Tracing Swedish Roots in Detroit

posted in: News, Travel | 0
by Eric Lund

Thirty-one Society members enjoyed an interesting, educational, and stimulating weekend in the Detroit area April 23-25. Participants came from Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts, as well as Michigan..

Following check-in and registration Friday afternoon at the Country Inn and Suites in suburban Novi, the weekend began with a sumptuous smorgasbord at IKEA in nearby Canton. After dinner, Doris Anderson of Grand Rapids entertained the guests with stories of Detroit Swedish-Americans, past and present.

Saturday morning, the group boarded a chartered bus for Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. The museum, "where American history lives," is a vast building of 12 acres under a single roof. On display is a replica of the "Spirit of St. Louis" in which Swedish-American Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic alone in 1927, the car in which President Kennedy was riding when he was assassinated in 1963, dozens of other classic and historic cars, and the Allegheny locomotive, one of the largest ever built. There was so much to see, the group could have spent days there. In addition, the museum adjoins Greenfield Village, an 83-acre outdoor museum including a working farm and a reproduction of an early American village, where visitors could have a ride around the village in a Model T.

In mid-afternoon the group reboarded the bus for Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, where famous Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and well-known Swedish sculptor Carl Milles taught at Cranbrook, a private boarding school focusing on the arts and sciences. Greg Wittkopp, Cranbrook Art Museum curator, led the group on a walking tour of Milles sculptures on the campus and a tour of the stunning Saarinen home, designed by the architect and his wife, Loja, and an outstanding example of Art Deco.

After returning briefly to the hotel, the group boarded the bus again for the Swedish Club of Metropolitan Detroit in Bloomfield Hills. With memories of Friday night's smorgasbord still fresh, the group was warmly welcomed by club members for another memorable meal of Swedish appetizers and wine followed by a roast pork dinner and specially created dessert (see photo). Speaker for the evening was Marion Marzolf, author of "Shuttle in Her Hand," being published by the Society as its first-ever novel. "Shuttle" is the story of a Swedish–American weaver.

Sunday morning, the group headed home contentedly. The Detroit weekend was the latest in a line of such Society programs dating back to 1979. Previous programs at sites in Swedish-American history have included Western Illinois, 1979 and 2006; Minneapolis (Moberg country), 1981, 1990, and 2008; St. Louis, 1983; Milwaukee and Pine Lake, Wisconsin, 1992; Peter Cassel Days in New Sweden, Iowa, 1995; New Sweden on the Delaware, Philadelphia, 1997; Lindsborg, Kansas, 1999; Rockford, Illinois, 2002; Door County, Wisconsin, 2002; Worcester, Massachusetts, 2003, and Austin, Texas, 2005.