By Joe Neussendorfer, Aff.M.ASCE, ESD
Born in Germany, Ernst Kern established The Ernst Kern Dry Goods Company in 1883. The original store was consumed by fire in 1886 and was reconstructed at Randolph and Monroe Streets.
In 1900, the company purchased a five story building at Woodward and Gratiot Avenues. After World War I, more space was needed and a new store was built at 1048 Woodward Avenue containing ten floors. The store closed in 1959, and was demolished in the 1960s. The former site of Kern’s is now occupied by the Compuware Corporate Headquarters.
When the Kern’s Building was demolished, the large clock that stood watch over it main entrance was placed in storage. It was reinstalled near its original location in the late 1970s.
A late friend of your writer, Joe Kucharski, an electrical contractor and owner of KAS Electric Company, was hired to restore the clock’s internal electric system. I remember Joe telling me how much he enjoyed working on such an historical artifact. He said that it was a true “labor of love.” The clock was a famous landmark and destination point for Detroiters to hook-up. “Meet you under the clock at Kern’s” was a very famous saying.