We fell in love with Detroit.
Amy and her husband Karl had visited the city over many years-- and something kept calling them, nudging them to return. The people they met-- in the neighborhoods, at the coffee shop, at the dive bars around town, kept drawing them back.
At the time, they were living in Brooklyn, but just couldn't get Detroit out of their minds. They imagined the city and what it would be like to create a life there. As many of us that live here have experienced-- people thought they were crazy. What were they thinking! said everyone (probably).
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In 2012 they were driving through city they had visited through the years and Karl said he wants a house. In Detroit. So, through word-of-mouth, they heard about a home in West Village. Not just any home. A home that had spent countess years as an abandoned structure. So you know it was in great shape, hahahaha.
It was a once-glorious Georgian Revival home, circa 1914. This home was once owned by Nona Herzog, who in the 70s, saved the West Village neighborhood from being swept away in the undercurrent of progress. At the time, the entire West Village neighborhood was slated to be bulldozed. Obliterated. Herzog worked to have the neighborhood designated as a historic district. It took years of effort, but in 1980, West Village was granted placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
Give Me a Sign
There are many factors to consider when purchasing a home, all culminating in a perfect moment when you decide it's The One. The defining moment for Amy was twofold: As they stood in front of the forlorn structure on Van Dyke, after they had toured the interior-- a white cat walked across the roof, and a streetlight went on almost simultaneously. I don't know how simultaneous these instances are, but if you know anything about Detroit at that time-- the chances of a streetlight working were pretty slim. I think Corktown (on US 12-- a main throughfare) was the first neighborhood to get them, and I remember it was shocking to be driving down Michigan Ave. with lights. I remember when West Village got theirs because that was a big deal too-- but anyway-- I could see how a streetlight would be a sign.
They signed on the dotted line and bought the house for 35k.
Then the house and the cat became theirs. In a serious plot twist, the white cat that Amy saw on the roofline on that fateful day returned to their home during a blizzard. They named it Jack White. It was later discovered that their neighbor across the street actually owned the cat. It’s name was Amy. They now share joint custody.
Amy wrote a book about her experiences renovating her home in West Village in a book published by Running Press, Detroit Hustle. It's a behind-the-scenes and deeply personal look into the painstaking renovation of a home in Detroit City-- and everything it took to get there.
Spoiler Alert: 400k. It takes 400k to get there.
The Contractor's Final Bill was delivered with a bottle of bourbon, a nice touch if you ask me.
Detroit Hustle is available at local bookseller Pages and online.
In addition to writing a book, Amy is the creator and host of Shady Ladies Literary Society, a literary club that features a guest author at an evolving roster of venues around the city. And drinks. There's drinking involved. And food. And maybe some books. And reading. But probably not.