Historic Detroit

Hemmeter Building

Soon after John P. Hemmeter purchased the property at the southeast corner of Center and E. Grand River in 1911 Richard E. Raseman was issued a building permit for the construction of a seven story brick factory measuring 71 feet wide by 100 feet long by 104 feet high. It was estimated to cost $78,000. In addition to designing the building, Raseman also supervised the construction.

This “modern, fireproof structure” was to be the new home of the Hemmeter Cigar Factory. The building is of steel frame construction, the steel work supplied by the Russel Wheel and Foundry Co. of Detroit. The Center and Grand River frontages were of white enameled brick and terra cotta; the masonry work was done by Albert A. Albrecht Co. of Detroit. On every floor except the first, the interior walls were also planned to be white enameled brick. On the first floor, the offices and warerooms were finished in oak. The entire second story was dedicated to employee comfort: here were found a large lunch room and rest rooms. The building was equipped with an electric elevator and sprinkler system. Contemporary news accounts cited the finish cost of the building as $150,000.

John P. Hemmeter established himself in the manufacture of cigars in Saginaw, MI. in 1893. He moved the business of the Detroit in 1897. At around the time the Hemmeter Building was erected the cigar industry was first in Detroit in number of establishments and third in number of employees. In 1923, After moving the cigar factory to E. Warren, Hemmeter and his wife Caroline transferred the property to Hemmeter Investment Co. It them housed the Schulte Optical Co., American Telephone and Telegraph Co. plant department, and Michigan State telephone Co.’s accounting department. The Hemmeter building remained with the Hemmeter family until 1943, when its was sold to Detroit Trust Co. J. L. Hudson co.. which purchased it in 1945, sold the building to Adler Schnee Inc. in 1971, and they, in turn, sold it to the 230 E. Grand River Ave. Co. in 1985.

The Hemmeter Building retains much of its original appearance today. Its first story is clad in light brown masonry blocks. A stone belt course separates it from the white enamel brick of the second story. A stone belt course with an egg-and -dart molding distinguishes the second story from the third. The fenestration of floors three through five are identical: a leaf molding rising up through the arched windows of the sixth floor occupies the recessed area between the wall and the window frame. Cartouches drip from the molded arches of the sixth floor windows. The seventh story, articulated as the attic story in the classical sense, is fenestrated with smaller windows. It is topped with a heavy modillion cornice with brackets extending down between the attic windows.