Hot Off The Press: The First Detroit Guidebook In A Generation

December 19, 2012, 7:03 AM by  Bill McGraw

Three siblings who grew up in Detroit, live in Detroit and work in Detroit have created the first comprehensive Detroit guidebook in at least 30 years.

Titled “Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insider’s Guide To Detroit” and selling for $22, its 448 pages are filled with data and mini-essays on neighborhoods, bars, restaurants, markets, antique stores, parks, delis, theaters, factories, celebrity homes, non-professional sports, ruins, cinemas and more. Much more.

“An Insider’s Guide” is scheduled to be published today and go on sale at City Bird and Nest, neighboring stores on W. Canfield near Wayne State that happen to be owned by two of the siblings, Andy Linn and Emily Linn.

The third Linn, Rob, said the trio began the project because they believe Detroit is filled with old and new treasures and lots of residents and visitors who are searching for them.

“We feel that there is an exciting energy throughout Detroit, and renewed interest in visiting the city,” he said.

Andy Linn said he and Emily Linn encounter customers on almost a daily basis who are begging for information on the cultural, agricultural and culinary outposts of the resurgent city that are mentioned regularly in the national and international media outlets that have been chronicling Detroit over the past several years.

“They don’t know what to explore,” Andy Linn said. “They just know it is a fascinating place.”

“Insider’s Guide” is the result of two years of research by the Linns and about three dozen contributors. They visited more than 2,000 businesses and sites beyond those they already knew about.

Let's go 'fowling'

And when they say a guide to Detroit, they mean a guide to Detroit, as in 139-square-mile Detroit.

The book divides the city into 10 chapters. There is also one chapter for Hamtramck and Highland Park and one chapter for the rest of the suburbs.

The relatively small but flourishing areas of Corktown, downtown, Midtown and Eastern Market each get a separate chapter; so do vast areas of the far east and west sides.

The chapter on Corktown contains, among many entries, write-ups for for the well-known Slow’s, Nemo’s, Nancy Whiskey and John King Books. But there also is information on the more esoteric – a holistic massage parlor, a full-service fencing studio and a 40-seat performance space.

The tone is upbeat: Neighborhoods across the Upper East Side, for example, “often showcase resident pride and energy.” Despite “the patina of decline punctuated by vacant homes and vacant land,” the guide assures readers such challenges have sparked “an unparalleled evolution in the traditional urban fabric and showcased the resolve of dedicated residents.”

Speaking of the “Upper East Side:” That’s a vast area in the book, stretching from the old State Fairgrounds at Woodward and 8 Mile to the distant corner of Mack and Moross, the St. John Hospital neighborhood that borders Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Woods and Harper Woods.

Who knew there was a “fowling warehouse” on Van Dyke, inside a massive old toy factory? Fowling, which rhymes with bowling, is a combination of football and bowling in which two teams try to knock down pins with footballs. The fowling facility shares space with the Chocolate Cake Design Collective. Among fowling fans: Insane Clown Posse.

A site called Laid in Detroit? It’s not what you think. It’s a duck farm on Neff, in a neighborhood near Cadieux and Mack.

Vinyl records, anyone? One of only 10 record-pressing plants in the world, Archer Record Pressing on Davison is a third-generation operation.

Pssst. The house shot at St. Cece’s, on Bagley, is called Sweet Baby Jesus. What would those Irish priests at nearby Holy Trinity have said about that?

“Working on the guide was a fun, exciting experience for us,” said Rob Linn.

“We learned a lot, and met many fascinating people. Andy and I, for example, visited 300 bars and restaurants."

Detroiters through and through

The Linns have Detroit in their blood; they are seventh generation Detroiters. Rob Linn, 26, is an economic development urban planner working as a GIS Analyst at Data Driven Detroit. Emily Linn, 35, and Andy Linn, 29, have been Midtown retailers since 2009. Andy is also an urban planner working as an historic preservation consultant at Zachary and Associates. Emily is a graphic designer, illustrator, and photographer by trade.

They grew up in the Berry Subdivision, near the Manoogian Mansion. Each was homeschooled for high school then attended the University of Michigan. Rob has a master’s degree from U-M; Emily and Andy have grad degrees from Wayne State University.

Their father, Thomas, is a well known Detroit lawyer who was a leader in the effort to preserve Tiger Stadium. The demolished stadium’s site has an entry in “Insider’s Guide:”

“Though technically not public, the storied field remains playable, tended by volunteer groundskeepers on an ad hoc basis,” it says in part.

“Insider’s Guide” is the heir to a proud literary tradition. In 1970, when the city had about 800,000 more people than today, an author named Sheldon Annis published a guidebook titled “Detroit: A Young Guide to the City.” It was certainly a different era: One of its contributors, an attractive young woman, posed for the cover nude, though with her legs and arms tastefully arranged.

Annis and another local journalist, Martin Fischhoff, put out several editions of the book, which eventually was retitled “Detroit Guide: A Young Guide to the City,” with a cover photo of a young man made up to resemble the Spirit of Detroit statue in front of city hall. Flipping through the pages of those books can be a bittersweet experience with their listings of long-gone eateries and shops.

The Linns, though, are not looking backward in their guidebook. They are focused on the Detroit of today, in all of its funky glory. They call it “a great American city.”

“We felt that many businesses and destinations are obscured in the digital divide,” Rob Linn said.

“They’re lacking any presence on Google or Yelp, for example - and we wanted to raise the profile of many of these businesses and cultural amenities that make Detroit so special.”

"Insider's Guide" can also be ordered online here.

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