Hamtramck Stadium, three other sites receive state historic preservation honors
Historic Hamtramck Stadium | Ken Coleman
When the Negro National League was founded in 1920, the Detroit Stars was one of its eight charter baseball teams.
The team was founded by John “Tenny” Blount with assistance from Andrew “Rube” Foster, who were both African American. Some of the Stars’ games during the 1930s were played at Hamtramck Stadium.
“Andrew Foster was one of the greatest pitchers who later owned a Negro League baseball team who then brought other Negro teams together to form Negro Baseball League,” said Anthony Brogdon, who has recently created a theatre production called “They Did It,” that highlights Foster’s life, as well as several other African American notables.
It was a time when Major League Baseball, America’s leading professional baseball organization, was a racially segregated institution where Black players and people of color were not allowed to participate – even as cities like Detroit, Chicago, New York and Kansas City were experiencing an increase in residents of color.
The stadium site, along with three other historic Michigan sites,was recognized last week by state government.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) on Thursday announced that the projects were awarded Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation during a ceremony hosted by the State Historic Preservation Office.
The Stars featured Norman “Turkey” Stearnes as one of its most decorated players. The team enjoyed popularity in Detroit’s growing Black community. Between 1910 and 1930, Detroit’s African American population skyrocketed from 5,741 to 120,066 people.
In 2000, Stearnes was posthumously inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Stars and successor Negro League teams played at Hamtramck Stadium from 1930 to1937. After then it was used by community teams, but it eventually fell into extreme disrepair and was fenced off.
A substantial, community-driven rehabilitation project returned the stadium to community recreational use and honors the history of Negro League baseball. The stadium received a $2.6 million renovation, which was unveiled in 2022.
The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. In 2020, a $500,000 National Park Service grant for the stadium was approved by the Wayne County Commission to provide funding for capital improvements.
“I grew up playing baseball at Hamtramck Stadium not knowing we were standing where the legendary Detroit Stars played,” said Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck). “I am so glad to see that our community is being awarded to keep this American jewel protected for years to come.”
Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said the stadium “is an important landmark for Black history, American history, and Hamtramck history.”
“I’m excited about the future of the stadium and the role it will continue to play for residents of Hamtramck and the entire region,” Chang said.
The other projects recognized with Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation are:
- Collaborative Bring Back Calumet initiative in Calumet, Houghton County
- Rehabilitation of Eastern Elementary School into Emerald Flats Apartments in Grand Rapids, Kent County
- Documentation and recovery of the Lake Huron Red Tail aircraft in lower Lake Huron in the Port Huron area, St. Clair County
Gilchrist, Michigan’s first African American lieutenant governor, said the set of sites “represent the rich diversity of our communities, our inclusive heritage and the welcoming culture that has long defined us as Michiganders – and continues to this day.”
“These historic sites represent critical pieces of the fabric that make us who we are here in Michigan,” Gilchrist added.
The Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation program, held annually during National Historic Preservation Month, was created by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to celebrate outstanding historic preservation achievements that reflect a commitment to the preservation of Michigan’s unique character and the many archaeological sites and historic places that represent our rich past.
“To build a strong economy, we need to make sure that every Michigander can be part of our state's economic momentum," said Lt. Garlin Gilchrist. "That's why we are making this investment today to help women, veterans, and entrepreneurs of color start and grow their successful businesses." | Ken Coleman
This year’s event took place at Heritage Hall, the new welcome center at the State Capitol Building in Lansing.
“Historic resources and archaeological sites tell us about the past and help us define Michigan’s unique identity. Their preservation is vital to Michigan’s present and future as they contribute to vibrant communities and our understanding of the past,” said SHPO Deputy Officer Martha MacFarlane-Faes. “… This year’s diverse group of awards brings us places we celebrate in our communities, boosts local economic activity, and helps us learn about our shared past.”
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