Michigan Central Station
Detroit has so many examples of amazing architecture that stand tall and grand. Some are even designated National Historic Landmarks. Look up, look around, even look down and be wowed.
ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECES INCLUDE:
The Penobscot Building
Named in honor of the Penobscot, a Native American tribe from Maine, this art deco masterpiece was built in 1928 in the heart of the Financial District and features Native American motifs. Don’t miss its four-story arched entrance on Griswold Street.
Art deco architecture at its finest, the Guardian Building was once promoted as “the Cathedral of Finance.” Blending Native American, Aztec and Arts and Crafts styles, 40 artisans created the building’s many painted murals and ceilings, mosaics, marble fixtures, tiles and other artistic details.
This landmark skyscraper in the New Center area is constructed of limestone, granite and marble and was designed by Albert Kahn Associates. Finished in 1928, it’s considered Detroit’s largest art object and is home to the iconic Fisher Theatre.
OTHER ARCHITECTURAL NOTABLES:
Classic and lavish, one of the last surviving movie palaces of the 1920s.
The GM Renaissance Center
This impressive grouping of seven interconnected tall towers is a centerpiece of the Detroit riverfront. Designed by architect John Portman, who also imagined the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, the “Ren Cen” is featured in dozens of movies — This is Spinal Tap, Breathless, Hancock — and TV series.
The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel
An underwater-constructed wonder that’s also an international roadway connecting the U.S. and Canada. The equally impressive Ambassador Bridge (ambassadorbridge.com) is the world’s largest international suspension bridge and connects the two countries by skyway.
Meadow Brook Hall
This former auto baron’s home was recently designated a National Historic Landmark.
Edsel & Eleanor Ford House
Wander 87 acres of sumptuous gardens or tour the inner workings of this 60-room Cotswald mansion.
The Henry Ford
See early homesteads, cottages, farms and shops in Greenfield Village and/or experience the utter architectural awe of a manufacturing plant at its productive best during the Ford Rouge Factory Tour.
With 26 buildings, this community is the largest collection of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s work.
Westin Book Cadillac
Recently returned to its former glory and now a hotel, look up at copper-covered roof elements and the sculptures of notable figures from Detroit’s history — General Anthony Wayne, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, Chief Pontiac and Robert Navarre along the ornate Michigan Avenue façade. By Louis Kemper in the Neo-Renaissance style.
One Detroit Center
Admire the spires of this post-modern Neo-Gothic style, which has the distinction of being the tallest office building in the state.
THEY MAY BE VACANT, BUT THEY ARE STILL AMAZING:
Book Tower and adjacent Book Building
Italian Renaissance style built in 1917. A copper roof and outside fire escape make this towering ruin distinctive.
Michigan Central Station
Built in 1913 by Warren and Wetmore and Reed and Stem in the Beaux-Arts style. Popular location for Michigan’s film industry.
Wayne County Building
A beautifully ornate example of Beaux-Arts architecture, 1897-1902.
ARCHITECTURALLY STUNNING HOUSES OF WORSHIP INCLUDE:
First Congregational Church of Detroit
A powerful combination of Romanesque and Byzantine architecture.
This Gothic-inspired church was founded in 1842. Singer Gordon Lightfoot mentions this place of worship in his tribute song to the sunken Edmund Fitzgerald and once played the famous tune for parishioners during a memorial honoring the sailors lost in the Great Lakes tragedy.
Saint Florian Roman Catholic Church
Designed by Ralph Adams Cram to serve the area’s Polish community.
Originally published by Curbed Detroit
These postcards depict nighttime in the bustling Detroit of yesteryear when streetcars, passenger ships, and the Guardian Building’s giant searchlight illuminated the city in ways we’re unlikely to ever see again.
- Guardian Building
- Michigan Central Station
- Moonlight Band Concert on Belle Isle (1909)
- Woodward Avenue
- The Cascade at Night at Palmer Park (The printing also says it’s Belle Isle.)
- Old City Hall (before the Dime Bank Building was erected behind it)
- Cadillac Avenue (now called Cadillac Square)
- The Scott Fountain at Belle Isle by Illumination
- Harbor by Night
- The Heart of Detroit at Night
- Detroit at Night From the Ford Building (on Griswold)
- Woodward Avenue (Can you figure out the location of this drawing?)
- Bird’s Eye View of Gratiot Avenue & East Side (What was “P&B?)
- Washington Boulevard (The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit is on the right.)
Originally published by The Detroit News
This collection of 33 photographs shows the historic depot from the 1930s to the present.
Originally published by BBC News
For several decades, millions passed through Motor City’s majestic rail station which served as a portal to America’s heartland. But as the auto-industry slumped and the local economy collapsed, the station saw less and less traffic. Since the last train left in 1988, the once-regal station has come to symbolise Detroit’s economic woes and has become a favourite canvas for graffiti artists. But mysterious plans are now in the works to renovate the building, starting with the replacement of over 1,000 blown-out windows.
“No other building exemplifies just how much the automobile gave to the city of Detroit – and how much it took away,” writes Dan Austin in his book Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins.
Originally posted by urban planner/preservationist Bernice Radle:
You have stolen my heart, Detroit.
Here is what happens when you put four people who love planning, cities, buildings and the rust belt together in a car. We drive 5 hours to Detroit, rent out a kick ass industrial loft space, wander around town checking out bars, shops and historic sites, tour a once forgotten Kresge Mansion now being renovated by a 30 year old and meet with Mark Nickita (architect, owner of Pure Detroit and Mayor of Birmingham MI), inside the Guardian building – an art deco masterpiece! It was a trip for the memory books. You can see photos from our trip here.
Here are my top three take aways from our 36 hours in Detroit.
Buffalo is Detroit’s sister city. Hands down. Our radial street grid, friendly mid western attitude and blue collar approach to life is nearly identical. We both can see Canada from our windows, we share Lake Erie and we share similar boom / bust / rebirth stories. Detroit is definitely Buffalo’s older, bigger Brother – the industrial strength attitude is very masculine, IMO. Sure, Detroit is bigger in size and in population but we can learn a lot from one another and we are only a 5 hour drive away!
TRUE GRIT. With slogans like “Detroit Hustles Harder” and “Detroit Vs. Everybody”, it is clear that Detroit has embraced their true grit and entrepreneurial spirit and that nothing, including their steep decline, will stop them. A rising tide raises all the boats, was the mentality from many of the local folks we spoke with. Sure, there is a long way to go and a lot to accomplish but we left feeling a great deal of confidence in the future of the Motor City. Detroit is tough and resilient!
Detroit is ALIVE. All the articles you’ve read about the vacancy and decline is true however, many fail to notice or mention the incredible amount of life that Detroit has. We saw signs of it everywhere – from a 30 year old buying a Kresge Mansion to the emerging Michigan Avenue retail corridor… the entrepreneur spirit is alive and well in the Motor City. The downtown is beautiful – the storefronts are lit up with lights, the ice skating rink was packed at midnight and even their top millionaires are working together to privately pay for a light rail system along Woodward Avenue. Heck, even billionaires own community gardens in Detroit.
In case you want to travel to Detroit and don’t know what to do, here is a list of all the places we went to in 36 hours. It was a true sprint!
* Corktown Tavern
* Gaelic League & Irish-American Club of Detroit
* SLOWS BAR BQ
* Michigan Central Station
* Mercury Burger Bar
* MotorCity Wine
* UFO FACTORY
* Downtown Detroit – Campus Martius Park Ice Rink / Fox Theatre / Woodward Ave.
* Detroit Institute of Bagels
* Brush Park
* Kresge Mansion Tour – Arden Park
* Eastern Market
* Guardian Building
* Mid Town – City Bird / Nest / Shinola
* Traffic Jam & Snug
* Greektown – Detroit vs. Everybody