San Francisco had Haight Ashbury… Detroit had Plum Street. This short-lived art community was the conduit of expression for the counterculture of the Motor City.
One determined man was able to envision a home for artist in Downtown Detroit. This vision included creative shops, restaurants and theaters. In 1966, this dream became a reality.
Robert Cobb is the entrepreneur who began it all, by dreaming up an artistic tourist hotspot. This 24 year old high school teacher settled on Elton Park as the location, and then partnered up with the real estate developer Sherman Shapiro so that soon the two men owned most of the buildings between Fourth and Fifth street. (Detroitnews.com) Plum Street was born!
Forty-three stores would open in the area bound by the Fisher, Lodge and Michigan Avenue.
From pottery shops to head shops, this community had everything under the sun. To name a few:
Of Cabbages and Kings – an antique shop
Waste Basket Boutique – the latest paper clothing fashions
Prometheus Candle Works – revamping the old art of candle making
Tres Camp – posters and art reproductions
Red Roach Coffee House
(For a fuller list search detnews.com or click the link below).
A lone man waits in front of the antiques boutique “Of Cabbages and Kings”
Detroit city and its current Mayor Cavanagh showed support the community by “putting in gas lights and trash cans that people painted bright psychedelic colors.” (Detroitnews.com) In the adjacent park, concerts and art exhibitions were held to bring in customers. Plum Street even eventually became “the home to the Detroit underground newspaper “The Fifth Estate” and was home to “The King of the Hippies” John Sinclair’s media production company Translove Energies.” (Wikipedia.com)
Everything was running too smoothly.
Eventually, this dream that became reality was too good to be true. A year after opening, trouble would start to brew. This hippie Mecca drew in the good as well as the bad. Customers began to feel threatened. Eventually loiters, motorcycle gangs and drug dealers won.
By 1969, the number of shops had shrunk to less than 10.
The final blow was the construction of the Fisher freeway and the effects of the ‘67 riots.
It seems crazy to imagine that that forty years ago Detroit had a hippie hangout. Now all that remains is the history.
The current location is now home to the Edison Plaza parking lots. (metrotimes.com)
July 4th 1966 – abt. 1970
To labor in Detroit
A hippy’s dream
that in the long run…
was too out of reach for reality.
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Ed. Note -Lynette Lenn is one of our long time writers, with us since 2007. Now that we’re returning to the swing of things, expect more great pieces from her! -JRM