August Woodward, appointed by President Jefferson to serve as the first federal judge in the new Michigan Territory, arrived in Detroit in late June, 1805, just about two weeks after a devastating fire destroyed all homes and structures in the village of Detroit. After helping Father Gabriel Richard secure assistance for the 800 or so residents, he realized that he had a marvelous opportunity. He could design a new city, capitalizing upon the best recent innovations in urban planning. At that time, President Jefferson was having Pierre L’Enfant implement innovative ideas for the layout of Washington. L’Enfant’s ideas about urban design persist two centuries later in our nation’s capital and Detroit. Local land owners in Detroit were not very enthusiastic about Woodward’s ideas but he succeeded in getting his unique grid imposed in what is now the downtown area. Two major parks were included in his plan: Campus Martius nearer the river and Grand Circus Park.
Campus Martius was never a very grand or elegant location since large buildings hovered over it. One major monument was erected here to commemorate the Michigan men who served in the War Between the States, Randolph Roger’s Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1872).
To celebrate the tricentennial of the founding of Detroit, a major renovation of Campus Martius was undertaken with the installation of new works of arts, the building of a performance stage, an ice rink, a new fountain honoring Judge Woodward and the refurbishing of both Roger’s great monument to the Civil War veteran’s and the nearby, Bagley Fountain (1887)—the only structure in Detroit designed by Henry Hobson Richardson.
The Monroe and Woodward Markers pictured here are the joint work of Eric Ernstberger, a sculpture who works in metal, and Herb Babcock, a Detroit artist who teaches as the College for Creative Studies and works in glass and plastic. These impressive twenty foot tall structures were designed to be beacons designating a destination or public area. Presumably, this is what Judge Woodward had in mind for Campus Martius. Dennis Alan Nawrocki, in hisArt in Detroit Public Places book (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008) explains that the Monroe Monument Marker reminds us of the city’s cultural life with panels – designed by Babcock – illustrating architecture, art, music, performance and design. This one was sponsored by the local electric power company: DTE. The Woodward Monument Marker was supported by Lear Industries—the auto components manufacturer. It recalls Detroit’s industrial history with panels illustrating technology, manufacturing, transportation and research. Both markers are topped with a shallow but substantial bowl that could hold oil that might be lit. I have never seen a picture of these markers with flames illuminating their tops.
Date of installation: 2004
Sculptor for the metal work: Eric Ernstberger
Sculptor for the glass work: Herb Babcock
Use in 2012: Public Art
Website of artist: http://www.herbbabcock.com/
Website of Campus Martius: http://www.campusmartiuspark.org/
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places: Not listed
Photograph: Ren Farley; April, 20, 2012
Description prepared: May, 2012
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