Skip to content

A-Framing We Go!

Wow, framing is fun, right?

No, not that kind of framing!  My word, it’s almost as if you haven’t been reading this blog and learning construction terms for the past 14 months.  Honestly, people.

This kind of framing, obviously…

Those are rooms starting to take shape before your very eyes. The second floor framing is underway, and the contractor expects to start the drywall soon.  Now that the framing is up, you can begin to see the interior structure taking shape, and get a feel for the flow of the new home for our Clinics.

The roof is nearly complete, but still no helicopter. In lieu of that, Assistant Dean for Operations Amy Smith tells me she may be able to get on the roof to take a photo.  (Well, that kind of robs me of my bargaining chip for procuring a helicopter ride, but okay. Thanks, Dean Smith… I suppose.)

Somehow we’ve gotten this far without any ghost sightings.  Surely a building this old and with this much history must have its ghosts.  Perhaps I need to do a little digging.  Or maybe an overnight stay is in order?  Anyone in?  I will bring you breakfast in the morning!


Roof materials arrive, and we marvel at the giant crane

Doesn’t that crane seem absolutely enormous?  This brings me back to the old days, when we used to pull statues out of holes in attic ceilings, and carry them to the ground by crane.  (Or, okay, this only happened once… but still.)  But this crane brings its own excitement to the party!  Roof materials!

Here’s the awesome thing about the roofing project on the firehouse: the materials and labor were donated.  Take a moment to let that sink in.  Donated.  Have you ever had your roof replaced or repaired?  I haven’t, but a friend of mine had to replace her roof recently, and when she told me how much it cost I nearly lost my lunch.  You could get a Bachelor’s degree for the cost of a new roof!

The incredible and generous gift of our new roof comes to us courtesy of recent graduate Robert Molnar (’10) and his family’s business, Wm. Molnar Roofing Inc Their gift will protect the weary heads of the next generation of student attorneys in the Clinical Program.  Nary a drop of rain, nor flake of snow will escape the protection of this roof.  One less thing to worry about, when the practice of law and well-being of Clinic clients are the tasks at hand.

The only disappointing thing about the roofing aspect of this renovation is that I can’t show you pictures.  I stood on tiptoe to get this picture, and you’re really only four inches closer to seeing the roof than you were when my feet were flat:

I’d have to be approaching the building from a great height to allow you to see the actual roof (yet another reason I wish Spiderman would start blogging).  Or, I don’t know, maybe the dean will let me rent a helicopter.  Let’s lobby for that.

If you could see the roof as it’s renovated, you would know that it’s a heat reflective, energy efficient white roof, known as a TPO membrane roof.  Now you’re upset that you can’t see it, right?  I’m telling you, a helicopter would solve all our problems.

Oh, hi there! It’s been a while.

Well, I know what you were thinking, but I wasn’t kidnapped; I was just waiting for things to kick into high gear with the renovation of the firehouse.  Plus, we’ve been busy around here working on some pretty special things for the School’s Centennial year, which runs from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.

What’s happened at the firehouse since we last met?  Our general contractor is McCarthy & Smith, the same contractor who did such an incredible job with Dowling Hall last year. They took possession of the jobsite the week of July 2.  The demolition started on July 9.  (Unlike last summer, I can’t hear this demolition from my desk, which is nice!)  This week the contractors are removing an old chimney on the roof to prepare for a new roof, and demo continues on the 2nd floor. During the demo contractors discovered some incredible white, glazed brick.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  The timeline for the firehouse renovation will allow the Clinics to be moved in and operating in their new home by December 1, 2012.

But I know what you want to hear about.  You want to hear about bricks.  Well, lucky you!

The interior of the firehouse is full of them, and boy are they ever beautiful!  I couldn’t tell you how old these brick walls are, but we are doing our best to preserve them. It appears that we will be able to keep the brick on the interior walls (the walls that are entirely inside the building), but it won’t be possible to save the brick on the exterior walls (walls that face outside) because of the insulation requirements.  Does this make me a little sad?  Yes, but I’m just happy to see some of it being enhanced and preserved.  We’ll keep you posted on the status of the brick walls as things progress.

Anyone enjoy seeing things in a stage of destruction?  Well, look!  Demo!

Oh, there are also power tools in that picture.  At least I think those are power tools.  Lots of cords, either way.  I guess I don’t really know how to make that interesting.

Here’s an area of the firehouse that’s been stripped to the bones:

There are so many fun little details about this place that we’ll share with you in future posts.  Check back periodically for pictures and other updates!

In the meantime, take a moment to read about all the events we’re planning for our Centennial year.  Click here to go to the Centennial page!

A bit of firehouse history for my fellow nerds

“Nerd” in this case is a compliment, mind you.  This isn’t the sixth grade, where your peers make fun of you for reading history books about the Civil War, no sir!  Now we’re in the realm of higher education, where people admire you for reading too much, or pulling away from a book with smudged print on your nose (because sometimes you just like the smell of a good book, okay?).  

The book I may or may not have been smelling this week is Detroit Fire Department 1701-2007, a history of the city’s fire department presented by the Detroit Fireman’s Fund Association, M.T. Publishing Company: Evansville, IN (2007)*.  Yes, I have had my nose in this book for a while.  I’m only going to share a few tidbits with you for now, focusing on our firehouse and the company it housed, Engine 2.

Here’s the first mention of the building, noted in 1857:

And here we have images of Engine 2’s first homes:

(Those guys need to cool it with their ladder antics in the bottom picture.  The guy up next to the steeple is making me especially queasy.)     

And here we have some of the firefighters themselves, along with a more recent picture of our firehouse:

Some of these dates confuse me a bit.  Our firehouse was built in 1857, but apparently Engine 2 didn’t use it until 1918.  So who was using it in the meantime?  Probably the ghost, right? 

The mystery deepens.  Onward and upward with the research!

*We found our copy of the book here:

What’s in a name?

Did you know that we have a name for the new clinic center, once the clinics have moved into the firehouse?  It will be called the George J. Asher Law Clinic Center. I thought perhaps you might want to know a little about George Asher, and why it is an honor for us to connect the clinics with his name.

Here is an excerpt from our press release announcing the purchase of the firehouse:

“Funding for the purchase of the property, as well as the upcoming extensive renovation of the building, comes from a principal gift made by UD and UD Law alumnus Anthony A. Asher (’61, ’65), managing partner of the law firm of Sullivan, Ward, Asher, & Patton, P.C., based in Southfield, Michigan.  Anthony Asher made the gift in memory of his brother, George J. Asher.

As the eldest child of Syrian Catholic immigrants in Detroit, George Asher became head of a large household at age 16 when both of his parents died.  Anthony, then 10 years old, looked to George as his surrogate father, and he was humbled by the sacrifices that George made for him and their siblings.

George Asher had to quit high school in order to support his family.  He earned his General Education Development degree (G.E.D.) and became a highly successful non-lawyer union negotiator for a local law firm.  At the urging of the attorneys at the firm, he completed high school and began law school at the University of Detroit in the evening program.  George died tragically in 1963 as a result of complications from hemophilia, while Anthony was a first-year law student and George was just months shy of graduating from the School of Law.  Anthony continued his studies with George’s inspiration spurring him towards success.  He went on to become the leader of one of metro-Detroit’s premier law firms.

In recognition of Anthony’s gift and the tremendous spirit and dedication of his brother, UDM will name the clinical program in the new building the George J. Asher Law Clinic Center.”

I want to emphasize the impact that George Asher made on the world of union negotiations.  He was known around Detroit as a highly successful negotiator.  He even met his wife, the late Pearl Asher, on the picket lines of a 1951 labor strike at her place of employment, Richard’s Drive-In.  The Drive-In was the site of a Teamsters strike where both Pearl and George were arrested.  According to a quote in a article, “Meeting on the picket line of strike-bound Richard’s Drive-In, the couple managed to keep a romance going in spite of the juvenile antics of irresponsible hot rodders, a flare up of violence which saw the whole complement of the Shaeffer Police Station converge on the scene, and the romance-dampening atmosphere of the Wayne County Jail.”  Mrs. Asher, who passed away in February, is remembered as an “uncompromising union activist,” along with her late husband.

Return here next week for some firehouse history!

Inside Ye Olde Firehouse

I have to admit, we took these pictures a few weeks ago. You may notice some snow in the outside shots. (Your mind is not playing tricks on you. Michigan weather is weird, but we don’t usually have snow and 68 degree temps in the same day. Although I cannot deny, that sort of event probably wouldn’t surprise me.)

No, Christina! Stop it with the tangents!

Right. Here are some pictures of the inside of the firehouse. You will notice that parts of it appear to be in pretty great shape. There is a giant fireplace and some shoulder-high wainscoting in one area, for example. Other parts of the building are definitely more in need of repair (missing walls come to mind). The building offers some great views of things like the Renaissance Center and the School of Law. Surely the ghost has been enjoying these views for years now, lucky guy. Hopefully he is willing to share.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Caution: Ghosts in the area. Watch your step.

I have discovered our first Firehouse ghost.  You may disagree with me a little here.  (You would be wrong, but that’s okay.)

Here’s how I came across the ghost: I stared at this picture for a really, really long time.

Actually, my goal was to get a better look at that Watches and Jewelry establishment off to the left there.  I wanted to read the signs posted on the building.  I didn’t have much luck, except to see that there was some sort of registration going on in the third ward.  No, I don’t know what that means.

At any rate, I was in this process of zooming, when I saw him. 

At first, I wasn’t sure if my eyes were playing tricks on me.  I mean, I had already spent so much time with this picture, and I had been convinced there were no people in it.

Plus, all I could really make out was a hazy figure, wearing a hat, and what appears to be a dark suit.  I go back and forth on whether or not there is a cane involved, but I like to think so.

Can you see him?  He’s facing the firehouse, standing near the alcove doorway, across from that raggedy wagon.  The more you zoom in, the more he seems to fade, which is an obvious clue to his ghost status.

Alright, yes.  Cameras in the 19th century weren’t very good at capturing movement due to long exposure times.  In fact, they had a knack for creating ghost-like figures if the subject moved before the camera’s exposure time had ended.  Still, I’m going to insist on referring to this gentleman as “the Firehouse ghost.”  I have to get my kicks somewhere, you know.    

The handwritten caption on the back of this picture reads, “Engine house, 1881; Larned and St. Antoine built 1857.”  The words “Farmer Bros., photographers, Detroit, Mich” are stamped there as well.