(Crystal A. Proxmire, The Ferndale 115 News, May 23, 2012)
Kennedy students got a special tour of Downtown Ferndale as part of learning about history from a hands-on approach. The second and third graders took a bus to the Ferndale Public Library where they did research about historic locations in Ferndale and Detroit.
Then with parents James and Robin Hanks as their guides (and plenty of parents to keep watch on the kids), these young explorers saw some of Ferndale’s historic landmarks.
The Crowes Nest was an obvious spot. When Ferndale was incorporated in 1918, Woodward Avenue was a much more narrow street than it is today. As automobiles became more popular and workers would drive from the auto plants in Detroit and Hamtramck to suburbs like Ferndale, controlling traffic was a problem. Officials in Detroit had been experimenting with different signaling options, and, according to The Ferndale Historical Society, the crow’s nest provided an opportunity for a person to guide traffic from a safer position than on the street.
After explaining that the Crow’s Nest is a replica of that historic signaling solution, he pointed to the Rust Belt Market and asked if anyone knew what that was. At least a dozen kids piped up with cheers and raised hands. “My mommy takes me there all the time,” one little girl said. Hanks explained that it used to be a Federal’s Department Store. Kids were shocked to learn that a bowling alley had also once been located nearby.
The tour took them to the Dollar Castle, which used to be a Federal’s department store, and across the street to the Community Arts Building, which used to be apartments for many of the village’s founders.
The kids also read historical descriptions and maps on signs that were installed through the Wayfinding project of the DDA. The signs showed pictures of Ferndale’s past, giving students a way to see how the streets and stores looked long ago.
The history lesson continues Wednesday. “We’re going to see Detroit history,” said parent chaperone Kristy Foster. “They learned all about different historical places, like Belle Isle and Tiger Stadium, and tomorrow they’ll get to see them firsthand. They’re also going to ride the People Mover.”
Another parent, Raylon Leeks, said that while it is hard for working parents to attend all of the field trips, “It really is good for the kids, so it’s worth it.” She also said she learned more about her city than she knew before the tour.
To find out more about Ferndale Schools and educational opportunities for kids, go to www.ferndalesschools.org. To learn more about Ferndale History, visit the Ferndale Historical Society website at http://www.ferndalehistoricalsociety.org/. For more on Downtown Ferndale (in it’s modern state) check out www.downtownferndale.com.
Note: Crow’s Nest photo courtesy Ferndale Historical Society.