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The life and legacy of Detroit's historic preservationist Beulah Groehn Croxford

Sep 2, 2015

Historic preservationist Beulah Groehn Croxford.
Credit Martin McClain

The recent demolition of Detroit's Park Avenue Hotel to make way for the Red Wings arena put the historic preservation community in the spotlight as they fought to save the hotel.

That preservation battle got writer Amy Elliott Bragg thinking about the woman hailed as the founder of Detroit's historic preservation movement, Beulah Groehn Croxford.

"Everyone I talked to who knew her said she was a tiger, she was a force to be reckoned with," said Bragg, president of Preservation Detroit. Bragg wrote all about Croxford for Model D. 

The story goes that one day in 1965, Croxford, an antiques collector, goes to an estate sale on West Canfield Street, falls in love with the house and ends up buying it. Thereafter, Croxford dedicates her life to saving these old buildings for future generations, and West Canfield becomes Detroit's first historic district. 

"The idea for Beulah was, we need to save these buildings because they matter to people, they tell stories that are about who we are as a community. She saw them as opportunities for education and places where people can learn about Detroit's architectural history ... about the heritages that we all share as Detroiters. She saw historic preservation as a way to make our city more beautiful, and to enable the kind of neighborhood improvement and revitalization that attracts people to cities."

Listen to the full interview above.