History repeats itself in Midtown vs. Cass Corridor debate


The view on Canfield Street, which has seen an influx of new businesses in recent years. - SARAH RAHAL
  • Sarah Rahal
  • The view on Canfield Street, which has seen an influx of new businesses in recent years.

We've written about Detroit's Midtown vs. Cass Corridor name wars before (OK, actually it's kind of our beat). But while some continue to worry that the newer Midtown "brand" is threatening to eclipse the Cass Corridor's artistic legacy, it's important to be reminded that the Cass Corridor wasn't always called that name.

In fact — in an amusing case of history repeating itself — it was some of the artists of the original Cass Corridor movement who rejected referring to it by that name in the first place.

Deadline Detroit has pieced together the decades-long drama. Citing a Feb. 6, 1972 article by art critic Joy Hakanson Colby for The Detroit News' Sunday magazine, Deadline points to a quote that should give you déjà vu. (The excerpt, from an article titled "Exploring Detroit's New Art Colony — Cass Corridor," surfaced in a tweet by writer Drew Philp, who was doing his own independent research.)

In discussing the neighborhood's burgeoning art movement, Colby writes:

It has a name … Cass Corridor … though its artistic residents don’t call it that. "It's a city planner's label," says painter John Egner, a WSU professor. "Catchy and upbeat. But it has nothing to do with us and what goes on here. Who names their own neighborhood?"

This reticence, Egner admits, stems from the fact that a place known as Cass Corridor might attract tourists like the ill-fated Plum Street. Sightseers looking for gift shops run by freaked-out “arty” types won’t find them along Cass.

The irony, of course, is that today the Cass Corridor (or Midtown, or Midtown's Cass Corridor, or however you want to refer to it) has become known as a destination for arty gift retail. City Bird has has established a reputation for hawking locally made gifts, boutique Nora celebrates Detroit's history of design, and rocker Jack White toasted to the Cass Corridor when he opened his Detroit branch of his Third Man Records last year. 

Read more at Deadline Detroit, or revisit our 2015 story on rebranding Detroit neighborhoods.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.