Three indications this isn’t a hotel: 1. There’s a gleaming, lovingly restored BSA motorbike in pride of place in the living room; 2. The hosts are cooking, music’s playing, friends are coming round, and we’re invited to join them for dinner; 3. Dave is given a bike and directions to a liquor store, and pedals off into the dark (the other guest, Nick, in town for an interview at med school tomorrow) jogs in front to show him the way.
The two vibrant, nicely-lit guest rooms share a bathroom and guests have access to the kitchen, and the run of the ground floor. The owners, Alyssa and Matt, bought the central Virginia Park neighbourhood property (close to Wayne State University, Henry Ford Hospital, and Detroit’s New Center) for $13,000 in September. Yes, $13,000 – although they’ve invested cash and a huge effort into redoing all the hardwood floors, restoring it . . . and in record time. They occupy the top half. There’s talk of converting the attic space, and work is underway on a bunk room.
Like several properties in the area, the homestead, an example of what can be done, is now a bit of an anomaly in its street. To the uninitiated, the surroundings are hard to compute; not exactly shocking but baffling. Empty lots, boarded up houses, collapsing houses, burnt-out houses, entire abandoned streets. But we arrived in the dark, enjoyed the best hospitality with a group of people whose intelligent optimism and enthusiasm was illuminating, and by the time we stepped out in the morning to explore Detroit, we were seeing it more in terms of the exciting potential than its problematic past, okay, present.
Good company, comfortable bed and one of a handful of special places offering a fantastic opportunity to learn about Detroit rather than skim over its surface.
Detroit Homestead bookings; Coming soon: Conversations with Detroit locals about life in the city. Check back!