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Lee Plaza Hotel, Michigan

Courtesy of Andrew Jameson
Courtesy of Andrew Jameson

Lee Plaza is located at 2240 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan, and the former apartment building is a state historic site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its architecture is a true representation of Art Deco from the 1920s. During its heyday, it was known for its catch phrase: “You will never miss your home when you stay at the Lee Plaza.”

Proposed by Ralph T. Lee, a self-made millionaire who began working in a furniture store and engraving company before transitioning into the real estate business, Lee Plaza was the accumulation of Lee’s vision for a grander, greater Detroit. In October 1919, Lee left his job as an engraver with the J.B. VanAlstyne Engraving Company to start up a construction company, completing apartment complexes throughout the bustling city. His office was located on the fifth floor of the General Motors Building. By the 1920s, Lee was making more than $100,000 per year, a tidy sum for the time.

Designed by Charles Noble with a set budget of over one million dollars, Lee Plaza was planned as an upscale apartment tower with hotel services and was one of the tallest building to be built under his watch. Ground was broken on Lee Plaza on May 1, 1927 and was completed in 1929 at a cost of over $2.5 million, with Otto Misch Company acting as the general contractor. The 15-story structure, known as Lee Plaza Hotel, was decorated with sculpture and tile that represented the Art Deco style with a Mediterranean influence, and faced with an orange glazed brick on the exterior. The top featured imported red Spanish tile, capped with a green copper roof. It was part of Lee’s vision for a New York Fifth Avenue feel, with the hope that West Grand Boulevard would be upscale, denser and stacked with residential mid-rises.

The interior was fitted with 220 one-to-four-room apartments. Each unit featured a Servidor for dry cleaned goods, and the one-and-two-bedroom units were furnished, while the furnishings for the three- and four-bedroom units were optional. The first floor contained a grocery store and ballroom, while the basement contained a beauty parlor, children’s playroom and a game room. Other amenities included daily maid service and radio service. The common areas featured Italian marble floors, exquisite walnut wood paneling and hand painted frescos and detailed barrel vaulted ceilings, with polychromed plasterwork. Most notable was Peacock Alley, named for the use of blue, gold and green colors in the coffered ceiling of the barrel-vaulted walkway.

Inside Lee PlazaLee sold Lee Plaza to the Detroit Investment Company, but by December 1930, the company was behind on its payments by $1.1 million. The Metropolitan Trust Company was appointed as the receiver, but went into receivership and was then transferred to the Equitable Trust Company in 1931. Through some shady dealings by Lee, which involved his hardware business, and the Depression, Lee Plaza was bankrupt by 1935. The legal woes continued until Lee Plaza was sold to Charles Owen, a local real estate dealer who had owned a third of the outstanding bonds on the structure, in August 1943 for just $475,585.

But apartment homes had begun to fall out of favor by the 1940s, and the allure of Lee Plaza was on the decline, hosting transients and other short term renters. The Lee Plaza Company was formed in November to acquire the assets of Lee Plaza for $600,000. In the 1960s, Lee Plaza was sold to a developer who conducted minor renovations of the building. In January 1969, the company sold the building to the city who converted the building into low-income senior citizen housing. New kitchens were added and the elevators were modernized.

Lee Plaza was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 5, 1981. From the time of its opening to the time it was added to the register, the building had never been completely remodeled, keeping intact its Art Deco elements, its frescos and ornamentation. But the decline of the building continued, culminating with its closure in 1997 due to a lack of funding to maintain Lee Plaza.

Courtesy of Mike Russell
Courtesy of Mike Russell

In 2000, more than fifty terracotta lion heads were stolen from Lee Plaza and were missing until six of the heads were spotted in a new residential development project in Chicago, Illinois. The developer, Greene & Proppe, had purchased them for less than $1,000 each from Architectural Artifacts of Chicago, who had purchased them from an antiques dealer in Saline, Michigan. Twenty-four of the lion heads along with three stone griffins were eventually recovered. Valued at over two million dollars, the ornamentation has been put into storage for reuse at the Lee—if it is ever redeveloped. The copper roof, however, was stripped in 2005 and photos of the once grand building show it to be in poor condition.

Mercy – FREE until 21 Feb

Mercy3DTo celebrate the upcoming release of the second book in the Guardians series – The Ferryman, I have decided to give you all the chance to catch up with the series so far.

Mercy (book #1) will be available FREE until 21 February to download onto your eReader.

To get your free copy click here:

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Ferryman3DThe Ferryman is due for release the following week (29th Feb), so you’ve got plenty of time to find out what the Guardians series is all about before the adventure continues. 

You can pre-order The Ferryman by clicking here:

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Dante’s Inferno

Dante’s Inferno is the very foundation of our very understanding of Hell as it paints a very vivid picture of what Hell may look like. Dante wrote his Divine Comedy as a commentary on the religion and politics of Italy in the early 14th century. At that time, Italy lacked stability— and was without a secure government. Political turmoil ruled the country, and many competing factions fought to gain control of this one great country.

It was really down to two groups: the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. The Guelphs supported the Pope, and the Ghibellines supported the Holy Roman Emperor. Together the Pope and the Holy Roman empire ruled over a selection of countries and territories in Europe. The Guelphs, being the more working class party of the two, wanted more say for the merchants and citizens of the government. The Ghibellines were mainly richer citizens who wanted the Emperor to maintain control—and say—over all of his people. Religion and politics were extremely tightly connected at this time.

shutterstock_66190021Although recognized as a masterpiece in the centuries immediately following its publication, the work was largely ignored during the Enlightenment, with some notable exceptions such as Vittorio Alfieri; Antoine de Rivarol, who translated the Inferno into French; and Giambattista Vico, who in the Scienza Nuova and in the Giudizio su Dante inaugurated what would later become the romantic reappraisal of Dante, juxtaposing him to Homer. The Comedy was “rediscovered” in the English-speaking world by William Blake – who illustrated several passages of the epic – and the romantic writers of the 19th century. Later authors such as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Samuel Beckett, C. S. Lewis and James Joyce have drawn on it for inspiration. In T. S. Eliot’s estimation, “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them. There is no third.” For Jorge Luis Borges, the Divine Comedy was “the best book literature has achieved.”

The effects of Dante’s Inferno were felt strongly after the Divine Comedy was published. Many saw it as a lesson on the consequences of leading a sinful life. Dante’s version of Hell was taken very seriously, and it was used as warning to those who may have strayed from the straight path. The effects of Dante’s Inferno are still felt today. He gives us the most widely known version of Hell, and for most people, Dante’s Hell is the standard picture that jumps to mind. For some people today, this book is still taken very literally and is once again a warning about the consequences of leading an immoral life.

Unusual Ways To Spot A Witch

Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

In the 1600s, being a woman meant that you were more than likely one of the Devil’s brides. For thousands of years, it was believed that women were more naïve, and therefore more open to sins, than men. Sinning is, of course, a clear indication of Devil worship. Take Salem, for example. There were five men and a staggering thirteen women convicted of witchcraft. This is the case throughout history. Women were considered to be closer to the Devil than men.

Being Poor Is a Mark of the Devil.

The poor were considered to be bottom feeders who had to rely on their community for support. This meant they were an easy target when accused of witchcraft. Sarah Good, hanged in 1692, was hated by her fellow townsfolk. Her crime? She begged for food.

Being Rich and Female Is a Mark of the Devil.

Just as being poor was a sure case of Devil worship, being a female, who lived without the help or supervision of a man could cause the townsfolk to turn around and call you a witch. Between 1620 and 1725, 89 percent of those executed for witchcraft were female, and a high percentage of them were wealthy (or comfortable) females without brothers, husbands or sons.

Falling Out with Your Friends.

Just the sight of Matthew Hopkins or John Searne could inspire such terror in a community that it never took long for women to accuse each other of witchcraft. Hopkins and Searne were the foremost witchfinders and took delight in seeing a community ripped apart. It was commonly believed that it was easier for women to root out fellow witches than for men to discover them.

Falling Out in General.

Pick a town in 1692 in America. Your enemy has just married the man you love. The man you love has fallen in love with the woman you hate. How can you get even? You can accuse that woman of witchcraft. All you have to do is go to the witchfinder and explain that you saw that woman flying naked on a broomstick, or that she looked at you the wrong way, or that she jabbed you with her elbow… or any number of lies. She would be tried, more than likely found guilty, and hung.

Just Being Old.

Older women, unmarried or married, were commonly accused of witchcraft. Rebecca Nurse was a 70-year-old invalid when she was accused by her neighbors of being a witch. Her immobility didn’t save her from her supposed crime. She was tried, convicted and put to death.

Life In The Underworld

The Underworld was one of the most mysterious places for the Greeks. Just as Hades was one of the least depicted of the gods—information about the Underworld was sketchy.

The Underworld was hidden deep in the depths of the earth and was the Kingdom of the Dead, ruled by a greedy god named Hades who had one purpose to fulfil. That purpose was to increase the number of souls in the Underworld. His palace lay deep within the kingdom where he could keep watch on the souls he held captive.

shutterstock_201548636 (1)Upon death, a soul was led by Hermes to the entrance of the Underworld, where a ferry waited to carry the soul across the Acheron. There was a single ferry run by Charon, the boatman. Only those who could pay the fare with coins placed on their lips when buried could afford to take the ferry. After the boat ride, souls were taken through the gates. Once inside the Underworld, Hades rarely allowed anyone to leave, but life was unpleasant for those who dwelled there.

The souls would appear before three judges: Minos, Aeacus and Rhadamanthus, who would pass sentence based on the life of the soul. Good souls would go to the Elysian Fields; whereas bad souls would be sentenced to be tormented for all eternity.

It is said that life in the Underworld was rather like living through a dark dream, filled with shadows and without any hope. The Underworld was a place where the souls of the dead faded away into the ether, never to be seen again.

Charon – The Ferryman of the Dead

Charon was the son of the primordial gods, Erebus (the God of Darkness) and Nyx (the Goddess of Light). The name Charon means ‘fierce brightness’ in Greek, and the Roman´s equivalent was Charus. Charon was the ferryman of the dead, an underworld spirit in the service of King Hades. He received the shades of the dead from Hermes who gathered them from the upper world and guided them to the shores of River Acheron.

The Acheron was also known as the River of Pain that flowed from the Styx and believed to carry pains intended for mortals back to Earth. It also carried the good souls from the Underworld that were sent back to Earth to be reincarnated as mortals.

Those who had not received due burial and were unable to pay his fee would be left to wander the earthly side of the Acheron, haunting the upper world as ghosts.

shutterstock_213728281Although Hermes might have taken the souls of the dead to the banks of the river for free, Charon demanded his fee. From there, Charon transported them in his skiff to a final resting place in Hades, the land of the dead, on the other side.

The fee for his service was a single obolos, a silver coin worth a sixth of a drachma, which was placed in the mouth of a corpse at burial. This process was known as placing Charon’s obol. People who were unable to pay the fee were doomed to wander the shores of the river for a hundred years.

Since most Greeks, understandably, did not want to wander in the mists and marshes, they buried their dead with coins to pay the ferryman; this tradition is still retained to this day in many parts of Greece.

Living people who want to visit Hades must also pay the ferryman. Given the fact that they needed two trips, Charon charged significantly more, and several myths and stories indicate that visitors to Hades payed with a golden branch to cross the river and then return.

In the catabasis mytheme, some heroes—such as Heracles and Dionysus—traveled to the Underworld and returned, still alive, conveyed by the ferry of Charon.

Several Greek and Roman authors wrote about traveling to the Underworld, usually with the assistance of an experienced guide. Dante’s “The Inferno” and “The Aeneid” by Virgil also feature a trip to the Underworld.