Paul Adams with his print of the old J.L. Hudson building in Detroit.
Paul Adams with his print of the old J.L. Hudson building in Detroit. (Jerry Zolynsky)

Paul Adams provided 17 prints, and Harvey Singer paid for the framing through a fund in memory of his son, David Aaron Singer, administered by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

Paul Adams and Harvey Singer were business associates before they became friends. An interest in art has remained at the core of their relationship although that interest has been expressed in different ways.

Adams, drawing since childhood, was hired as a graphic artist while still a senior at Cass Technical High School and went on to create watercolor and print images of legendary spots in the Motor City. Singer, appreciating art and demonstrating sales skills, opened a firm, The Art Department, to market the signature works of diverse artists he admired. 

Harvey Singer
Harvey Singer

Singer took notice of Adams’ urban renderings displayed at art fairs around the state and accepted responsibility for pitching them to gallery presenters. 

After years of work projects, the two have collaborated on a donor project — Singer’s idea. A resident of the Anna and Meyer Prentis Apartments in Oak Park, administered by Jewish Senior Life, Singer thought historical pictures decorating the lobby would offer welcoming sights to both occupants and visitors.

Adams provided 17 prints, and Singer paid for the framing through a fund in memory of his son, David Aaron Singer, administered by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Among the images are 1950s-60s renderings of Hudson’s Department Store, Campus Martius Park and the Michigan Central Railroad Depot, where another Adams print, capturing the back of the structure, went up about two months ago. 

“I’ve started lots of activities at Prentis, including a weekly movie night, and I thought this display would bring lots of pleasure to our residents who grew up in the city,” said Singer, 80. 

“We’re living in a community where youngsters here are in their 60s so when they go into the lobby they can look at the prints and take a nostalgic trip into yesterday. One picture even moves viewers into the suburbs to remember the early cruisers along Woodward.”

Singer, who had his bar mitzvah at what became Adat Shalom Synagogue, brands his favorite image as showing buildings that had filled the border separating Highland Park from Detroit. 

“I lived a half-mile from there,” recalled the Prentis resident of almost five years. “It’s nice to look back.”

Artist Paul Adams with his print of the old Vernors plant in 1950.
Artist Paul Adams with his print of the old Vernors plant in 1950. Jerry Zolynsky
Working Together

Adams and Singer worked together professionally for about 15 years, a time after the digital approach to drawing cars took over the responsibilities that Adams had long enjoyed.

“I’m 81, and I wanted to bring back my childhood through these images,” Adams said. “My parents didn’t have a car when I was a kid, but we went all over the city on buses and streetcars. It was fun bringing back the places we saw.”

When Adams started work, he defined Detroit as the art center for advertising.

“I did brochures and newspaper ads when it was all flat art, but that died in the early ’90s,” Adams said. “That’s when I started going to outdoor fairs, including the Michigan State Fair and a couple in Birmingham. 

“I can’t do art fairs now because it’s too hard. I loved doing them from each May to late September, meeting the people almost every weekend. I think I did well because people like reminiscing.” 

Adams’ favorite print shows the Vernors’ plant, which was by the waterfront. He recalls stopping there to get a Boston Cooler (ginger ale and vanilla ice cream) when his family was on the way to Boblo Island Amusement Park.

Print of Downtown Detroit 1951.
Print of Downtown Detroit 1951.

“I put the cars of the times in my pictures,” said Adams, whose work also can be seen in hospitals and Buddy’s Pizza locales as his current renderings focus on railroad projects.

“I always loved trains, and they have a lot of train shows,” he said. “I work according to the mood I’m in — from two hours a day to all day.”

In November, Prentis Apartments had a reception honoring Adams and Singer.

“Everybody here seems thrilled with the display, and I hear a lot of stories from those who used to go cruising down Woodward,” Singer said. “A lot of the buildings that are shown along Woodward are gone, but the White Castle is still there. I like being reminded of those other buildings.” 

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Suzanne Chessler’s writing-editing career has spanned many years, and her articles have been featured in secular and religious publications across the state and around the country. There was a period of time when she maintained three regular columns in three different publications – one appearing weekly to spotlight metro volunteers, another appearing weekly to profile stage enthusiasts in community theater and a third appearing bimonthly to showcase upcoming arts programs. Besides doing general reporting, she has had continuing assignments involving health, monetary subjects and crime. Her award-winning work builds on majors in English-speech and journalism earned at Wayne State University, where instructors also were writers-editors on Detroit’s daily newspapers.