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The Face of Main Street

How many times have you passed by the two English Figures gracing the front entry of our Kruse and Muer on Main Street without knowing the history?  It’s a good one!

When I bought the Main Street property in 1990, the storefront was already there, brought to Rochester by Clarence Kavan when he opened his restaurant in the early 1980s. I inherited them and never thought about removing such a landmark. During the recent road construction, trauma and faults were discovered in these historical fixtures, which we are taking steps to restore and preserve in the next few months. Here is the history of the Brass Rail figures:

The Brass Rail Wood & Wood Carving

The façade that now welcomes our guests at Kruse and Muer on Main was once a part of another family of restaurants, the Brass Rails. There were three: one at 20 W. Adams, another at Michigan and Griswold, and the third at 6545 Woodward Avenue. They were called “The Longest Bars in Michigan,” and offered spirits, live music, and good food. The first one opening in 1937, they flourished after prohibition, survived the Great Depression, and entertained many traveling musicians. The hot spot on Adams was notoriously noted as the place where musician Johnnie Ray was arrested for soliciting an undercover policeman.

The original Brass Rail, located on Michigan Avenue, opened in 1937, by owner Joseph Freedman, and Secretary / Treasurer William Boesky. Boesky later opened two more Brass Rail Restaurants, with one at 20 W. Adams, and the other on Woodward, just north of Grand River. Through the years the Brass Rails passed hands from Boesky to Al Shomsky. The last Brass Rail closed in the early 80s, under R. E. Guastuelo’s ownership. The hand carved wood storefronts that were once a part of the Michigan Avenue and Adams locations now rest at Kruse and Muer on Main Street in downtown Rochester, and Adair Bar, in St. Clair County.

The blueprint for the storefront was patented in 1942 by Joseph Freedman, the original owner of the Brass Rail on Michigan Avenue. The 1941 patent application states that Mr. Freedman “invented a new, original, and ornamental design for a storefront”.

The hand carved wooden façade itself is signed by Ted Rogvoy Architects and J. Jungwirth & Co. Rogvoy Architects is still in business today. A current employee of the company said “Ted Rogvoy started his business in 1929 in Detroit (during the Great Depression). He worked the merchants, restaurant owners, and bar owners in downtown Detroit and convinced them to redo their facilities…He would draw sketches for the owners on napkins while drinking in the bars!”

J. Jungwirth & Co. were nationally and internationally renowned for their wood carving workmanship. They were the skilled craftsmen who carved many of the woodworks for the Detroit area, including pieces in the Masonic Temple, various churches and private residences, and the Windsor, Ontario Walker’s Estate. It is rumored they were responsible for the “World’s Largest Stove,” and the “World’s Largest Tire.” There are many small pieces currently up for auction through Cranbrook Schools. Mr. Jungwirth’s son, Leonard Jungwirth, became a famous sculptor in his own right. He is responsible for the bronze Spartan statue that is housed in the Michigan State Spartan Stadium tower. It was moved there in 2005 to protect it from the outside elements.

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