Hazel Park 75th Anniversary
Hazel Park 75th Anniversary Edition

By Maggie Boleyn
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

HAZEL PARK IS A RESILIENT CITY, able to weather what Edward Klobucher, City Manager, termed a “quadruple whammy” during the early years of the new millennium. The four disasters: Decreased housing values, declines in the racing industry, cuts to revenue sharing and a “broken municipal financing system” were met in traditional Hazel Park style — with a strong sense of a community pulling together to meet difficulties head on.

“The tremendous sense of community, combined with volunteer efforts in the city, is the secret sauce,” Klobucher said. “We came through these chal-lenges in a way that other, similarly situated cities did not,” he continued.

“Hazel Park is the only city of its type to remain masters of our own destiny.” Klobucher is a lifelong Hazel Park resident, Hazel Park’s longest-serving city manager and one of the longest-serving in Oakland County.
The 2008 collapse of the housing market, followed by “The Great Recession,” decreased housing values nationwide. Most of Hazel Park’s homes were built between the 1920s-1960s, and it is a challenge to keep those older homes maintained. “It’s a never-ending battle keeping up with the aging housing stock,” Klobucher said. Lower property values are problematic because this leads directly to lower tax revenues, making it difficult to fund City services.

Declines in the horse racing industry in general, and the Hazel Park Raceway, in particular have been another hurdle for Hazel Park. Klobucher said the City has had a long, “symbiotic relationship” with the race track, and declining revenue took a toll. In the 1950s, the Raceway provided nearly one-half of Hazel Park’s tax revenue. Today, the track revenue is only two per cent.

The Headlee Amendment of 1978 and Proposal A of 1994 interact in such a way as to keep Hazel Park’s revenues obtained from its taxes in a vice. The City can only significantly improve its tax base with new construction. Unfortunately, Hazel Park is a fully built-out inner ring suburb with no avail-able land; thus the City tax revenues will fail to rise significantly no matter how high Hazel Park’s property values rise.

The 2014 flood dealt another major blow to Hazel Park, once more testing the mettle of residents. Again, community members stepped up and boldly faced the catastrophe. “It was a unifying, community-based response,” Klobucher said. Any interruption to garbage collection would have wreaked havoc with public health. However, members of the Public Works Department, the Water Department along with Police, Fire and other city employees immediately pitched in to avert further disaster. Three dump trucks were quickly obtained, and over one-third of the garbage was swiftly removed, ahead of scheduled pickups. “That was done on our own resources,” Klobucher said.

Klobucher outlined three approaches he considers key to moving forward into the future: Bringing new development to Hazel Park, encouraging education through the Hazel Park Promise Zone, and improving property values via participation in Land CURE, Inc. (Cities for Urban Revitalization and Enhancement, a non-profit public charity established for the purpose of “creating better neighborhoods in the inner-ring suburbs of Detroit.”)

NEW DEVELOPMENT IS CRUCIAL TO THE FUTURE of Hazel Park. New businesses contribute to tax revenue and attract people to the city. Klobucher noted it is extremely challenging to “shoehorn new development” into existing spaces.

One very exciting new business in Hazel Park is Mabel Gray, located on John R between Hamata and Chestnut, in a rehabilitated diner. Mabel Gray opened to stellar reviews, and was named one of the best new restaurants in America. Chef James Rigato presents adventurous fare which changes with the seasons.

New construction continues apace at 10 Mile and Dequindre, using space from the Hazel Park Raceway to build a 575-thousand square foot commerce center. Klobucher says that new construction is occurring in “nearly every corridor” in the city. Plans include adding new stores and a Secretary of State’s office at 8 Mile and Dequindre.

Education plays a key role in maintaining the viability of the community. Klobucher said that Hazel Park is becoming a “learning community,” and the “Promise Zone” has a prominent role. According to the City’s web site, The Promise Zone guarantees all resident graduates of Hazel Park Schools “a tuition-free path to an associate’s degree, often through pre-existing scholarships.” Promise Zone tuition monies can be used at any accredited trade school, community college, college or university in the state of Michigan. Promise Zone monies are paid directly to a student’s institution, and cover tuition and fees, excluding books. “Other places talk about providing education,” Klobucher said. “In Hazel Park, we are already doing it.”

The Land CURE program aims to upgrade existing housing stock in Hazel Park. “It’s most important function is to raise property values,” Klobucher said. He points out that improved property values benefit all residents. Klobucher is a co-founder of Land CURE and has served as Board President since Land CURE’s inception.

Drawing on the past and present spirit of Hazel Park, Klobucher is upbeat. “When I look to the future, working with the Mayor and City Council, I want to position Hazel Park to be sustainable; to survive and thrive.”

Information compiled by Richard E. Robbins

Early Years 1800-1923
THE HISTORY OF HAZEL PARK, MICHIGAN begins with Native Americans that hunted and lived on the land Hazel Park lies on. Stone artifacts from prehistory, such as arrowheads and other implements, were found in excavations throughout the area.

Hazel Park starte its official life as Royal Oak Township in 1833, when Shuabel Conant became the first landowner in 1835 with a grant from the U. S. Government. Conant and his heirs sold off parcels of land to settlers. Among the settlers were the Lacey, Grix, Benjamin, Neusius, Meinke, Grow and Truba families. Many street names, schools, and parks were named for these and other pioneer families in the area.

The naming of Hazel Park has two competing origin stories. The first is attributed to the real estate developer Burnette Fechette Stephenson, for whom the Stephenson Highway was named. He, per his son’s obituary, named the Hazel Park Subdivision for his future wife, Hazel Kirk. Howard H. Beecher penning in a paper for his college degree, stated, “The name was given to the area by a real estate company at the time it was bought and subdivided.” The name Hazel Park was also opposed by newspapermen in editorials, as it had an association to the developers of subdivisions in the city and it was felt that the city should have a clean start.

A second naming origin story has its roots in the Hazel brush shrubberies found in Oakland County. The shrubbery was mentioned to also be around Pontiac in the 1912 History of Oakland County, and per some accounts, to be quite abundant around Royal Oak Township’s lowlands. The name of the school district was purportedly named after the hazel brush plant, but that may have been the name of the one-room school house located at 9 Mile and John R’s south west corner. The Hazel Park school district did not get its official name until sometime in the 1940s or ‘50s.

Extensive research has concluded that the stories could both be true. The developer B.F. Stephenson could have adopted the name used by the schools for use in his subdivision, overlaying that named sub over his existing 9-Oakland sub, naming the subdivision for his fiancée.

The area where I-75 lies today was also purchased and developed by B.F. Stephenson, as an area where the Stephenson Line trolley was created around 1916. The trolley reportedly used to fall off the tracks around Goulson Street, according to some accounts. It was removed after 1931, after the closing of the Highland Park Ford plant. It then became the right-of-way for Stephenson Highway, and later I-75. The “S” curve in I-75 is there because the land was not available to B.F. Stephenson and his partners for a straight track run to 4th street in Royal Oak!

Growing Pains 1923-1941
AS AN EXTENSION OF THE EXPLOSIVE GROWTH of the North Woodward area and Highland Park, Hazel Park was “discovered” after a section of Woodward was closed due to construction in 1922. Motorists redirected to John R found an affordable new area with subdivisions in the process of construction. Quickly, the population grew. Henry Ford’s Highland Park plant started operations about 1914, providing jobs for the new residents of Hazel Park. Other subdivisions came into being, with some areas having modest homes built by the people attracted by the wages paid at the Ford plant in Highland Park. Because of the high cost of land in Detroit at the time, the Hazel Park area became an alternative to Detroit. Many early landowners attached family names to streets, including Andresen Court. Many families built homes on weekends and, as the area was unincorporated, zoning and building standards were rather lax.

These were not easy times for the residents of Hazel Park. As Hazel Park was not an incorporated city at the time, the area suffered due to lack of infrastructure. According to Howard H. Beecher, at one point, Hazel Park was the most populous unincorporated area in the country. The following was written about the area in 1928 by Beecher (who later became the principal of Hazel Park High School).

“The housing conditions are bad in some parts of Hazel Park. There are many modern well-kept homes with five or six rooms and quite a large number of modern, two-family income bungalows. On the other hand, there are many garage homes that have only two or three rooms. I have no data so I cannot compute the house congestion but I do know that in many of these small houses, father, mother, and five or six children have to live. It is hard to conceive of the conditions that the school nurses tell about in their report.”

Many busine

sses sprang up in the business district both north and south on John R, as well as on other major arteries including 8 Mile Road and Stephenson Highway. Many stores, restaurants, and theaters were constructed in the city. Boxing matches were held in an arena on John R. Hazel Park Bowl had a facility on John R. Many churches were also constructed, and expanded, as the population grew.
During this time of unregulated growth, the Hazel Park School District grew as well. From the initial one-room schoolhou

se on the southwest corner of John R and 9 Mile (later moved to become Frank Neusius’ barbershop and store), the district embarked on a building campaign. Construction of Lacey School, United Oaks Elementary, and Wanda Elementary began. The old Hazel Park High School (which became Howard H. Beecher Junior High in 1965) was added in 1929.

While times were tough, the citizens improved the area through their own efforts. Clubs like the Hazel Park Exchange Club were responsible for improvements including the first traffic signal, a police booth, and various other civic improvements. Through the Great Depression, the area suffered greatly. Various attempts to incorporate failed, and various attempts by both Detroit and neighboring Ferndale to annex also failed for various reasons. Newspapers came and went in the Hazel Park area as well, some with a purely political agenda. The Hazel Park Palladium, also known as the Hazel Park News, was one of the longest-lasting, publishing through 1978.

Birth of a City 1942-1960
THE YEARS LEADING TO THE OUTBREAK OF WORLD WAR II brought about great changes to the Hazel Park area. The war effort, as in many other cities, involved scrap drives and other cooperative efforts to defeat the Axis Powers. A consensus of the benefits of civic cooperation also took hold. The citizens began constructing a new library building on East Pearl and Rhodes. Spearheaded by John D. Erickson, the citizens held card parties and various fundraisers to pay for the construction and furnishing of the new library.

In 1941, the citizens finally decided the time was right for incorporation, and on February 2, 1942 the city incorporated. The first council meeting was held in the foyer of the Hazel Park City Library (which was renamed the John E Erickson Memorial Library after John E. Erickson’s death in 1948).

After WWII, the city continued to grow in population. More homes were built, and the business district grew. The addition of the Hazel Park Raceway in 1948 was instrumental in the city’s growth. By providing additional revenue, it solidified the financial situation of the city for many years.

City services, such as enhanced park programs, a new recreation center, and other benefits for citizens were added during this time. A new city hall was constructed on Stephenson Highway, replacing the old city hall on 9 Mile. Though the city itself was thriving, many problems remained from the years of growth as a township. An “urban renewal” project was undertaken to rid Hazel Park of substandard housing. Thus, the area known as “the Courts” was constructed. These homes, after more than 50 years, are still a fine addition to the city.

Civic Changes 1960-1970
THE 1960S BROUGHT A WAVE OF CHANGE TO HAZEL PARK. The expansion of the I-75 freeway doomed a portion of the business district along John R. The City Hall that was built in the ‘50s was also demolished by this expansion. A new city hall was needed, and the city acted. As the Hazel Park Library was too small for further expansion, it was decided that a new city hall and library were to be constructed at the corner of 9 Mile and John R roads for a new civic center. Designed by Josh Machida of Machida and Associates, both buildings were finished by 1970.

During this same period, Lacey school was demolished on the southwest corner, as well as three city blocks of homes and businesses on the north-west corner of 9 Mile and John R. In its place, a ten-story Holiday Inn hotel was constructed, as well as what became known as Cambridge Mall, with shops and a movie theater included in the development.

The Modern Era 1970-present
THE CITY GRADUALLY BECAME RELATIVELY STABLE during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. In the late ‘90s and early years after 2000, the city and school district undertook additional remodeling of the city landscape.

Streetscape programs and repaving efforts were undertaken along John R and 9 Mile Roads, installing new decorative street lighting. The city also added a new ice arena along Woodward Heights. The school district remodeled all their elementary schools and the high school, demolished the old Beecher Junior High school and United Oaks Elementary, and constructed a new junior high (same location as the previous junior high), and a new United Oaks Elementary.

The calamitous traffic accident and explosion on I-75, and subsequent destruction of the 9 Mile bridge, in July 2009 was an event few will ever forget. The actions of our city’s first responders that day were memorable, and a shining moment in the city’s history. Another memorable event in the history was the flood of August 2014. This flood mirrored the flood that happened in 1948 in Hazel Park. The response by the citizens and city government shows the great resilience of our city.

New home construction and a large expansion of the Hazel Park Raceway have been bright spots in Hazel Park’s recent history. Remodeling of the business district continues with the addition of a new strip mall on the southeast corner of 9 Mile and John R, replacing what was remaining from the older business district. In Spring of 2010, the former Holiday Inn was demolished for the construction of a new CVS pharmacy. The addition of new restaurants in the area south of Woodward Heights in 2016 is a great starting point for what promises to be a walkable downtown area for the city.

At both ends of the city, new developments are also bringing jobs and people into our city. At 8 Mile and Dequindre, a new Save-A-Lot and other retail buildings are adding businesses to that area. Also, a portion of the Hazel Park racetrack property is being redeveloped at the time of this writing for what will become the largest building ever constructed in the city, and which will house light industrial uses. Expansion of warehouse space along 9 Mile Road is also increasing Hazel Park’s tax base, and a remodeling of the first police station and firehouse on 9 Mile Road is being undertaken as well.

The 43rd District court expansion and the remodeling of the City Hall building will remake the look and feel for the John R/9 Mile Road area. The City continues to change and grow. Hazel Park has proven itself to be adaptable to change, and will continue that tradition in the coming years. While Hazel Park has had a remarkable historical legacy, the city continues to look to the future; ever mindful of our heritage.

By Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

HAZEL PARK’S SCHOOL DISTRICT, WHICH IS CURRENTLY COMPRISED OF 16 BUILDINGS to accommodate students pre-school through 12th grade, is committed to providing a top-notch learning environment for its diverse student population. The average student-to-teacher ratio is 18-to-one, and the district includes a minority population of 27 per cent. Eighty-four per cent of students are expected to graduate from the district’s high school each year.

The mission statement of the District states: “The Hazel Park School District, in collaboration with all stakeholders, prepares and supports students for the future through innovation and technology.” There are many core values and concepts school officials abide by to ensure this mission is achieved. A notable commitment to learning includes the district’s decision to provide each and every student with a laptop or iPad through its One-to-One Program, meaning one student to one device. Nearly 4,000 Chromebooks and iPads have been distributed to students grades K-12. In addition, each student is given a Google account with unlimited storage. The district believes this program helps to enable the students to learn at their own pace. It also aids in getting families involved in the learning process.

Hazel Park’s classrooms are equipped with interactive projectors, high speed Internet access, and a new video distribution system as well as new audio systems. The district is focused on “creating a college-going culture, starting as early as kindergarten.” The faculty and staff work closely with students’ support networks to provide families with the tools they need to ensure students are successful. Hazel Park has also developed special programs to help students who are struggling with reading and math, and free tutoring is offered for all students at every grade level. The school district is dedicated to providing a caring, healthy, safe and respectful environment for all students, and continually supports the social, emotional, physical, and academic needs of each child. Student achievement is the core of every decision made by the school’s leadership team. All students are given the ability to learn and all students, staff and families are actively engaged in learning.

Hazel Park Schools prides itself on ensuring all stakeholders are provided with high quality, researched-based curriculum which is aligned with all required state standards. Its high school, which offers a variety of programs and initiatives, including advanced placement opportunities for schools to give them a head start toward achieving college credit, earned a bronze model this year in the U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools ranking. As far as extracurricular activities, Hazel Park offers 60 after-school activities and competitive sports programs at all levels, in which each student plays for free.

A Brief History
Hazel Park’s school district was established in 1884. In 1882, John W. Benjamin, Inspector of the Royal Oak school district, petitioned the State of Michigan to develop a new district in Hazel Park, and his wish became a reality two years later. The first school in the city was situated on the southwestern corner of Nine Mile Road and John R Road. Twenty five children attended.

It wouldn’t be until the Ford Motor Company of Highland Park expanded, and people became more interested in settling in the area, that the District would begin to expand. In the 1920s, new schools opened, offering music, drawing, penmanship and physiology, among many other subjects. An orchestra and girls’ glee club were also organized. And, the first class of Hazel Park High School graduated in the 1930s.

Wilfred Webb, a longstanding public servant for Hazel Park, was one of the foundations of the Hazel Park schools. Mr. Webb was a State Representative, an educator and Superintendent of Hazel Park Schools. Webb’s name appears on a Hazel Park elementary school, and the library is dedicated in his memory. He served Hazel Park Schools for 35 years, starting as a teacher and then working his way up to principal of the junior high school, high school counselor and, ultimately, Superintendent.

Mr. Webb also helped found the Hazel Park Youth Assistance program in 1953, a collaborative effort between the school district and the courts to “keep kids in the classroom and out of the courtroom.” The program was so successful that it became a model, as Oakland County now works with all communities in the county on Youth Assistance programs. In 1985, he was inducted into the Michigan Education Hall of Fame. Mr. Webb was a pillar of the community and one the school district’s greatest assets.

At the turn of the century, in the early 2000s, it became evident that many of the existing buildings would need to be replaced or remodeled. Voters approved a$56 million-dollar bond in 2002 to serve this purpose. With the funding, a new junior high was built to replace Beecher Junior High, and a new elementary building was constructed in place of United Oaks Elementary School. Webb Elementary School was remodeled, and students from other locations were moved into this facility. The number of elementary schools was reduced overall from eight to six, and two junior high schools were combined into one.

The renovations provided a welcomed change. However, the efforts were short-lived. When Michigan’s economy took a turn for the worse and entered in the recession, student numbers declined. Funding was reduced, and several elementary schools, namely Ford, LongFellow, and Roosevelt preschool, closed in 2007. This led to a more recent plan to redevelop school policies, increase funding and focus on new initiatives, such as a Community Engagement Team, which caused enrollment to increase by over 100 students.

The Road Ahead
The Hazel Park student body continues to excel despite its challenges. Some recent student achievements include an art student receiving a National Gold Key Award at Carnegie Hall and several Hazel Park High School students showcasing their artwork at Children’s Hospital. A varsity girls’ soccer player made it onto an all regional team and a color guard student won the state title. Hazel Park’s robotics team competed nationally and the Hazel Park band played at a Detroit Pistons game.

This year, the Hazel Park Board of Education and the Hazel Park Education Association approved the restoration of certain benefits to teachers, as well as additional training and a longer school year. Five more classroom days were added, with the current school year ending on June 16, 2017. The start time for school was also modified to better accommodate parents who drop their children off in the morning.

The agreement worked toward reestablishing the salaries formerly offered to teachers, with an approved two-percent increase, and the goal of the District is to begin moving out of debt overall by the year 2020. It also helped the District to reopen media centers and add social workers at its elementary schools to address behavioral concerns. The District began participating in Project Lead the Way, which will deepen students’ knowledge of basic computer science and engineering concepts — it received a $20,000 grant to help with the implementation of this program.

Superintendent Amy Kruppe is confident the recent changes will make for a bright future. “We are extremely optimistic for the future of Hazel Park Schools. We have fantastic teachers, our enrollment is increasing, we have an outstanding administrative team and Board of Education. As we work together to increase opportunities for our students such as Project Lead the Way, our Chrysler Program, or new Literacy Programs, we know that our students will be graduating ready to enter into society as complete, productive citizens of Michigan. Our partnership with the City, The Promise Zone and our families make it impossible to not be successful. We are excited about what is yet to come for our students of Hazel Park.”

By Corrine Stocker
Photos by Bernie Laframboise & Hazel Park Historical Museum

THE ORIGIN OF LIBRARIES IN HAZEL PARK STARTS with the creation of a library in the one room-school built at the southwest corner of 9 Mile Road and John R on July 8, 1912, by the school board of the School District # 8. The first librarian was the school teacher at that time, Minnie Brooks.
The Board established a fund with the Township for a library, and books were purchased. In 1920, the library was moved to Lacey School, and functioned as a school library only during these years.

IN MAY 1936, the Hazel Park Parent Teacher Association Council invited representatives from all religious, fraternal, business, social and community groups to meet to discuss the establishment of a public library in Hazel Park. Twenty-eight organizations responded. A temporary organization was instituted, with Mr. John E. Erickson appointed as temporary chairman and Mr. William Jewell as temporary secretary. The P.T.A. Council appropriated$227.00 as an initial gift.

A house-to-house canvass for books was organized and, at 1:30 P.M., a colorful parade of school children, dressed in costumes to represent characters in children’s books, was held. During the afternoon and evening a community fair was conducted with Mr. Carl Frostman acting as chairman; the net proceeds from this fair amounted to $403.00.

On November 4, 1936, a permanent library organization was established, a Constitution adopted and officers elected. Each organization involved elect-ed or appointed its own representative. With the $630.00 available from the Parent Teacher Associations, council donation and the Community Fair, books and equipment were purchased, and the library was formally opened on December 12, 1936 in a room loaned by the Board of Education in the basement of the Lacey School. There were 1,617 volumes in the library on the opening day. The library continued to function in the basement of the Lacey School until June 1, 1939, when it was moved to a room on Woodruff Street in the Lofft Building.

In May, 1937, a movement was started for a building as a permanent home of the library. A drive for funds was conducted through the community during the week of June 14, 1937, which netted $892.70. The fund grew steadily with contributions from 20 organizations and many individuals all over the district, until it amounted to $1,939.82.

On November 12, 1937, two lots at the corner of Pearl and Rhodes Streets were purchased at a net cost of $368.89 as a site for a library building. This left a balance of $1,579.93 for building purposes. Besides the material purchased, many private contractors in Hazel Park and Detroit donated material toward the building. All supervision and labor was donated by residents of Hazel Park and friends from neighboring cities. Not one penny was paid out for labor or supervision. The building was erected under the guidance of a building committee consisting of Campbell, Frostman, Erickson, and Mr. Sam Durbin, with Campbell acting as general superintendent. Most of the work was done on Saturdays.

The laying of the corner stone was held on Saturday afternoon, September 28, at 4:00 P.M. For some time, the personnel for the operation of the library was furnished by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. The library was truly a community project, as more than 1,000 individuals contributed either money or labor toward the building and equipment. Hazel Park pioneered in this field and proved that no community need be without a library.

The total cost of the building was approximately $3,100.00. The official open-ing of the library in the new building was January 6, 1941. It was well-décorated with flowers sent by friends of the library. Tea and cookies were served and about 300 people attended the opening day.

In October, 1960, the Board of Education decided there was just not enough money available to continue supporting the public library, and made a formal request that the City of Hazel Park take over its operation. Eventually, after several failed millage votes, the operation of the Library was taken over on a permanent basis by the City, and City officials set up a regular budget to operate the library, starting July 1, 1961. Through the 1960s the Erickson library continued to serve Hazel Park from its location on Rhodes.

THE CITY OF HAZEL PARK CONSTRUCTED A NEW LIBRARY BUILDING on 9 Mile and John R in 1970, to become known as the Hazel Park Memorial Library. This building was designed by Machida and Associates, who also designed the Hazel Park City Hall and Fire Station. The new library building was built to replace the former Erickson Library, which was overcrowded.

The Library became a victim of City budgetary problems in 1989. Through the efforts of many civic-minded volunteers, a dedicated library millage was passed. This millage guaranteed the library a relatively stable source of funding for operations and services for many years. In November of 2011, the citizens of Hazel Park chose to reaffirm their commitment to the HPML by voting for a supplemental millage to enable the Library to continue to assist the community.

As the years passed, the library took on a greater role, not only as a source for reading material, but as a center of the Hazel Park Community. Services increased and changed with our increasingly technological times. Computers were installed in the 1980s for Library staff, then for the public as the Internet grew and became an indispensable research tool. Movies on tape and music on CDs became available for borrowing in the 1990s, and listening stations were installed in the library for patrons to enjoy the Library’s music collection. WI-FI access was installed in 2010, so patrons could bring their own computers and Internet-connected devices to the Library as well, without waiting for an available computer. We now have 19 computers available for our patrons’ use.

Also, the programs the Library provides the Hazel Park community increased as well. Book clubs, children’s story hours, movie nights, craft programs, Detroit Institute of Arts programs, and many others have been added to provide a rich cultural experience for the Library’s patrons in Hazel Park. In 2012, Hazel Park started offering outreach services to senior citizens in the community, which include a monthly Bingo program as well as monthly visits to the city’s senior-living communities.

In December of 2014, the Library partnered with the City of Hazel Park and the Hazel Park School District to become the Hazel Park District Library under the District Library Establishment of 1989. In August of 2016, the Library passed a 0.50 millage increase, which solidified its status as a district library.

Thanks to the continuing support of our tireless volunteers, the City’s elected Library Board, as well as the help and assistance of the Hazel Park Library Friends, the Hazel Park District Library continues to grow and develop its resources to adapt to the needs of its patrons.

Hazel Park hopes to continue the traditions forged over 75 years of service to the Hazel Park community. The Library also relishes the challenge of creating new experiences to further the educational goals and aspirations of our patrons. The Hazel Park Memorial Library strives to accomplish both goals, and we hope that you can join us to experience what the Library has to offer!


By Maggie Boleyn
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

POLICE AND FIRE PROTECTION PROVIDE THE BACKBONE OF CITY SERVICES. In his 1928 argument for incorporation, Howard Beecher blasted the 1920s Township fire services as being “very inadequate.” Lack of adequate fire fighting equipment, and lack of sufficient fire hydrants were two major problems Beecher noted. Also, as with police protection in the 1920s, firefighters were on call to nearby areas. “The Township …maintains one fire engine, chemical fire extinguishers and the Township’s ambulance,” Beecher wrote. “The Fire Department could give better service than it does if there were more hydrants.”

Although Hazel Park formally became a city in 1942, challenges with fire protection did not immediately end. World War II was in full swing, causing shortages of vehicles, manpower and materials. This made it very difficult for the Fire Department to organize. As pointed out in the “History of the City of Hazel Park,” the first fire chief, Sam McCreedy, was not named until August of 1943.

Then, as now, sufficient funding is the crucial factor in providing adequate City services. A “History of City of Hazel Park” noted, “The new City was without operating funds until the summer taxes, due in July.” A special population census was granted by the Federal Census Bureau in order for Hazel Park to garner a share of State Gas and Weight monies.

Jeffrey C. Woodcock, a Hazel Park firefighter and paramedic, writing at the time of the City’s 70th anniversary, reports that soon after the City’s founding, fire services were separated from Royal Oak Township. One new fire engine was purchased as well as one used fire engine. Woodcock notes that the used engine was “a 1920s model…upgraded with parts purchased from the Battle Creek Fire Department.”

Woodcock also noted that Hazel Park did not have an adequate building to use as a fire station, requiring construction of a new building. Woodcook said the Fire Department began service in a partially completed building.

Fire services continued to improve and expand to meet the changing needs of the new city throughout the 1950s. Woodcock noted that in 1953, ten years after the department was organized, the HPFD assumed responsibility for ambulance services, which were previously operated by the Hazel Park Police Department. In 1957, the position of Fire Inspector was created, which, Woodcock reports, “allowed Hazel Park to perform its own fire inspections.” Previously, these duties were handled by the Ferndale Fire Inspector.

The sixties and seventies brought more change to the HPFD. As Woodcock noted, in 1962, the Fire Department joined the International Associate of Firefighters. In 1964, the HPFD moved to the current location at 22830 Russell. During the turbulent summer of 1967, the HPFD assisted the City of Detroit during the riots. In 1972, the first ladder truck was purchased.

Woodcock noted that the HPFD provides “assistance and mutual aid” to surrounding communities. According to the HPFD website, the department is, “man-for-man, one of the busiest departments in the area,” averaging well over 2,700 emergency runs per year. “The statement regarding run volume still holds true,” said Rich Story, present-day HPFD Fire Chief. “Last year, we ran 2,555 medicals and 666 fire calls, for total of 3,221 runs for 2016.”

HPFD is currently comprised of 20 full-time firefighters. Story says this includes the fire chief, fire marshal and three six-person shifts who provide fire and advanced life support service to the community.

Chief Story added that his department continues to offer additional services to residents including blood pressure checks, providing smoke detectors and a “file of life.” The file of life contains a resident’s medical information and contact phone numbers.

By Maggie Boleyn
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

POLICE AND FIRE PROTECTION ARE CRITICAL TO THE SAFETY AND WELL-BEING OF A COMMUNITY. In 1928, Howard Beecher, who later became principal of the high school, marshalled some very strong arguments for Hazel Park to become a city. A few of Beecher’s stated reasons included providing the opportunity for better police and fire services for a growing population. At that time, police and fire services were under the jurisdiction of Royal Oak Township officials.

Beecher wrote that four deputy sheriffs “appointed by the County Sheriff of Pontiac” were headquartered in a police booth located at “the main corner of the district” at John R and 9 Mile. The police booth was paid for and moved to the corner by the local Exchange Club. According to Beecher, these deputies wore their own clothes, until the spring of 1928, when new blue uniforms were purchased.

The four-man force was stretched thin. Beecher wrote, “They are good officers but are subject to calls to other parts of the Township at all times. Sometimes when they are needed badly in Hazel Park, they can’t be found.”

Hazel Park’s proximity to Detroit and nearby Windsor, Canada, where alcohol was still legal, meant challenges for police protection during Prohibition. Beecher’s account pointed out that the community “feels the effect of crime as it exists in the city.” With the start of the Great Depression just a year away and Prohibition peaking, Beecher noted that “Blind pigs and all forms of vice that go with them carry on in various parts. There is an endless number of petty robbery cases and very few of the offenders can be caught.”

Hazel Park’s 25th anniversary guide provided a dramatic account of policing efforts during the 1920s: “During those years it was illegal to make, buy, or sell alcoholic beverages. ‘Bootlegger’ was the name given to those who disobeyed that law.” Sometimes a raid on “an establishment where they knew alcohol was being sold” resulted in gun fights.

The four deputy sheriffs were also responsible for other areas, and were often required in other parts of the Township, thus making a difficult job even more challenging. Beecher wrote, “There are cases that need immediate attention, but by the time they get to the county authorities they put the offenders on probation and allow them to go free. Stolen automobiles are often found harbored in the district.”

Richard Robbins, writing at the time of Hazel Park’s 70th anniversary, noted that the 1930s Township force continued to be “too small” for the size and scope of the area. The Hazel Park Police Department (HPPD) began operating on May 15, 1942 with three police officers. Robbins wrote: “It became their job to attempt to correct the many years of relative lawlessness and vice that had taken hold in the township years.”

21st Century policing remains no less challenging than during the years of alcohol Prohibition and the Great Depression. Via the HPPD website, Hazel Park’s present Chief of Police, Martin P. Barner, says, “It is the goal of the men and women of the Hazel Park Police Department to provide our citizens, business owners, and visitors with exemplary service through professional integrity, unwavering honesty, and uncompromising sacrifice.”

That type of community policing has already provided amazing results. The City’s crime statistics reveal that most of the misdemeanor and felony crimes are at their lowest levels in decades. The recent efforts of the Hazel Park Police Department are making the residents and our businesses more secure, resulting in more home sales, higher home values and more businesses attracted to Hazel Park.

Barner graduated from the Oakland Police Academy in 1993 with a Top Gun Award, and joined HPPD in 1994. He has a wealth of policing experience, having held almost every position within the HPPD.

Barner is upbeat about the future of Hazel Park. His web page post concludes: “Together we can and will make a difference in our neighborhoods and schools. It is by this cooperative effort that we can all make sustainable changes for the betterment of the community.”


By Malissa Martin
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

FOR THE LAST 15 YEARS, CITY MANAGER ED KLOBUCHER HAS STUCK TO THE FIVE PRIORITIES he wrote on the whiteboard right outside his office at City Hall. He wrote the list in 2002 after taking office and has not erased them since. They are:


Klobucher says he tries his hardest to stick to these priorities because they have helped residents through very rough times.

Now, these same values are ushering in a comeback for the City. In 2016, Assistant City Manager Jeffrey Campbell led the charge to commission the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) to help guide the City to new planning options for growth and development. According to their web site, the Congress for the New Urbanism “helps create vibrant and walkable cities, towns, and neighborhoods where people have diverse choices for how they live, work, shop, and get around.”

Hazel Park was one of four cities selected to participate. “Basically, we sent a proposal about improving an aspect of planning in the city. We focused on the John R. corridor,” Campbell explains. Two members of CNU came to Hazel Park and worked with Robert Gibbs of Birmingham. “Over three days, people came and talked about what they would like to see on John R., and CNU submitted a report study at the end of it,” Campbell says. More than 120 residents, business owners, and potential business owners attended the meetings. “There was a very diverse group of all ages and all types of people from across the community showed up. People were happy to participate, happy we were undertaking the process, and glad somebody was listening to them,” Klobucher says.

Klobucher came up with five planning criteria for the city:
● A unique destination with two districts;
● A slower and narrower traffic thoroughfare;
● A first-class pedestrian environment;
● A mix of historic and new buildings;
● & a rich mixture of commercial, civic & employment activities.

Klobucher and his team have already begun implementing the suggested plans for the culinary district. Mabel Gray, owned by Chef James Rigato, is a very popular restaurant in Hazel Park, and won the 2017 Detroit Free Press Restaurant of the Year award. Chef Rigato also recently purchased an ice-cream facility in Hazel Park. “He’s going to be rehabbing it and turning it into something similar with his twist on it,” Campbell says.

Another popular stop is Cellarmen’s, a brewery which opened in 2016 and already has over 100 five-star reviews on their Facebook page. Recently, a customer wrote this on Cellarmen’s social media page: “Great vibe here, sampled almost everything, and really enjoyed the session-able meads and the milk stout. Crowlers to go, too! Staff is really cool and overall just a fun place to hang out.” Cellarmen’s plans to expand with a food truck and outdoor seating soon. Another new restaurant is Joe Bar, which will open this Spring.

Providing residents and visitors with different local-based dining experiences is what makes Hazel Park special. “You go to Mable Gray – it’s different. You go to Loui’s Pizza – it’s different. You go to Brayz – it’s different. Not every community has a large donkey on top of its restaurant. It’s all unique. I would rather see us have cool, unique places than all of the chain restaurants and things like that,” Klobucher explains.

The culinary district has taken off faster than the retail district. However, Klobucher says implementing this type of planning takes years. “The biggest hindrance I think that we’ve had with retail is, again, just like the restaurants, finding the right building with the right parking and the right area that will accommodate them.” Klobucher explains. The city has hit a few roadblocks in bringing these plans into fruition. “The fact that we don’t own the buildings and we can’t control the interaction between the potential investors and the current property owners is the biggest problem. We have a lot of interest. If we could control that and make it reasonable, then absolutely we would have even more cool things and developments happening here.” Klobucher says.

Expanding the types of retails and eateries offered in Hazel Park does not mean the city is changing its identity. “We’re not trying to be Ferndale. We have our own identity about who we are. We’re a little more blue-collar than Ferndale, maybe a little edgier. But what we really want to make sure people understand is the identity of our town: Who we are and where we’ve been (because) they’ll help dictate what happens in the future,” Campbell says.

Klobucher says the secret sauce to Hazel Park’s comeback is cooperation. As the longest-serving City Manager in Hazel Park’s history, Klobucher says he’s excited to see where Hazel Park will be in ten years. “I would like to see us continue on this path to growth and vibrancy. I would like to see us have a more walk-able downtown area that is rich with things to do. The people want to come and live in Hazel Park because it is a fun place to be. We’re getting cool rest-aurants now and cool bars. I would like to see us have some cool shops in the future. We are constantly on the look-out for new businesses that make Hazel Park a destination for Hazel Park and Metro Detroit residents.” Klobucher says.

Regardless of the ups-and-downs ahead for Hazel Park as it moves into a new phase, Klobucher says, “Hazel Park is a resilient community. We’re innovative and we don’t give up easily.”

By Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

THE HAZEL PARK RACEWAY IS MORE THAN JUST A TRACK. “It’s a destination,” says Race Secretary, Ladd Biro, who has been in his position for 20 years. “There aren’t too many cities that can boast they have a raceway,” he says, adding that the historic site offers more than just racing.

The raceway, in fact, is home to many events and charity fundraisers through-out the year, including golf tournaments and 5k runs. At one point, it even hosted a ‘color run’, titled Run or Dye, in which members of the community partook in a fun and messy, colorful race where participants were showered in rainbow-colored, eco-friendly, plant-based cornstarch every kilometer. “There were couples out here with covered strollers!” Biro says.

The Hazel Park Raceway has also been home to other well-known venues, including the Shrine Circus, Octoberfest and car shows. “I’ve had as many as 60 vehicles inside here,” Biro says of the auto show events. They host an annual 4th of July celebration with a barbeque and a live performance by Moose & Da Sharks, a Detroit oldies-style ‘50s and ‘60s tribute band, with their infamous Sharkette girls. “They’ve performed every year for the past 20 years,” Biro explains, and the event-goers have come to anticipate their performance.

“We’ve always worked closely with the City,” says Biro, and the city of Hazel Park has partnered with the raceway to offer community festivities, including its annual fireworks display. This year, the display will take place just before Independence Day, on June 30th.

Currently owned by Bernard Hartman and Herbert Tyner, owners of Hartman and Tyner Inc., Hazel Park Raceway generates approximately $550,000 in revenue annually for the City and is one of Michigan’s largest and most profitable raceways.

The raceway staff proudly participate in CANTER, a non-profit organization that began in 1998 in Michigan to help thoroughbred racehorses find new homes and careers. CANTER was started by retired Channel 7 news anchor Robbie Timmons. And the track continually donates to Children’s Miracle Network.

The raceway site began as a mere landfill in the mid-1900s. This land was purchased with the intention of building an auto track, but the original purchasers ran into financial trouble along the way and were forced to stop construction. A businessman then stepped in and acquired the 140-acre property. With the track already in place, he finished it out as a horse track instead, and the first race was held four years later in 1953.

Concession stands are available throughout the structure as well as clubhouse dining at the Top of The Park Grill and bar, making the raceway a great entertainment spot even for patrons who don’t wish to place bets. It’s open year-round with live racing taking place from May to September every Friday and Saturday night starting at 7:30 P.M.

As a “pari-mutuel” thoroughbred race track, Hazel Park Raceway participates in a betting system in which all bets are placed together in a pool, a percentage is taken out by the race-way, and the remainder of the funds are split between bet winners. The track also offers simulcast wagering seven days a week, all-year long on thoroughbred and harness races, so race-goers can view and place their odds on horses all across the country. The Triple Crown racing days always draw a large crowd. These include the Kentucky Derby, followed by the Preakness Stakes race and the Belmont Stakes race. Simulcasting opens at 11:30 A.M. daily. Admission and parking are both free.

“Raceways have fallen by the wayside over the years,” Biro says, but he’s proud to be able to say Hazel Park’s is still going strong.


By Malissa Martin
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

HAZEL PARK IS A SMALL CITY WITH A BIG HEART located in the far southeastern corner of Oakland County. Many residents call it the “Gateway to Oakland County.” The Hazel Park Parks and Recreation Center is designed for its community members to engage in outside activities and fellowship with neighbors.

Within Hazel Park’s 2.866-miles, the city has several parks and other amenities for the community including:

● Green Acres Park (adjacent to Recreation Center)
● A BMX Course at Fuller Park (on Melville between Woodward Heights & Tucker)
● Felker Park (on Felker between Easterling & Battelle)
● Tuski Park (on Tucker between Vassar & Cayuga)
● Madge Park (on E. Madge between Russell & Hughes)
● Karam Park (on Couzens between 10 Mile Rd. & Woodward Heights)
● Maxlow Park (on W. Maxlow between West End & Ford)
● Scout Park (on E. Otis & Russell)
● Sutar-Sutarek Park (on Caledonia between E. Granet & E. Meyers)
● The Dog Park (on Couzens between E. Mapledale & E. Garfield)
● The Community Garden (on Merrill between E. Elza & E. Milton)

Many of the parks have sheds, picnic tables, grills, playgrounds, and bath-rooms. Although residents use all the parks, a few have become favorites through the years. One favorite is the dog park, which opened in late 2014 and has features for canines of all sizes. Small dogs and large dogs have separate, enclosed areas for safe playing. There are also picnic tables, extra parking, and waste stations for easy clean up.

Green Acres Park is another favorite, and is also the largest in the city. It is bordered by Ferndale on the west side, I-75 on the east, and Woodward Heights on the south. It works as a destination park and as an integral part of the neighborhood. It is also home to the city’s Recreation Center and Department offices. Recreation Director Sareen Papakhian leads a team of 15 part-time employees.

The Recreation Center houses several events throughout the year, and one local favorite event is the annual Memorial Weekend Festival. It’s a five-day celebration with a carnival, music, bingo, concessions, and a Memorial Day Parade. Other recurring events are kids camp, Easter egg hunt, lunch with Santa, and a tree-lighting ceremony to bring in the holidays.

They also rent three rooms for private use. The pavilions at Green Acres Park and Scout Park can also be rented for private use from May through October.

Socializing with fellow community members is what makes Hazel Park special. The parks and recreation center provide leisure areas and outdoor activities that families can enjoy. The Hazel Park Parks and Recreation Department wants to enrich the lives of its residents by providing spaces for them to congregate. Papakhian says residents deserve great parks, and she’s happy to assist in providing it for them.

By Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

THE HAZEL PARK ARTS COUNCIL EXISTS “TO ENCOURAGE, DEVELOP AND FACILITATE AN ENRICHED CULTURAL ENVIRONMENT IN HAZEL PARK, to serve the art community by ‘making art happen’ through resources and connections, and to advise the city on the acceptance, purchases and integration of art into public and private development.” The Council hosts a number of events designed to promote community involvement in the arts. These events showcase the creations of local artists, and help to fund import-ant local charities. Several notable festivities occur throughout the year.

The Hazel Park Art Fair happens annually during the fourth weekend of August at Green Acres Park, behind the Department of Recreation located at 620 W. Woodward Heights Blvd. “The Festival celebrates the hard work and creativity of artists,” according to Council members. Artists are invited to rent booths to display and generate sales of their work. There is live music, and food and beverage vendors are available. Proceeds are donated to local charities, including the Hazel Park Promise Zone (which helps Hazel Park high school graduates with college tuition assistance and scholarships), Hazel Park Animal Control and the Hazel Park Library.

ArtOber Art Walk takes place annually in October. Art installations are placed throughout the city, including some interactive pieces. Participants can obtain a map from the Arts Council to view each exhibit, while entering various raffles to win prizes and learning about ways to participate with the Arts Council.

The Arts Council also partners with the Hazel Park Growers & Makers Market by hosting an arts and crafts booth. This booth includes free, hands-on activities for children during the summer months. The purpose of the arts and crafts booth “is to provide Hazel Park children with an avenue to express themselves through art, and to entertain and create a positive impression on local kids,” according to the Council.

The Annual Art Challenge encourages Hazel Park residents and students to participate in designing projects. The first annual challenge took place in 2016. The theme was the Sculptural Bike Rack Challenge, which encouraged participants to create functional pieces of art to showcase new growth and business investment in the community’s retail shops and entertainment, and specifically to celebrate improvements being made to local parks and bike lanes. The press release for the event stated the Arts Council sought “members of the arts and design community to submit a design solution for a sculptural bike rack that combines the idea of function with beauty.” The Council plans to reach out to Hazel Park schools and the art departments to recruit more student participation in the challenge moving forward.

The Hazel Park Arts Council participates in and subscribes to arts organizations throughout the state of Michigan. The Council develops strategic relationships with local art professionals, helps to facilitate grants and seeks out additional funding wherever available to promote artists and nonprofit organizations dedicated to the development of civic art in the city.

Current Council Chairs include Jeffrey Keeton, President; Charlie Rysenga, Vice President; Richard Gage, Treasurer; and Linda Yono, Secretary. Additional members include Andrew LeCureaux, Alissa Sullivan, Amy Aubry, Michael Pearce, Halena Fisher, Nina Cairo and Steve Gamburd.

Anyone interested in getting involved & volunteering their time to local art events and related causes should contact the Arts Council at thehazelparkartscouncil@gmail.com. Volunteer applications are also available at Hazel Park City Hall, in the City Manager’s office. The Council’s Facebook page, facebook.com/HazelParkArts, and Instagram, @hazelparkarts, provide detailed information on events.