There are two excellent books on the history of Ferndale: Ferndale
of Yesteryear, written by Maurice F. Cole and Old Timers Tell It
Like It Was, written by Ruth Rodgers Elmers, and June Waugh Kotlarek,
edited by Gerry Kulick. You can order copies of these books from the
Ferndale Historical Society website. Following are some excerpts and pictures from these
Ferndale of Yesteryear
The City of Ferndale, Michigan is typical of many suburban communities in
Michigan and the Midwest. Located in Oakland County and adjacent to
the City of Detroit, it was first inhabited by Indians and situated on the
site of a major Indian Trail connecting Detroit with Saginaw Bay and the
Straits of Mackinac. It was first settled by homesteading farmers in
the nineteenth century. It grew slowly until the advent of the
automobile and the opening of the Ford Motor Company plant in nearby
Highland Park. In 1918 it was incorporated as a village and in 1927
as a city. Since that time it has become one of the major suburbs
north of Detroit.
(Forward written by Dr. Philip P. Mason, Professor of History, Wayne State
The Crow's Nest
One of the land marks which distinguished Ferndale in its early days was a
traffic signal known far and wide as The Crow's Nest. Located at the
intersection of Woodward Avenue and the Nine Mile Road, no traveler
through the village could fail to observe this unusual structure.
Woodward Avenue was so narrow at this intersection that a policeman's
life would have been endangered had he attempted to direct traffic from
the center of the pavement. The city of Detroit had been
experimenting with traffic signals of various types and the "crow's
nest" type appealed to the Ferndale village commissioners.
I recall that a year or two after the installation of the Crow's Nest
that some of the village officials would take turns in their off hours
directing traffic from the tower. One of these officials was Lorenzo
Berry, the village president, a rather portly gentleman, and he received
considerable goon-natured banter because of the difficulty he had in squeezing
through the small entrance to the platform of the Crow's Nest.
In making preparations for the widening of Woodward Avenue later in
that first decade of the village's existence, the Crow's Nest was
removed. The northbound strip of Woodward Avenue today covers the
original location of that famous structure.
Go To Top
The Castle On The Nine
One of the most unique developments in the life of the city was an
organization known officially as Youth, Incorporated. Its home was
"The Castle on the Nine."
Born of the depression, when jobs were scarce and leisure time was
plentiful, "The Castle on the Nine" flourished for a day, served
in a remarkable way the purposes for which it was intended, and with the
passing of the depression, it too passed, and is now but a memory.
But a bright and shining memory it is.
While "The Castle on the Nine" itself is gone, the
stimulation it gave the citizens of Ferndale to provide a community
gathering place for both young and old, later resulted in our splendid
Ferndale Community Building on East Nine Mile Road
Although closely supervised and counseled by a board of
adults, the youth themselves largely directed the activities provided by
the "Castle." Classes in the various arts were offered,
and a rather full program of social activities was undertaken. An
opportunity was given to profitably occupy the many leisure hours which the
depression had caused.
One of the programs involved the building of an outdoor dance
floor. A sizable slab of concrete was poured at the rear of the lot,
attractive lights were installed, and dances were conducted with both live
and "canned" music. In fact, the dances became so popular
and attracted so many dancers, that although at no time boisterous or
unruly, they did create so much noise that neighbors, in some instances
several blocks away, made formal complaints to the city government against
the dance phase of the program.
With improved economic conditions and the return to more normal
employment and business, jobs became available, for those who wanted them
and educational opportunities opened up. Some of the leaders among
the youth left town for college, or were married and began homes of their
own. The need which had spawned the program no longer existed and
gradually the program itself was abandoned. But the memory of this
example of youthful courage and determination in the face of great odds
will ever be an inspiration to those who follow.
Go To Top
Old Timers Tell It Like It Was
You can find a lot of stories and pictures from "old
timers" in this book on the history of Ferndale.
Following are some pictures and captions from this book
"Where's Ferndale" asks a metropolitan newcomer.
"Out Woodward where the car on the roof has spinning
wheels." Wetmores, whose business is a landmark, is an old
"Get your radios fixed at Roy's" said one writer who spoke
for many. Ray Waugh, pioneer in the city and in early radio and
television, started his business in the early 20s and remained with the
shop until his death in 1984. His family business of three
generations has served Ferndale for more than six decades.
Rodger's Dutch Mill was advertised as
"Greater Woodward Avenue's
Most Unique Eating Place" located at the southwest corner of Leroy
and Woodward, now the site of the First United Methodist Church of
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300 East Nine Mile Road
Ferndale, Michigan 48220
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