Story of the Week

Posted: 08.15.2011
The Village of Fairview and the Detroit Driving Club
By: Nick Sinacori
History sometimes takes place in a small and obscure location. The history of the following community describes how a culture that stood the spanse of time and considered the horse as a means of transportation came to a sudden halt. The story of the Village of Fairview takes place in roughly 7.2 square miles of real estate. This area was the birthplace of the automotive industry and marked the changeover from an agrarian horse-driven society to the modern industrial based urban world.

Street names often reflect how a community came into being, and ushered a change so revolutionary, as to affect a way of life. This change was the internal combustion engine. Streets named after the original French settlers of Detroit have long since passed on except for a few, such as St. Jean, Beniteau, and Cadieux. Other streets in the area were identified with prominent families and property owners, such as Lycaste, Hillger, and Lillibridge.

The Village of Fairview was incorporated on May 28, 1903 to fulfill paint manufacturer, Joseph Berrys, desire to connect the eastern limits of Detroit to the summer home destination of Detroits wealthy in Grosse Pointe Farms. A general theory is that the name Fairview was adopted in deference to a political celebrity of the day, William Jennings Bryan. Fairview, Nebraska was the homestead of Bryan. He was nominated three times by the Democratic Party for President, and was defeated as many times in the general elections. The boundaries of this fledgling community were Bewick Street (after shipping magnate Charles Bewick) to the west and traveling east on what was called the Grosse Pointe Plank Road (now East Jefferson Avenue). The eastern limit was Cadieux Road, named for the family that owned property at that location and the northern limit was Mack Avenue and the Detroit River to the south. The French named this same area the Grand Marais, or Great Marsh. Nine hundred acres of swampy wetland were given to French citizens by decree of the French government to families with names like Chauvin, Morin, and Campau.

William Jennings Bryan

Another theory about the Fairview name lies with the most popular sport of the day- horse racing. The Detroit area in the last 20 years of the 19th century supported six horse tracks, and two more across the river in Windsor, Ontario. This was in an area populated by 116,340 in 1880. The Fairview name already existed in Tennessee, southwest of Nashville. It was famous for the many championship horses that were raised in that location. Race tracks were established to celebrate the horse at its finest majesty and provide entertainment for all levels of society.

The first Detroit Driving Club, also known as the Hamtramck Racetrack, was founded in 1832 at Jefferson and Van Dyke, in Hamtramck Township. The Detroit Driving Club organization was founded in 1884 by D. J. Campau, Jr., for the purpose of promoting horse racing. Daniel was the grandson of one of the original settlers, Joseph Campau, who controlled large tracts of real estate. In 1894, the long established Hamtramck track was relocated to Campaus property in the Fairview area of Grosse Pointe Township. The new Detroit Driving Club usually ran sulkies or harness racing as well as thoroughbred- racing. The inaugural race was held on July 17, 1894, and the final day of racing activity for this track was August 5, 1911. The entrance to this well-built facility, designed by noted Detroit architect Mortimer Smith, was at Algonquin and Jefferson. The southern limit of the track was at what is now Essex Avenue. This facility had a 5,000 seat covered grandstand, a 3 storey Victorian clubhouse, 17 horse barns that held 25 horses each in comfort, an electrical power house, a caretakers house, a club secretary residence, and even a wharf for steamboats to tie up at the river to deliver spectators. They could also take the Citizens Street Railway street car from Detroit up to the brick-paved entrance into the track.

D.J. Campaus dedication to horse racing manifested itself into the acquisition and publishing of a nationally circulated periodical called the Chicago Horseman. The Horseman debuted in 1831 and continued until 1917. In July of 1886, it featured on the cover a photo engraving of Isaac Murphy, an African-American, who was the most celebrated and well-paid athlete of his day and Murphy successfully competed at the Detroit Driving Club. Horse racing was dominated by African-American jockeys from the mid-19th century until 1908.

Not far away, George Hendrie, another land developer and a street car magnate, founded the Detroit Jockey Club, incorporating it on May 16, 1893, with the inaugural run taking place June 8, 1897. The Detroit Jockey Club was exclusively devoted to thoroughbred-style racing. Hendrie built a brick-paved street car spur at the track entrance, on Marlborough at Jefferson, which can still be seen today. This gave his Citizens Street Railway a new destination and market. The Hendrie name was long associated with horse racing, with his ownership of the Highland Park track, and for many years, the Devonshire track across the river in Windsor.

The horse racing culture left its imprint on numerous street names including Algonquin, Iroquois, Marlborough, Meadowbrook, Tennessee, and Navahoe, which were all famous champion racehorses at the end of the 19th century.

Automobile competition was introduced at the Detroit Driving Club on October 10, 1901. William Metzger, a successful Winton auto dealer and organizer of the first auto show in Detroit, joined D. J. Campau to provide an entire day of racing events of the new-fangled machines. Over 8,000 people came out to see this demonstration of new technology, which included steam, electric, and gasoline powered vehicles. This was Henry Fords debut of the Sweepstakes car as the one car willing to race against the famous Alexander Winton, a leading auto manufacturer. His Bullet was one of the most successful race cars at that time. Henry Ford won the race and with this demonstration, seeded the founding of the modern Ford Company. Auto racing alternated with horse racing until 1905. The track closed for reorganization in 1906, and reopened in 1907, exclusively for horse racing until 1911. From 1911 until 1919, it was the first automotive testing facility. Subsequently, it was subdivided for residential development and disappeared into the city.

Detroit Automobile Company Principal Henry Ford Pulls Up on the Outside on Fellow Auto Builder Alexander Winton During the Grosse Pointe Feature Ten Mile Run in 1901.

The street names, once again, are vestiges of what began in Fairview. Chalmers Street was named for the Chalmers Motor car, Lakewood named for the homestead of Alexander Winton in Lakewood Ohio, near Cleveland, and Scripps for the newspaper owner family and a car designer. The original names of streets south of Jefferson were changed when Detroit annexed a large portion of Fairview in 1907. Evans, named for auto pioneer Oliver Evans, had an idea - the ultimate reality of which would be the American automobile. Evans developed a self-propelled, steam driven vehicle in 1789. After Detroits annexation of Fairview, Evans Street was renamed Coplin in deference to Charlotte Campau-Copeland. Coplin is a bastardization of the name Copeland. Reddig, who was an executive at Continental Motors, become Lenox. Newport was extended below Jefferson, superseding the name of Coffin, a co-founder of Hudson Motor Company. Gray Street was named for the Gray Motor Company, which manufactured automobiles at a factory, located at Mack and Conner Avenues. Continental Street was established for Continental Motors, an auto industry engine supplier. Walter Drake a Hupmobile executive, was honored with Drake Street, later renamed Eastlawn. The term east lawn was the area designated as the winners circle for horse racing. The remaining streets were named for Edward Korte, a Detroit City Councilman, and Averhill for the Avery family. Avondale was named for a Tennessee horse farm. Lenox was named after respected physician, Dr. Levi Lenox, and Manistique and Ashland were named for two iron ore companies owned by industrialist, Joseph Berry. Berry was a major benefactor to Fairview, leaving property from his estate for residential, industrial development and educational purposes.

Streets with literary names like Tennyson, Emerson, and Whitman existed in Fairview. The street named Philip recalls a verse from Tennysons poem, The Brook. Till last by Philips farm I flow, to join the brimming river, for men may come and men may go, but I go on forever.

Two other streets were identified with a relation to Campau: Anderdon and Springle were named for his brother-in-law, Hobart Anderdon Springle. The street named for Fairview was originally called OFlynn. Cornelius OFlynn was a judge who owned property in this location. It was renamed for Fairview in 1905.

The politics of Fairview was as tempestuous and fevered as the horse and auto contests that existed at the local race courses. Partisan conflicts pitted the interests of Campau against the agendas of Detroit mayors George Codd and William Thompson. The Codd administration accused Fairview of the disposal of raw sewerage into the Detroit River which was a good pretext to annex Fairview. Fairview resolved this problem by building a facility, still in service today, at Jefferson and Conner. Detroit still had the objective to assimilate Fairview. Mayor William B. Thompson, a former city treasurer, was determined to consume Fairview in its entirety.

Thompson had allies in the state legislature, such as William Dust and Guy Miller, both Republicans. Dust and Miller moved to support Democrat Mayor Thompsons efforts to merge Fairview into Detroit. D.J. Campau knew that the political influence he had over Fairview was threatened by the Republican legislature and governor. He finally brought a lawsuit against Detroit, and the case was heard by the Michigan Supreme Court in 1907. The court ruled in Campaus favor in their initial decision. Mayor Thompson responded by dispatching a special representative to argue Detroits case before the state legislature and Governor Fred Warner. This intense political situation was agitated even further by the expansion interests from the Detroit United Railway (D.U.R.). Suspicions and charges of bribery, fraud, and intimidation involving agents of the D.U.R. and Fairview Village trustees saturated local newspapers.

Amid the debates, litigation, and confusion, a deal was struck to create a separate community out of a 2.2 mile portion of Fairview. This became the Village of Grosse Pointe Park, incorporated under House Enrolled Act Number 185, passed by the Michigan Legislature on May 8, 1907. The Village of Fairview was laid to rest on October 27, 1907. The decision came from Governor Fred Warner to allow Detroit to annex a portion of the Village of Fairview.

The horse culture Fairview nurtured transitioned into the horseless age, giving birth to the auto manufacturing and modern society that made Detroit the Motor City, and the symbol of the 20th century.

A special thanks to Nick Sinacori, President of the Village of Fairview, for donating his story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Please do not republish the story without the permission of MotorCities. If you have any further questions regarding the Village of Fairview, feel free to contact Nick Sinacori at If you have a story that you would like to donate to be featured as a MotorCities Story of the Week, email Lisa Ambriez at:

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