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Free Press Flashback: For decades Detroit ghost park was 'Disneyland' to kids

Walk out of Pewabic Pottery on East Jefferson and you can’t miss it: the massive Beaux Arts Chauncey Hurlbut Gate. While striking, it looks like a portal to nowhere.

Behind the gate are acres of vacant land and a couple of large buildings. The entire area is off limits to the public.

The bleak scene has remained the same since the 1950s. But during an earlier era, the large piece of land beyond the gate was known as Waterworks Park, a corner of the city that served the dual purpose of water treatment facility and urban recreational spot.

The Beaux Arts gate, at Cadillac Boulevard and East Jefferson, is all that remains from the glory years of Waterworks Park. It honors Chauncey Hurlbut, a member of the Board of Water Commissioners from 1868 to 1885.

The idea of a public utility and a public park sharing the same ground is a testimony to the ingenuity of the city’s 19th-century leaders. But in our security conscious 21st century, the idea reflects a bygone era.

The land was the site of a mammoth pumping station erected in 1877, the brainchild of Hurlbut, who served on the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners from 1868 to 1885.


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