredom was a major problem. Between waking and bed time the people sat and stared at the walls, at their feet and at the windows. Inmates who were given passes to leave the rounds were usually arrested and fined, or they simply disappeared.

 Eloise grew into a city onto itself, with 75 buildings including a fire department, and a carpenter shop that doubled for a morgue. There was a greenhouse, dairy and pig farms, fire department, power plant, bakery, a post office and 3 cemeteries. The facility was renamed Wayne County General in 1945, but to the locals it would remain the infamous “Eloise”.

Throughout its boom years, when the complex was caring for as many as 8,000 patients daily, the facility was plagued by reports of patient beatings, employee theft, mismanagement, unsanitary conditions and inmates chained to walls. At one time 3,800 mental patients -- including 300 with tuberculosis -- were crammed into quarters designed for 2,500. As many as 125 women had to share five toilets.

  By the '50s, Eloise provided the newest forms of treatment for the mentally ill: calming hydrotherapy, sensory deprivation chairs, twirling chairs, steel cabinets in which staff would lock patients and then insert needles to put water directly in their skin, straightjackets, shackles, and the usual – lobotomies.

Eloise’s last patient left in 1979, and Eloise officially closed in 1981, a victim of financial problems and mental health care reform. Wayne County sold most of Eloise's grounds to the Ford Motor Company and their developers.  A radio control aeromodeling club uses some of the land, and the cemetery is located behind their gate.  In that cemetery are the graves of between 7,000-8,000 people; their markers are a brick stone containing only a number. 

It was a formable place; during its decaying and demolition period, the curious and workers at the site were convinced that the dead weep and walk within those wretched grounds. Maybe they still do – behind the cemetery fence.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


In 1961 Detroit was a city on the grow.  Its government appeared rigidly honest, non-partisan and often called a little dull.  Tri-country construction contracts totaling 443 Million were used to utilize vacant factories, cleaned out depressed areas, and developed Corktown.

 Other major expansions included:

1.       McLouth Steel’s $105 M mill expansion
2.       Detroit’s 20M post office
3.       The Bendix Aviation Engineering & Research Center in Ann Arbor
4.       New York Central’s 13M electronic yard
5.       Midtown Medical Center and University City area around Wayne State. 
6.       The Cranbrook Cultural Complex in Bloomfield Hills.
7.       Merrill-Palmer Institute.

Detroit led in other ways:
·         Detroit Zoo pioneered in displaying wild animals in natural settings without bars.
·         Six of top ten advertising agencies had offices in Detroit.
·         One of few cities whose electric utility was building an atomic reactor.
·         Detroit Institute of Arts was one of America’s finest.  It also boasted one of the greatest   symphony orchestras.

There were 104 hospitals, 99 convalescent homes, 5,570 practicing doctors, 18,000 licensed nurses.
Downtown boasted 37,000 parking spaces.

·         119 meat plants
·         72 beverage companies
·         50 iron & steel foundries
·         52 paint manufactures
·         86 soap manufacturers.
·         14 industrial chemical firms
·         11 manufactures of tires, tubes.
·         55 blast furnaces, steelworks, rolling and finishing mills.


In 1963 the country changed directions: prayer was outlawed in public schools.  That fall, the first of Devil’s Night fires erupted (400), for which Detroit became infamous.  When God is displaced, Satan moves in big-time.  A series of other national events, including political greed and cronyism, caused Detroit to spiral into decline.

On Sunday, July 23, 1967 a civil disturbance at a blind pig on the city’s West Side, escalated into a full scale riot, leaving 43 dead, hundreds injured and 2000 buildings destroyed.  The city was mortally and morally wounded. 

Detroit continued to make headlines, mostly for the wrong reasons.  The city’s 25-year Master Plan died an early death. 

The city that put the world on wheel now lies buried beneath the rubble.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

When Detroit Ruled - Part 2

Part 2 – When Detroit Ruled - First in the Nation

In 1961 on a national level  Detroit was:

·         One of few cities whose electric utility was building an atomic reactor.
  • Only North American city connected to all three great sources of natural gas.
·         Detroit Institute of Arts was one of America’s finest.  It also boasted one of the greatest    symphony orchestras.

·         A pioneer in the field of investment, as a member of the National Association of Investment Clubs.
·         All vitamin capsules and ingredients were made in Detroit by R. P. Scherer and Parke, Davis.
·         From motors to missiles, America’s Astronauts’ space capsules were made in Detroit.    Burroughs Corporation was Michigan’s largest defense contractor.
·         Headquarters for companies producing 85% of America’s cars and trucks: two million a year. 
·         Henry Ford’s $5 a day made Detroit the country’s most successful stealer of headlines.
·         Pleasure boating capital; had more pleasure boats that any other city.
·         Greatest supply of fresh water.  During WWII the military paid for a 42-inch main running into Macomb County for a jet engine plant which would have been located in Chicago otherwise.

·         Detroit was FIRST among ten largest cities to write a master plan. Approved in 1950 it set objectives for 25 years in advance.

·         Detroit Zoo pioneered in displaying wild animals in natural settings without bars.
·         Six of top ten advertising agencies had offices in Detroit.
·         ONE of nation’s best-lighted streets and the city pioneered lighting alleys.
·         Among 100 top cities in U.S. ranked FIRST in average weekly wages to production workers in manufacturing.
·         Had the strictest civil service recruiting program in NATION. 
·         Montgomery Ward’s distribution center in Allen Park was the pilot for a nation-wide chain of electronically controlled warehouses. 
FIRST large city to organize a large group of citizens to plan school needs.  Over 3000 citizens, headed by American Motors President, George Romney, surveyed each of the 312 public

NEXT: Part 3 - When Detroit Ruled - On a local level

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When Detroit Ruled - Part I – A World Leader

On May 21, 1961 The Detroit News published a 35-page color booklet, The Real Detroit.  Reading it today is heartbreaking.

Detroit was an innovative city that made it a World Leader:
·         Turned out more war winning tools than any other city in the world.
·         World leader in producing drugs, industrial chemicals, steel, paint, tires, storm windows, machine tools and accessories, stampings, office machinery, hardware, commercial films, architecture, advertising, even fishing lures.
·         Two-thirds of the WORLD’s milk cartons were made by Ex-Cell-O Corporation.
·         WORLD headquarters for the largest architectural and engineering firm, Giffels & Rosetti.
·         Detroit Edison’s atomic power plant (under construction) would be WORLD’S largest commercial fast breeder-type reactor.
·         COBO Hall & Convention center was the WORLD’s largest meeting facilities.
·         Downtown landmark store for J. L. Hudson, one of WORLD’s largest department stores.
·         Birthplace of the modern shopping center.  Two of the largest in the WORLD, Northland Center in 1954, and Eastland Center, the second.
·         Metropolitan Beach WORLD’s largest fresh water beach.
·         The Port of Detroit made Detroit River the WORLD’s busiest waterway; 25% of the waterborne commerce of the U.S. sailed through the Great Lakes system.  Privately owned terminals began expansion of facilities intended to relive marine traffic jams.
·         WORLD’s largest food distribution center (Kroger’s)
·         GM’s tech Center comprised of 27 ultra-modern buildings on 900 acres. It became a workshop for more than 5,000 scientists, engineers, researchers, stylists, designers and mechanics.  WORLD’s largest concentration of research facilities.
·         70% of people owned their own homes and businesses, a record amount of nation’s population centers.

Population for the greater Detroit area topped 4 Million.  Transportation was first-class: Four large airports, three railroad stations, 640 city buses, and Greyhound handled 173 buses at the Civic Center Terminal on a daily basis.

Religious institutions experienced its largest growth since World War II, with 300 new Protestant churches.  The Roman Catholic Diocese of Detroit gained 74 new churches, 61 new schools, and 100 new parishes for future expansion.  Lutherans added another 66.   Residents could attend 54 institutions of higher learning, including U OF M, Wayne State, and University of Detroit, the largest Catholic college in the NATION.

Part 2 - Part 2 – First in the Nation  will be posted later

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Who R U Calling a ‘Dumb Polack?’

Wikipedia’s  lists nearly 2000 Poles who have left their mark on the world.  They include six Nobel Prize winners, numerous Oscar winners,  two NASA astronauts, 104 poets and 14 saints.  On the sinners side are four assassins; the most notorious is Leon Czrologasz, of Detroit.  He took out President William McKinley.
·         History records King John III Sobieski as one of the greatest military leaders. In the one-day battle where Sobieski and his troops were outnumbered ten to one, he defeated the Turks in the Battle of Vienna on September 12, 1683.  Poland and Vienna was spared and the Turks never bothered them again. (Read how they did it in “Angel of Tears.”)
·         Madame Maria Currie won two Nobel Prizes; she discovered the radioactive properties of radium and polonium. Sadly, she died of leukemia, caused by exposure to penetrating radiation.
·         Classical composer, pianist and teacher, Fredrick Chopin, established a Polish national style of music;  he wrote a prolific number of polonaises, mazurkas, etudes, and preludes.
·         The entertainment field lists over two dozen film directors and producers, including Roman Polanski and Samuel Goldman.  Maybe it’s because we are good at telling people what to do and where to go.
·         More than 100 musicians include Big Band drummer Gene Kruppa, Conductor Leopold Stokowski, and Ray Manzarek of The Doors.
·         Two Nobel Prize winners for literature went to Henry Sienkiewicz, author of “Quo Vadis”, and Władysław Stanisław Reymonts four-book series  Peasants” was translated into 27 languages. 
·         Polish fictional characters we are not likely to forget are Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, and more recently Walter Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) in “Gran Torino”.
·         Josef Casimir Hofmann was a composer of over 100 musical works.  He also held 70 patents, including one for pneumatic shock absorbers, a furnace that burned crude oil, and a house that revolved with the sun.
·         Stephen Gary “woz” Wozniak, single-handedly created April I and Apple II computers.  He, along with Steve Jobs and Ron Wayne, founded Apple Computer.   
·         Other business successes include Max Factor and Helena Rubenstein. 
·         Jan Kulczyk , the Richest Poles for 2010, was worth $2.1 Billion.
·         Sports greats include:
o   Andrzej Golata, the most famous Polish boxer, and International Boxing Hall of Famer, Charley Golman.
o   Robert Korzenlowski won four Olympic Gold Medals for walking. 
o   And what about Hockey’s Wayne Gretzky, and Detroit’s Gordie Howe?
·         Of the 28 Holocaust Resisters listed was Irene Sadler who saved 2,500 Jewish children during World War II.
·         The most widely recognized Pole was Karol Jozef Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II.   He touched the hearts of millions of people of all faiths and is best known as the most down-to-earth human being.
Nobody will ever call these people “Dumb Polacks”.  Know your heritage and extol it.