July 18, 2006
All that remains of Westland's Eloise complex -- once a bustling city within a city -- is Wayne County's Kay Beard Building and a few scattered structures. Now, those dedicated to preserving the memory of Eloise have a new piece of the area's history that they hope will give people a better picture of Westland a century ago.
Wayne County recently
donated a shiny, 1919 Model T fire truck that once served Eloise to the Westland
Historical Commission's museum. The truck was used until 1932.
"It's an incredible
little vehicle. People love seeing it. They love having their photos taken
with it," said Carol Larkin, a county executive with senior citizen services
who helped orchestrate the donation.
Larkin, who works in
the Kay Beard Building, happened to hear from another worker that the truck
was in storage at the county's equipment center near Metro Airport, where
it had sat for decades pretty much unseen by the public. The county used to
wheel the fire truck out for parades.
Larkin wondered whether
the "truck would be better used if it was at the museum where people
could see it."
People can view the truck,
which is on indefinite loan to the museum, in a storage shed there. It doesn't
run, but the Historical Commission would like to move it outside during museum
hours, 1-4 p.m. Saturdays. Jo Johnson, who works with the museum, said it
also plans to put the fire truck on a flatbed truck for parades.
The memory of Eloise is
still strong for many people who have roots in Wayne County, Johnson said.
She gets several calls weekly from people seeking health or employee records
to do genealogical searches.
Eloise opened in 1839
in Nankin Township, which eventually became Westland. Eloise was best known
as a mental hospital and poorhouse, but its 900 acres at one time was home
to Wayne County General Hospital, a greenhouse, cattle herds, a piggery and
a cannery. The complex also had homes for employees and their children.