Saturday, October 1, 2016

Dangerous When Disturbed, Otherwise Quite Harmless

Detroit Free Press, December 30, 1931
I think that phrase could be used for any of us but we aren't mental charges. Not yet anyway. Lafayette Willis was not only a patient but a genial one at that. He would talk to anybody about anything. Except for the fact that he was busting out of Eloise. Which he did in late December of 1931. If would be fitting if I said that he was never heard from him again but I don't know that to be true. In fact, I don't know anything about him except for what the article relays.

Last of Winterhalters Escapes Pauper's Grave, 1944

Detroit Free Press, June 10, 1944
There is an neighborhood and school in Detroit which took the name of a prominent member of the Winterhalter family that has otherwise fallen into obscurity. Of the notables, George Winterthalter had run a successful furniture empire in the 1800s but the family fortunes began dwindling after he died in the late 1890s. Albert Gustavus Winterhalter, mentioned in the article, found notoriety as an naval officer and is the namesake for the middle school. He was Lillian's brother and last known relative. They were the children of John Winterthaler, a Captain in the Mexican War.

Lillian Winterhalter died at Eloise in 1944. Since the article doesn't delve into her time at the hospital it's probably safe to assume that it wasn't an overly extensive residency. Perhaps just a few weeks before she passed. The family estate must have set a burial plot aside for her at Elmwood that was discovered after her death since the mention of a pauper's grave is prominent in the byline. Or maybe it was just normal newspaper hype.

The sibling's mother passed in 1918. In her death notice Lillian was mentioned as "her constant companion for years". Albert suddenly died shortly thereafter in 1920. Lillian apparently never married and resided at the 1496 West Jefferson family home until it was sold around 1926. Presumably she had run out of money. Upon the sale she received $15,000 (nearly $200,000 in today's worth) and blew through it rather quickly. Which might suggest that she was a bit dysfunctional, to say the least.

An interesting aside to this story is from the life of Albert Winterhalter. Of the few photographs posted online all show the good admiral from a profile view. Below he is pictured as such above his actress wife Helen Dauvray (whom had previously been married to Hall of Fame baseball player Monte Ward).

The positioning was likely purposely done with good reason: he lost an eye in an archery training accident in 1879 that luckily didn't kill the young midshipman:

Detroit Free Press, June 10, 1879
If you were paying close attention to dates this latter happening was posted in the same paper exactly 65 years before the death notice for Miss Lillian in 1944.

Eloise Holds Rites at Paupers' Field

Detroit Free Press, May 31, 1938
In May of 1938, at the behest of seventy-five-year-old patient George Eagan, Eloise held its first ceremony for the 5,000+ dead paupers buried on site. 3,000 people gathered to hear Eagan and the Reverend Ensworth Reisner speak as Evergreen Park was dedicated. This is the only instance I recall of the pauper cemetery being referred to as Evergreen Park.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Until the Cows Come Home No More

Detroit Free Press, November 2, 1954
For a hundred years prized Holsteins grazed the land at Eloise producing milk and providing meat for the inmates. But the same utter incompetence, or malice, which allowed the property to fall into disrepair let the entire stock of cows to be auctioned off in late 1954, fetching $28,500 for the 206 beeves.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Light Work at Eloise Scares

Detroit Free Press, July 10, 1931 (enlarge)
Want to know how to clear out a poorhouse in orderly fashion? Make the homeless work. Or so posited Dr. Gruber as to why Detroiters who were down on their luck were spurning Eloise. He mused that the work required of boarders was of the light variety--lawn cutting and gardening--and usually only in the morning, leaving afternoons free for cards and checkers. Plus the air was fresh, the food was bountiful and delicious and leisure abounded. Apparently, Detroiters preferred city life and the Fisher Lodge, which seems to have been the urban alternative to Eloise, didn't require labor.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Growing Up in the World

The cover of this booklet looks innocuous enough for the 1940s and it is. People used to have morals and sex wasn't an amusement park ride. This book was used to guide the innocent lovers into wedded bliss. So long sane world.

Anyway, the only reason that I paid a buck for it was that it was passed out at Eloise via the Wayne County Department of Health at the Wayne County Health Center, apparently located on Henry Ruff.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Haunted House at Eloise?

Detroit Free Press, September 26, 1985
While any ghosts of the old fire house at Eloise went up with the arson fire several months ago old ones arise with these two short articles. Many proposals, efforts and actions were taken to utilize the complex but ultimately they all died with the rapid decline of and subsequent abandonment of Detroit.

Don Anderson of Castle Builders was one such planner. He proposed to have a haunted house in Building No. 30, otherwise known as the fire station. The agreement would have given the county 33% of the revenue at no less than $5,000. Wayne County officials shot down the notion stating liabilities, likely with the condition of the building.

While there was never a haunted house on the grounds the article alludes to the fact that there was once a circus held there by the deputy sheriff's association.

Detroit Free Press, October, 1985