Make it a Detroit Weekend: Architecture

by Katie Lanski

For everyone planning on attending the MHPN conference May 11-14, 2016, we hope you will consider making it a “Detroit Weekend” and extend your stay in the “D” so you can take in some of its great architecture.  The following are some of our favorites.

Detroit Architecture Map

Detroit Architecture Key










A Guardian Building | 1929, Smith Hinchman and Grylls  Guradian Building
500 Griswold St,  48226

Designed, erected, and built by Michigan architects, designers, and artists, this 40 story skyscraper is one of the most striking of its kind. The Guardian Building, previously the Unity Guardian Building, was commissioned as The Union Trust Company’s headquarters. Containing custom Pewabic Pottery, Corrado Parducci sculptures, and murals by Ezra Winter, the lobby of the Guardian building colorfully blends Native American, Aztec, and Arts & Crafts influences.

For more information visit or

B Penobscot Building  | 1927-1927, Wirt C. Rowland PenoscotBuildingDetroit
645 Griswold, 48226

The Art Deco style 47-story building held the title of tallest building in Detroit until the Renassiance Center opened in 1977.  That the giant Penobscot Building is actually one of three Penobscot buildings that make up the complex. The first was a 13-story number on Fort Street between Griswold and State streets that was erected in 1903. It was joined by a 24-story tower in 1916. The 47-floor monster with the blinking red-eye joined the skyline 12 years later, in 1928.

For more information visit

F David Whitney | 1915, Daniel H. Burnham & Co. | David-Whitney_4970
Redeveloped in 2014, Kraemer Design Group
1 Park Ave, 48226

Built in homage to David Whitney Jr, the David Whitney Building quickly became the premier address of Detroit’s best doctors and medical professionals. Its iconic four story atrium, lit by a skylight and clad in marble, terra cotta, and gold leafing, was once the most visited retail destination in the Midwest.

Before its $92 million renovation, the building sat vacant for over 12 years. The mixed-use David Whitney Building now houses an Aloft Hotel, residences, and a future high-end restaurant.

For more information visit

G Broderick Tower | 1928, Louis Kamper |      broderickwhitney1940
Redeveloped in 2012, Kraemer Design Group
10 Witherell St, 48226

Previously named the Eaton Tower, this 34-story, neoclassical skyscraper was once the second tallest building in Michigan. The back façade’s iconic humpback whale mural (c 1997) is one of one hundred “Whaling Wall” murals painted by Metro-Detroit native eco-artist, Wyland. After sitting vacant since the mid 80’s collapse of the Detroit office market, the Broderick tower was redeveloped into apartments in 2012 and currently sits 100% occupied.

For more information visit

D Wayne County Building | 1897-1902, John and Arthur Scott
600 Randolph Street,  48226     Old Wayne County Building

Although this building still stands vacant, its ornamented exterior, covered in copper, granite, and stone, is one of the “nation’s finest surviving examples of Roman Baroque Revival architecture, with a blend of Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical styles.”

For more information visit

J St John’s Episcopal | 1859, Jordan and Anderson
2326 Woodward Ave, 48201    st-johns8

Located in what was once considered “Piety Hill”, this antebellum-era church is the oldest church still standing on Woodward Avenue. Its Victorian Gothic Revival architecture is a stark contrast to that of its neighbor, Comerica Park. In 1892 the chancel was deepened by about 10 feet and in 1936 the entire church was moved 60 feet east due to the expansion of Woodward Avenue.

For more information visit,_Michigan)

E Capitol Park Historic District | 1889-1930 |
Located between Grand River, Woodward Avenue, Michigan Avenue, and Washington Boulevard. 48226

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999

Originally the site of the first capitol building of Michigan (1837-1847), Capitol Park is home to a small public park, and the surrounding Farwell Building (vacant), Malcomson Building (residences), David Stott Building (vacant), Detroit Savings Bank Building (Arch Diocese of Detroit + residences), Detroit Institute of Music Education Building, and many others. The styles of these buildings range from Victorian to Beaux-Arts to Art Deco.

For more information visit

C First National | 1922, Albert Kahn | First National
Renovated in 2013, Neumann Smith
660 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Occupying an entire block along Cadillac Square, this 26-story neoclassical skyscraper is a prominent sight in downtown Detroit. Its unique z-shaped plan allows for natural light and ventilation into its office spaces.  As was the case with many Detroit office buildings, the First National Building went through foreclosure and was half empty before its renovation in 2013. The revitalization of the first floor provided retail space and a modernization of the building’s main lobbies.

For more information visit

Indian Village | 1894-1930s  Indian_Village_Historic_District_-_Detroit_Michigan
Burns, Iroquois and Seminole Streets between Jefferson and Mack Avenues

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1972

Located on the east side of Detroit, this affluent historic district has a number of architecturally significant homes built by Albert Kahn, Louis Kamper, William Stratton, and others. An annual Home and Garden Tour is hosted the first Saturday of June, during which one can experience styles ranging from Colonial Revival to Renaissance Revival to Spanish Mission Revival, along with many others.

For more information visit

Boston-Edison Historic District | 1905-1925 Detroit_May_2014_057
West Boston, Chicago, Longfellow, and Edison from Woodward to Linwood

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974

Consisting of over 900 homes, the Boston-Edison District was once the home of a number of prominent Detroiters, including Henry Ford, S. S. Kresge, Harry Heilmann, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy. This district is the oldest continuous neighborhood association in Detroit.

For more information visit

K Ransom Gillis House | 1876, Henry T. Brush and George D. Mason |  RansomGillis-106.0
Renovated in 2015, HGTV Rehab Addict’s Nicole Curtis
205 Alfred Street, 48201

Designed in the Venetian Gothic style for Ransom Gillis, a wholesale dry goods merchant, the Gillis House is one of the few remaining homes in a once densely-packed residential Brush Park. After being converted and used as a rooming house, the Gillis House sat empty for +/- 5 decades until HGTV’s Nicole Curtis partnered with Quicken Loans to renovate the house in early 2015.

For more information visit:

I Gem and Century Theater | 1903 | Addition in 1927, klanski MHN photo 10-27-15 Century+Gem
George D. Mason
333 Madison St, 48226

Built in 1903 by a socially prominent women’s group, Twentieth Century Association, the Mission-style building is the first building in Detroit to have a building permit issued to a woman. In 1927, the Association contracted George D. Mason to design the Spanish Revival-addition for the present day Gem Theatre. Since its opening in 1928, the theater has had several name and usage changes. From the Rivoli Theatre to The Cinema, which played foreign films, to The Vanguard, which offered live theater rather than films.  Today the Gem and Century Theatre sits five blocks away from its original location, due to the urban renewal for Comerica Park. This move took place in 1997 and placed the Gem Theatre in the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest building ever moved that distance on wheels, at about five million pounds.

For more information visit:

H Detroit Athletic Club | 1915, Albert Kahn  IMG_2421
241 Madison Ave, 48226

The Detroit Athletic Club is a private facility that hosts theater, sports, and entertainment. The building was designed by Albert Kahn, after being inspired by a recent trip to Rome and Florence. The Renaissance influence is clearly visible in the ornate exterior details and large 4th floor windows. The building was completed in 1915, and recently had their one hundred year anniversary. In celebration, the DAC has commissioned the sculptor, A Thomas Schomberg, to create four sculptures in the island facing Madison Ave. The building was refurbished in the 1990’s but has not changed use or owners since completion.

This entry was posted in #michiganplacesmatter, buildings, Detroit, Education, historic, historic preservation, History, Make it a ..Weekend!, sightseeing, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s