Historic Detroit

Frank & Seder Co. Building

Among the buildings comprising the Lofts of Merchants Row is one structure with a rather eventful life, being everything from a department store to a warehouse to a movie theater.

The building was designed by William G. Malcomson (later of the prominent Detroit firm Malcomson & Higginbotham) for Thomas A. Parker, who used it as a warehouse and showroom for his furniture business. In 1912, however, the interior was overhauled by architect C. Howard Crane and transformed from a warehouse to a theater. Detroit’s Hippodrome opened July 29, 1912, offering shows for 10 cents, though its life would be short-lived.

The theater was then renamed the Garland, and operated from 1913-1914.

Woolworth’s moved into the building until 1919, when it moved down the street to 1261 Woodward Ave.

On April 21, 1921, the Frank & Seder department store opened in the building, occupying the entire building. An ad announcing the grand opening boasted that “half a million dollars worth of new, dependable, style and quality apparel” would be on sale. Another ad called it “a new store with new ideas, new methods and new merchandising policies.” The chain had stores in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia before coming to the Motor City and were a large distributor of clothing. Frank & Seder would occupy not only this building, but also the two buildings to the south (1425 and 1413 Woodward Ave.).

In 1937, a sit-down strike to protest labor conditions was held at the store.

Frank & Seder would occupy the building until it closed in 1951.

In 1956, the building housed Wilbur-Rogers ladies wear. Two years later, it was the home of Albert’s, a Detroit-based chain of women’s suits and dresses. It was around this time that the original exterior was modernized with a corrugated aluminum facade. Albert’s closed in 1982. Its last tenant was the women’s and children’s wear chain Rainbow

After being empty for a while, the building was incorporated in 2004 into the Lofts of Merchants Row project, which combined five structures on the National Register of Historic Places into one 178,000-square-foot complex. The luxury units range in size from 650-square-foot studios to 2,600-square-foot, two-story, three-bedroom units with roof-top decks.

In 2015, a $10 million renovation was conducted on another building, the Valpey Building at 1413 Woodward Ave., which was extended into the former Hippodrome structure.

Notably, the building has one of the last surviving cast-iron facades in Detroit.