Thursday 20 June 2013

The Renaissance Center: Architectural Marvel or Crime Scene?

Detroit Skyline with Renaissance Center on right courtesy

Rob and I did our courting along the Detroit River in Windsor in 1990.  As we strolled, we were treated to a beautiful view of the Detroit skyline with its "piece de resistance", the Renaissance Center.  We were in Windsor attending Teacher’s College at the time.  Rob was so worried that he would get a placement at a school in Detroit, known for its rough neighbourhoods.  He sketched the scenario out for me in a series of cartoons.

Day 1 – Teach:  Kiss your briefcase goodbye.
Day 2 – Teach:  Kiss your K-Car goodbye.
Day 3 – Teach:  Kiss your life goodbye (with a picture of Rob’s body at the bottom of the Detroit River). 

We used to get a good laugh out of those cartoons.  Little did we know what might be hidden in and around those waters.  

Jimmy Hoffa courtesy

My Dad, who used to visit the Renaissance Center when he worked for Ford,  just told me today that they think they have found where Mafioso Jimmy Hoffa is buried:  underneath the Renaissance Centre!  Jimmy Hoffa, a Mafia bigwig, disappeared in July of 1975 after eating at a surburban Detroit restaurant.  He was declared legally dead but his body was never found.  It turns out that a Detroit chauffeur named Marvin Elkind who used to work for Hoffa talked about a conversation that took place in Detroit about 10 years after Jimmy’s disappearance.  As the chauffeur walked past the Renaissance Center with a Mafia kingpin and his associates, the Mafioso pointed to its  massive foundation and said:  “Say good morning to Jimmy Hoffa, boys.” 

Building the Renaissance Center circa 1975 courtesy

The Renaissance Center, a cluster of buildings, was Ford's World Headquarters at the time.  Henry Ford II announced plans to build it in 1971.  The site was excavated in 1972.  And the Building #1's foundation was laid in 1975, the same year Jimmy Hoffa disappeared.  Apparently there was a real rush to get the foundation poured.  All construction workers were ordered to the site to pour the concrete.  And as we know, these workers were related to the teamsters, whose former boss was Jimmy Hoffa.  And you know what happens if the Mafia turns on its own.    

The Ford Motor Company decided to sell the Renaissance Center to General Motors in 1996.  But the mystery remains. Is Jimmy Hoffa buried under the building that dominates the Detroit Skyline?  Is he resting right across the river from where Rob and I used to stroll?  We may never know.

P.S.  Rob, of course, never did teach in Detroit given that he was pursuing an Ontario Teaching Certificate at a Canadian university.  He did teach at a rough school, though, called Prince of Wales, but it was located in Windsor, Ontario.  He did live to tell the tale.

Sources:  Norm Tufts

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