Historic Detroit

Madison Office Building

The Detroit architectural firm of Stratton and Baldwin designed the headquarters and city exchange of the Home telephone Company of Detroit. C. H. Ledlie, one of the most prominent consulting telephone engineers in the country, designed and built the spaces and installations necessary for telephone communications. The new building had the ability to serve 60,000 subscribers through its five switchboards: in 1909 the company was serving 12,500 subscribers.

The speaking telephone was first exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia. The first instruments were installed in Detroit the following year. W. A. Jackson, the chief executive of the Home Telephone Company, was responsible for this first installation, and was the founder of the Telephone & Telegraph Construction Company and the Michigan State Telephone Company. The Home Telephone Company of Detroit became the Home Telephone Company of Michigan in 1909, and was sold to a rival firm, the Michigan State Telephone Company in 1912. In 1923, the building was sold to Michigan Mutual Liability Company, becoming its home office. Michigan Mutual moved form the building in 1951 after it had been sold to the United Jewish Charities of Detroit, a non-profit corporation, directed by Julian H. Krolick. It then became the home of the Jewish Welfare Federation of Detroit, a charitable organization founded in 1926. Frederick M. Butzel, the building’s namesake at the time, was a founder and major contributor to the goals and coffers of the Jewish Welfare Federation. Its first home was at the old Statler Hotel. The federation si the primary local organization of financing, budgeting and coordinating 20 family service agencies, day schools, Sinai Hospital, the Jewish Home for the Aged, and the other beneficiaries toady. Through its Allied Jewish Campaign, the federation assists groups and provides service progress in 33 nations, including Israel.

The Madison Office Building is a three-story brick and terra cotta building on a high basement. Its first sotry is of rusticated light gray masonry; its second and third stories are brick. The heavy terra cotta molded frieze of the parapet wall is supported by four two-story pilasters. An elaborate terra cotta cartouche is centered above the projecting roof entrance. A second story window at each end of the front façade is treated similarly to the entrance, with large brackets supporting the projecting shelf below the lintels. ON top of the building is double-arched cupola with alternating light and dark voussooirs. All in all, the building is a handsome substantial Renaissance Revival building with Modernistic tendencies.