Monday, October 02, 2006

Update on the Chene Street Project

On Sunday, September 24th, Marian Krzyzowski gave a presentation on The Chene Street Project at St. Albertus Catholic Church in Detroit. For those who aren't familiar with The Chene Street Project let me briefly explain.

About 5 years ago Marian (who once lived/visited on Chene Street) got an idea to collect information and memorabilia about the people and businesses that have inhabited Chene Street (in Detroit, Michigan) over a 100 year time span, 1890-1990. He enlisted the help of 11 University of Michigan business students over the years and has proceeded to compile over 450 individual interviews (1000 hours so far), more than 10,000 photographs, has scanned every yearbook for St. Hyacinth and St. Stanislaus Catholic Church high schools for the time span, and more restaurant menus, dry cleaning receipts, parish bulletins, and other memorabilia than you can imagine.

The presentation he gave was sort of "Here's what we've done so far". It included a PowerPoint presentation of 100 slides with 200 photographs highlighting about 20 businesses on Chene Street. Those businesses included: Witkowski Clothiers, Modern Bakery, Ksiegarnia Ludowa (People's Bookstore), Hoffman Photo Studio, Andy Schemer Tailor, and Jaruga Music Store to name a few. The presentation was well organized and Marian had lots of interesting stories to share. Unfortunately, he didn't entertain questions at the end of the presentation but he did share his email address :-)

My question, and the question that many others had was, "Will this information be made available to the public? (If so, when, where, and how?)" Since he didn't mention this in his presentation, and he didn't entertain questions (at least not publicly), I sent him an email. This was his reply:
The entire Chene Street archive that I am collecting will reside in the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and will be available to the public. This includes the hard copy as well as all the digital images which now number in the tens of thousands. Eventually, I will write a book and there will be an interactive website. This last piece will require some $$ which I have not yet found.
No mention of "when" unfortunately. But the good news is that it will belong to the University of Michigan Library system. And in case you didn't know, Google announced an agreement to digitize the University of Michigan Library back in 2004. The University of Michigan library is the 6th largest in the country with some 7 million volumes. So presumably the The Chene Street Project (which apparently is already digitized) will be included in the Google index for the U of M Library in the future. Yeah!

[Chene Street, for those of you not familiar with it's significance, was the "heart" of the east side Polish community in Detroit from the late 1800s through the first half of the 1900s . After that, the neighborhood changed over to primarily African American. Most of the businesses on Chene Street are gone now and the neighborhood is pretty desolate though there are still some Polish "hold outs" who continue to live in the area. The Poles may have built most of the Chene Street businesses but there was also a smattering of other ethnic groups in the area as well including Jewish, Ukrainian, and German immigrants to name a few. African Americans too will find The Chene Street Project of interest. There are stories about their move into the area and the businesses they established as well.]