ORAL HISTORIES: Share Your Memories

Palmer Park is a wellspring
of memories and stories.

Once it was an ancient Native American sacred center. In the 1800s, it was a rural retreat for senators, mystics, and early Detroit leaders and philanthropists.

Treasured as a public park for more than 125 years, it has been the site for magical memories, stories and experiences for children, who played and explored there, and their families. Once it was thriving and beautifully maintained — with waterfalls, wishing wells, lakes, a 1908 million dollar marble fountain, hiking trails, ponds for fishing and ice skating, orchards, flower gardens, wildlife, casino and log cabin from the 1800s — but fewer and fewer remember those days, as the park has suffered from neglect and lack of city funds to maintain it.

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER? Share your memories on this page by writing in the comment section and help us capture those experiences. If you are willing to be interviewed in person, please let us know because we hope to have an oral history project spin off from this. We want memories of the Park from elders and youngsters of all ages so we can collect your stories to help guide and inspire us as we restore, revitalize and re-create Palmer Park.  

2 Responses to “ORAL HISTORIES: Share Your Memories”
  1. Mary Anne M. Helveston says:

    My mother’s family, the Grix family,left Germany in the 1870s to avoid the draft and came to
    Detroit where they purchased rural farm land. That farmland was located between what is now John R and Woodward, Six and Seven Mile road across the street from Senator Palmer’s property now known as Palmer Park Remnants of their time farming the land can be found in the current street names, Grixdale, and Hildale (a cousin) There was enough land for 6 of the seven brothers to farm and have homes but not enough for the youngest, my grandfather who settled in the city a block from the river (now the site of the Riverwalk carousel). My mother used to take the interurban train out Woodward avenue to visit her “country cousins.” Since they were neighbors, her uncles knew Senator Palmer very well. In fact, when he died, they served as pall bearers at his funeral.

  2. Lee says:

    I caught the Davison bus to Woodward and the Woodward bus to the park because all the tennis players had started playing there. I would cry on the days it would rain because I could not play tennis. I was 15years old and we played on court 9. I was taken in by the players at the park who helped me become better. I remember the tennis courts being so crowded that there was a Detroit Rec attendant housed in a booth who would give out permits for an hour. Because we were regulars he just gave us one for Court No. 9 for the whole time we were there. We had clout. I played from 9am to 12am during the summer. We had lights then. We ate at Ted’s on the Park across the street. I could say a lot more, but I will put it in my novel.

    Palmer Park Tennis Courts to this day is my happy place.

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