Brenda Philpot


Brenda Philpot


In this interview, Philpot discusses moving to Detroit and how she was able to settle here. She includes her neighborhood and other parts of Detroit she had experienced. She also discusses housing history and how Detroit has changed over the years.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society



Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Brenda Philpot

Brief Biography

Brenda Philpot was born October 20th, 1943 in Rome, GA. She came to Detroit in 1965 and has been here since. She graduated college with her business administration degree and is now retired. She identifies as African-American and currently still lives in Detroit.

Interviewer's Name

Alexis Berry

Interview Place

Detroit, Michigan




Alexis Berry


[Start of Track 1]

[AB]: My name is Alexis Berry and I am interviewing Brenda Philpot it is October 19th and we are on Virginia Park Street. Okay so let's get started when and where were you born?

[BP]: Georgia do you need the city? I was born in Rome, Georgia 1943 October 20th.

[AB]: Okay so when did you come to Detroit?

[BP]: I came here to live in July 1965.

[AB]: And what had you heard about Detroit before you got here?

[BP]: Well I started coming to Detroit when I was 6 so I came between 6 and 21 I had probably been here 10 times so I kinda had my own little view of Detroit that you know it's the motor city and all the people from my area came up here to make money. So you know that's kind of what Detroit was a place to make money.

[AB]: What was your first impression of Detroit?

[BP]: As a five six year old I wanted to go back to Georgia desperately. I did not like Detroit at all it was real country and I'm from a town of less than 4000 but Detroit was a big letdown.

[AB]: What neighborhood do you live in now?

[BP]: We call this the LaSalle Gardens subdivision West Detroit just west of what used to be Midtown.

[AB]: When did you move there?

[BP]: I had moved here in I bought this house in 1979.

[AB]: And what brought you to this neighborhood?

[BP]: The price of this house and you see when I decided to purchase a house in Detroit it was In the seventies and Detroit had been the first town for a new federal government to invest money. It was called HUD the Housing and Urban Development in fact 1970 was the Section 8 money that was given to this it was called the Virginia Park District Council, that's where I really live in to what was created after the riot as the Virginia Park District Council it went from the boulevard to Clairmount from the freeway which is 10 all the way over the Grand River so this was called Virginia Park District Council area.So I went down to the city of Detroit and I scoped out the 11 areas that Detroit had designated for redevelopment and this was one of the areas where the most money so it was cheap money so I only looked in the in three of the 11 areas I was only going to buy where I had cheap money. Cheap money means I could borrow up to $27,000 for renovation at 1% interest for 20 years to pay it back. So that's how I got here.
[AB]: What neighborhood did you grow up in?

[BP]: In Georgia, segregated South. Now when I used to visit after 1954 I was right here in this neighborhood it was on Euclid and 12th Street. So as I visited here it was in the same geographic area like two blocks over.

[AB]: So what prompted you to move to a new neighborhood?

[BP]: You mean from Georgia or what? Okay so when I came out of college it was 1965 John F Kennedy by then he had just been assassinated but he had all of these programs specifically for African Americans and females so it when I graduated with a business administration degree. I had 3 job offers immediately in Georgia. So I figured if the south is hiring me and put me in business in management trainee positions then Detroit I will be over some of the auto industry's of the banks, I'll be the manager, I'll be running them. There wasn't a word called CEO back then but I would be the director so I came to Detroit to make my fortune.

[AB]: Okay so back to this neighborhood what is it like?

[BP]: This is one of Detroit’s I say very hidden jewels we're here nobody ever bothered us because we just sitting here you drive through this neighborhood you see no bars on any doors you don't see bars on windows and things like that and mainly because the incidents of crime is low compared to most cities so it's a strange neighborhood kind of hidden.

[AB]: Is it an integrated neighborhood?

[BP]: It is now.

[AB]: So what are you do for fun?

[BP]: Oh goodness what do I do for fun. I'm retired so I wake up every morning Monday through Friday and I go to exercise a senior exercise program 5 days a week well now its 4 days a week because on Tuesdays I'm taking the most exciting class I'm taking an upholstery class where you literally upost your own project so I spend all day on Wednesday in Dearborn Heights upholstering furniture so that's very exciting.

[AB]: So where do you go shopping and where did you go shopping?

[BP]: So what do you mean I'm a shopaholic. When I used to work I spent all day on the weekend sometime would go a hundred miles just to shop. I mean I'm a real shopaholic I’d drive all the way to Cincinnati to shop for clothes and things. So I do try to do as much shopping as I can in this neighborhood I shop for as much food as I can in the local store. I think the name of it now is Family Foods I haven't looked up there to see what the name is when they opened it up it was Farmer Jack I think but I do as much as I can there but I'm also not even though I'm a shopaholic I'm a bargain hunter. So if the bargains aren't there I go to the bargains my fruits and vegetables are bought on Wednesday in Dearborn and I shop mostly at the Green Leaf Market to the shop all over and Detroit now has some precious little Boutique shops. So my new place to shop for clothes are boutiques so I shop down on Cass and Willis it flows Boutique and then I shop at Savvy Chic Boutique in the Eastern Market so.

[AB]: Are there any stories from your neighborhood that you would like to share?

[BP]: I can't think of any other than we awesome neighborhood and no I can’t think of any really exciting well you know if you come to about two blocks between 14th and LaSalle what kind of group and we decided when Detroit started to flip again and people started to move in we decided that in order to be effective that we couldn't be just block clubs, almost every block here had a club. So we decided we couldn't be just a block club that we would be we wouldn't be effective so we created Association is called the LaSalle Gardens Association it’s from 14th to Linwood from the boulevard to Euclid. You know so we banded together and so we try to be a voice in The Advocate for people in this neighborhood it. We have lots of great up functions in the neighborhood. In fact for New Year for no it’s Halloween we have in we call it our park its the LaSalle it used to be called Virginia's park and now it's called Lasalle Park so we'll be there and we expect to have between 150 and 250 kids come through and will be giving out candy and have fire eaters and scary houses and things in fact we found out that the city of Detroit decided to borrow it and expand on our idea this will be our third year and so this year the city of Detroit it's going to have it in various parks and things. This neighborhood our neighborhood did this

[AB]: So what makes your neighborhood unique?

[BP]: I guess it is unique. When I moved here in 79 I was the newest neighbor on the Block everybody have been living here since 49 the blacks have been living so this neighborhood changed racially in 40s and 50s by probably 55 it was 95% African American and the fact that this neighborhood never really went down we didn't have any vacant houses until recently none you know when I moved here that work no vacant houses and so for Detroit that’s I think an unusual thing. But the Neighbors when I moved here these people loved their property they were all together they knew each other we have like I said functioning block clubs and we worked hard because the city was not here to help us so I think it's one of the unusual things as residents of the neighborhood we it's enough of us to step out. That we can bring the newcomers in and if not we just do it ourselves. So I think were real unique in that way that we actually just like our neighborhood we like the city we stayed here through all the hell as we all say we stayed here for 50 years and kept it going.

[AB]: Do you feel comfortable in the city?

[BP]: Oh yeah i've never been scared in the city, never.

[AB]: Okay so what was the Detroit like you said you moved here in…
[BP]: 65

[AB]: 65 so what was it like in the 70’s 80’s

[BP]: Terrible. It was the most horrible, ugly, vicious, violent looking place i've ever seen. It was horrible it’s ugly still ugly still very ugly I go I now ride down streets and I am amazed that I went down what street was it Calvert from Woodward all the way over probably to Linwood and it was like oh my God this is horrible only difference was most of the houses were gone. So it took 50 years to start tearing down the burnt out buildings and in the houses and because Detroit for a while had just tons of vacancies just people didn't have to pay rent they just move every 3 months and they just left the houses and as I said before the city had very little participation in neighborhoods so they went to hell and this was my idea of how a bombed-out city would look where they have Wars for years and years. That's the way Detroit looks to me it’s getting better but Detroit was ugly it was horrible looking it was ugly still not quite pretty but it's looking a little bit cleaner so like I said this whole neighborhood from my alley down today it was all just houses and they were all occupied and people kept the lawns cut it was weird it was just a weird neighborhood you know.

[AB]: So has your neighborhood changed over the years or has it stayed the same?

[BP]: It's probably changed because now we have two vacant lots on his block. And were having now young people moving in lots of Millennials are moving in, so yes it is changing it is changing rapidly.

[AB]: Have you ever thought of moving away?

[BP]: Not really, not yet.

[AB]: When someone says “the neighborhoods” what does that mean to you?

[BP]: It has to be where I am and what I'm doing I interpret the neighborhood for us talking now I interpreted from Euclid to the boulevard from 14th to Linwood. However when I'm like it another town my neighborhood maybe all the way up to Davison from Woodward to Grand River and it depends on where I am and what I'm doing and then there are times especially when I'm visiting all or out in the street neighborhood means the city of Detroit. Now as not a native detroiter that’s strange because this was the only city I ever lived in, but there was a clear line of demarcation between the East side and the West side, I think that still exist today. Because I hear people say “oh no that’s on the Eastside” and so that was strange about Detroit. Because they did not cross Woodward avenue they truly did not socialize with each other and it's like oh my God you said eastside is different than the westside. So I still am not used to that and so when I say Detroit they obviously know that I don't mean the eastside, but I do because when I first moved here that’s where I lived. Is on the eastside way way way on the eastside right off of Mack avenue Mack and Saint Jean and that’s east side whew thats the eastside. So I lived there for five years and I technically lived on the eastside until I moved here, you know I technically did cus I lived right off of Woodward ave for 10 years before I moved here.

[AB]: So how do you feel about the state of your neighborhood today?

[BP]: I still like my neighborhood, my neighborhood is cool.

[AB]: What would you like to see happen with your neighborhood?

[BP]: What would I like to see happen. I’d like better city services like I understand that I now own a few feet of that alley out there, but it’s a horrible alley it's all junked up it's all messed up. So if I do have it Id like for the allies to be nice and pretty. You know but it's hard to do when the pavement is all cut up. So and lights I would love to have street lights. Oh my God I talked to the mayor last year when he was running about street lights. We had four lights from the corner to corner between Lasalle and 14th. We had four lights and the old lights flared out more illuminated wider areas. Now we have two lights on each corner and the middle of this block is just horribly dark so i’d like street lights because the things that they have they are like spot lights they don’t have a real huge illumination area. So id like to see two more lights on and I Euclid because my church is on Euclid and Virginia Park I mean Virginia Park and 14th it’s really horrible down there I don't think they have.. I did see a light somewhere but it's totally dark down there. So i’d like some lights.

[AB]: So if you could get a project done in your neighborhood any project what would it be?

[BP]: Lights, lights.

[AB]: Okay so how do you feel about the state of the city today?

[BP]: I would just love to know where the city’s going. The state of the city is being redeveloped. It's being retooled, it’s being reengineered, and I would like a glimpse of the future. Which I haven't been able to get. And I'd like to know how long I could stay in this house. When I bought this house all of my friends said “I know your not going to buy a house in the city of Detroit I just know and on Virginia Park are you out of your mind you should go to Oakpark or Southfield cus I know your not going to go in the city” and I said yes I am, I'm going to buy in the city. Number one the houses in the city are so much nicer than anything in Southfield because those little cheap houses are just garbage that they threw up and in Oak Park they really are garbage you know they threw them up just to get the hell out of the city so they are like tents, no i'm not going out there and so my statement to my friends was “no i'm going to live here on Virginia Park in the middle of the ghetto nobody is going to bother me because if i'm living in the ghetto obviously I have nothing so it's no need to bother me” But one day I know that the crosses are going to burn in my front yard. So I’d like to know when the crosses the klu klux klan crosses burn in my front yard, because I know they will. I am positive that I will have no choice but to move but I would like to know when and how soon it's moving much faster than I ever dreamed I thought it would take five of six years Duggan’s mayor but it started the day after the election. I mean he hadn’t even been sworn in i went down woodward avenue the day after the election like a Wednesday because I used to go to the skillman library every other day and it was like oh my god they got scaffolds and they got wrecking balls out here today. This wasn’t there on Monday but on Wednesday i go by oh my god they already going to rebuild this city and he hasn’t been sworn in so I would like a glimpse into the future of this city and I would like to know what the city planners have in mind what they have in mind for detroit.

[AB]: Alright well that wraps up all of our questions thank you for answering those for me today.

[End of Track 1]

Search Terms

Detroit, Michigan, Shopping, Housing, HUD, Georgia


“Brenda Philpot ,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed December 2, 2020,

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