Part 4 of 4: Important New Acquisition for the Toronto Railway Museum
Further research revealed that in 1903, the Grand Trunk had opened a downtown Detroit ticket office a few blocks northwest of the Brush Street depot. The office was located in what was originally the Traub Brothers Jewellery Building, a four-story wood-frame brick building at 612 Woodward Avenue, built in 1879. In 1911, the GTR ripped out the second floor in order to install an impressive cathedral ceiling. In the 1930s, the Grand Trunk closed this downtown ticket office. When Prohibition ended in 1933, the Metropole Hotel acquired the building and opened a bar and may have obtained one of the first licenses to legally sell liquor in Detroit following the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment.
Was it at this time that the Henke's family friend acquired the print? In his capacity working for the state liquor commission, he certainly would have visited Detroit's first legal bar, which would have had no interest in displaying a large and bulky leftover advertisement for an Ottawa hotel. There are two very low-resolution images showing the interior of the Grand Trunk ticket office around World War I and one can make out several framed prints hung above the wainscoting. (IMAGES # 19 & 20) Perhaps our print is one of them.
Interestingly, in 2012, the old ticket office remains a bar, which was known until recently as Foran's Irish Pub. While renovating the structure, the owner decided to leverage the building's railway heritage and it's now known as Foran's Grand Trunk Pub. (IMAGE #21) The beautiful restoration included the restoration of some GTR decorative elements. (IMAGES #22 & 23)
An amusing sidelight of our visit to Grand Rapids was that Mrs. Henke indicated that she would have liked to hang the print in her living room but that she didn't like the words "Grand Trunk Railway System" carved in the bottom of the frame. Michael and I chuckled and explained that was what made the print so historic for our purposes and a valued new acquisition for the Toronto Railway Museum.
I want to thank TRHA VP Michael Guy who quite regularly and spontaneously volunteers Herculean time commitments to our museum. If not for his willingness to use his own vehicle to make the 800-mile drive to and from Grand Rapids, I doubt that we could have acquired this print. I would also like to thank TRHA members Andrew and David Jeanes, both knowledgeable and meticulous Ottawa railway historians, for their assistance with this blog.
With the 100th anniversary of the hotel and railway station in 2012, several articles have been published about these structures in recent months. David Jeanes has a detailed description of the creation of Central Station in the July-August issue of Canadian Rail. Kevin J. Holland has two articles on the hotel in the latest issue of CN Lines and the Fall-Winter issue of Railroad History. The latter has an excellent colour reproduction of our print. There's also an eBook about the Chateau Laurier published by the Ottawa Citizen and available through iTunes and other distribution media.
Posting by Derek Boles, Toronto Railway Historical Association Historian
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