Birmingham’s Booth Park

Last week my family had a lovely dinner outside at Salvatore Scallopini at the corner of Harmon and Old Woodward in Birmingham. Salvatore Scallopini, the world’s only Italian restaurant that does not serve Chianti, is now on the short-list to get one of Birmingham’s new Bistro licenses, which will allow them to sell alcohol for the first time in their long history in Birmingham. Additional outdoor dining space is in the works for the restaurant. I highly recommend the eggplant parmigiana.

Our only challenge was keeping our 4 year old daughter still during the meal. Right across the street is the magical place she loves to visit, the newly revamped Booth Park. I grew up a few blocks away, and today the park bears almost no resemblance to the Booth Park of my childhood.  I think we referred to it as Harmon Park, because it was on Harmon.  I don’t remember it being much more than a big field of green space with a swingset and a teeter totter.  Last fall the City of Birmingham, greatly assisted by the residents who worked so hard on the project, installed a wonderful new play scape that seems to be attracting kids from all over. There are climbing walls, a turret, a rock garden and a sledding hill.  The biggest attraction seems to be the Astroturf hill that the kids love to slide down on top of pieces of cardboard that helps them to slide faster.  I have to admit that I have slid down it a few times myself, but usually I stand on top of the bridge above the hill so that I can keep a better eye on my constantly in motion pre-schooler.

Today I stumbled across this little history of the park in an old issue of the Mill Pond Association newsletter. I found it interesting, so I will pass it along.

BOOTH PARKBy historian Max Horton.

The park occupies the site of the old Interurban power house and car barns for the Detroit United Railway Co. Interurban Streetcar service came to Birmingham in 1896 and was continued until 1931. The power house had been necessary in its earliest days to provide electrical current to carry the cars north from Birmingham to Pontiac. Power that was produced on the site also served to light Electric Park across Woodward on the east side.

Electric Park was an entertainment destination for Detroiters and other surrounding communities because it was so unique. It featured a merry-go-round, lighted paths, picnic facilities and many other attractions. In the 1910 – 1920 period when the boost in power was no longer needed for the Interurban streetcars, Electric Park was developed into a subdivision called Residence Park. That’s the area we now refer to as Birmingham’s San Francisco.

The streetcar buildings were torn down after service was discontinued in 1931 and the 4+ acres of land on which they had stood were purchased by Booth Investment Co. In 1943 George Gough Booth sold the property to the Cranbrook Foundation (now called Cranbrook Educational Community), which immediately turned around and donated the land to the City of Birmingham for use as a park and recreation area. For awhile it was called Harmon Park, but on December 15, 1952 it was renamed Booth Park in honor of the man who donated the land.

Take a look at Clinton Baller’s photos of the rebuilding of Booth Park.

[tags]birmingham mi, birmingham michigan, booth park [/tags]


  1. megan swoyer says

    hello. i am an editor of Birmingham magazine, produced by the psd, and wondered if I could find out where the info. came from that you wrote about here on Booth Park’s history. I would like to confirm that info. and possibly use it in an upcoming story for the next issue of Bham magazine.
    Thanks much.
    Megan Swoyer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>