Historic Detroit

Detroit News Building

For nearly 100 years, some of Detroit’s greatest journalism has been produced within the walls of this building.

Today, the Detroit News Building is home to not only its namesake newspaper, but also the paper’s arch-rival, the Detroit Free Press. This has made the structure the undisputed home of Michigan news media.

The paper was born Aug. 23, 1873, when newspaper tycoon James E. Scripps began publishing The Evening News. While most papers today hit doorsteps in the morning, the News came in the afternoon. The paper proved to be an almost instant success, with Detroiters eating up Scripps’ brand of local interest stories over dinner or after work.

The News continued to grow, and in 1916, architect Albert Kahn was hired to design a new home for its operations. This new building would be far larger than the paper’s home at Shelby and Larned streets - and far more modern. The ink-stained wretches moved into their new digs and began banging out stories on typewriters the following year.

Kahn designed the Fort Street and Lafayette Boulevard facades to be nearly identical, though the latter features four statues and five panels spelling out the paper’s mission as a watchdog for the people.

The statues are of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of moveable type, which allowed for the mass production of books and the birth of the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods; William Caxton, who brought the printing press to England and is said to have been that nation’s first printer; Christophe Plantin, an influential printer during the Renaissance period; and Benjamin Franklin, who was not only key in America’s founding, but also had a newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and printed “Poor Richard’s Almanack.” Franklin was a firm believer in the power - and the importance - of the press.

Between these statues are these words carved into stone panels: “Mirror of the public mind. Interpreter of the public intent - troubler of the public conscience. Reflector of every human interest - friend of every righteous cause - encourager of every generous act. Bearer of intelligence - dispeller of ignorance and prejudice - A light shining into all dark places. Promoter of civic welfare and civic pride - Bond of civic unity - Protector of civil rights. Scourge of evil doers. Exposer of secret iniquities - Unrelenting foe of privilege and corruption.”

The News would continue to grow and cover Detroit through its good times and bad for decades. In 1961, the News bought out The Detroit Times.

The building would continue to be expanded and today covers 404,000 square feet.

In 1988, the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News entered into a joint-operating agreement. While the rivals would maintain separate newsrooms, they would share operating expenses. About a decade later, it was decided they would share a home, too.

On July 23, 1998, the Free Press abandoned its skyscraper at 321 W. Lafayette Blvd., its home of nearly 75 years and moved into the ground floor of the Detroit News Building.

On Jan. 23, 2013, it was announced that both papers would leave the historic structure for smaller, cheaper confines. The following month, the Detroit Media Partnership — the agency over both newspapers — said it would relocated its 550 employees to the Federal Reserve Building in the fall of 2014.

The DMP announced June 27, 2014, that it had sold the building to Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services. The building and an adjacent parking garage and two surface lots were included in the deal. No purchase price was given, nor did Gilbert announce what he plans to do with the building.

Joyce Jenereaux, president of the DMP, said in a statement: “Dan Gilbert and his team are putting forth tremendous effort to rebuild and revitalize our beloved city, and we are thrilled that Bedrock will be the new owner of our building. It is very comforting to know that this property will be part of Detroit’s comeback after serving the city so powerfully all of these years.”

At the time of the announcement, Bedrock and its affiliates owned, controlled or managed more than 60 properties in Detroit’s urban core, totaling more than 9 million square feet of space.

The News Building “is a historic gem that has been a fixture in downtown Detroit for nearly a century,” said Jim Ketai, Bedrock’s CEO and Managing Partner. “We take great pride in breathing new life into Detroit’s historic buildings and look forward to transforming the DMP building to provide forward thinking, growth-oriented companies a new place to call home.”

More on this Detroit landmark coming soon.