Historic Detroit

Majestic Building

The 14-story Majestic Building was a stunning monument to commerce that came off the drawing table of one of America’s greatest architects. It would overcome a perilous start and live up to the grandeur of its name. It would conquer Detroit’s skyline for 65 years, only to be conquered in turn by a man known as the Human Fly — and ultimately by a wrecking machine named Poopsie.

The Merchant Prince

The Majestic owed its majesty to a man who was a household name in turn-of-the-century Detroit. He was Christopher Richards Mabley, and they called him “the Merchant Prince.” He was born in England on Feb. 22, 1836, and immigrated with his family to Toronto when he was 12 years old. C.R. Mabley, as he was known, decided to follow in the mercantile footsteps of his silk merchant father and moved to Milwaukee to open a dry-goods operation. A fire would destroy his business; a lack of insurance would leave him almost penniless.

Undeterred, Mabley packed up and moved to Michigan, settling in Pontiac and opening a small clothing store. “He had little in the way of furniture and no money,” Paul Leake wrote in his History of Detroit. “He was compelled to lease a house supposed to be haunted, because the rent was within his reach.”

After seven years of ghostly roommates and squirreling away money, Mabley moved to Detroit, then a small but growing city of about 70,000 people. He set up shop in a storefront near the old Russell House hotel on Woodward Avenue — a storefront that had seen several businesses fail. His friends warned him that the place was cursed. Mabley was undaunted. After all, he had experience dealing with spooky “haints.” “Not at all worried by this supposed hoo-do, he rented the place, started a men’s special clothing store and advertised it as ‘The Hoo-do Store,’ ” Leake wrote.

It was a hit. Within two years, he expanded his shop to both neighboring storefronts, and before long, Mabley controlled the entire block. In the span of a few short years, he owned about a dozen stores spanning both sides of Woodward. He then opened a general store that sold everything a Detroiter could want or need. This would become Detroit’s first department store. But Mabley didn’t stop there. He continued to open shop after shop, first in Flint, Michigan, and then expanding into Ohio, with stores in Toledo, Cleveland and Cincinnati. This ever-expanding empire and growing fortune led to him being crowned Detroit’s “Merchant Prince.”

“He had a great heart, whose sympathies were ever extended to those less fortunate than himself,” Leake wrote. A young Joseph L. Hudson learned the tricks of the trade from Mabley and would go on to establish the legendary Detroit department store that would bear his name. “For many miles, Mabley’s store was a familiar sound to the ear, and it was because he gave value received for the money he took in and dealt fairly with everyone,” Leake wrote. “The word ‘fail’ was not contained in his lexicon. If anyone said to him, ‘Mr. Mabley, this thing is impossible,’ he immediately insisted that the impossible should be done, and it usually was.” No wonder Detroiters begged him several times to run for mayor, though he always refused.

In September 1870, a fellow named Bruce Goodfellow strolled into his shop. Mabley hired him on the spot, and within two weeks, Goodfellow was running the furnishings department. He soon became Mabley’s protégé, and when the firm Mabley & Company was incorporated in February 1884, Goodfellow was tapped to be its secretary and treasurer. But at the height of his company’s success, Mabley died June 30, 1885. He was just 49 years old. Goodfellow succeeded Mabley as president of the company, and he would continue Mabley’s penchant for dreaming big. Fourteen stories big.

The Mabley Building

Business boomed under Goodfellow, at least initially. His stockholders bought out the Mabley family’s interest within a year of the magnate’s death. In 1887, the company’s sales were the equivalent of nearly $30 million a year today, when adjusted for inflation. Not bad business in a town of only 200,000 people. The chain was “one of the best and most important business enterprises in Detroit or Michigan,” Silas Farmer wrote in his The History of Detroit and Michigan. “The trade of the house reaches into the far and near portions of the state, and attracts many thousands of people yearly to the metropolis. The successful administration of its affairs requires great judgment, energy and business nerve, and in these Mr. Goodfellow is not lacking. … The continued prosperous management of the business of Mabley & Company affords ample evidence that no similar house is more ably or safely directed.” Goodfellow’s “spirit is of the sort that would make him a leader everywhere and in everything.”

With that kind of guy at the helm, and with that kind of financial success, the company decided to greatly expand its operations by erecting the state’s largest department store — the first eight floors dedicated to retail, the other six offices. The firm went with the best, tapping the renowned Daniel H. Burnham & Co. to design what would be called the Mabley Building. And it would rise on one of the busiest corners in town: Woodward and Michigan avenues, on Campus Martius and across from Old City Hall.

Burnham was the acknowledged authority in skyscrapers at the time. He was the head of the biggest architectural firm in the country, chief consulting architect of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the man behind such famous structures as the Flatiron Building in New York. An architect as busy as Burnham needed boots on the ground in Detroit. The hometown firm of Mason & Rice was enlisted to collaborate on the project. “There will be nothing in Detroit so imposing or so well finished as the new Mabley & Company building,” architect George D. Mason boasted.

“The building is intended to be of great strength, owing to the vast amount of merchandise which is to be put in it,” The Detroit News wrote in June 1895. Goodfellow said that the store would be on par with any of the great department stores in New York City or Chicago.

“Our new store will be fitted up as a strictly first-class department establishment in every respect. … We are only too happy to be able to add so materially to the architectural beauties of the city while providing a more commodious home for ourselves and will spare no expense.”

Goodfellow also had the building plastered with decorative letter M’s, for Mabley, from the capstones to the hundreds of doorknobs throughout the building. There’d be no mistake about the name behind this giant landmark. The tab for the land, building and all those M’s would come in at about $1.7 million, about $44 million today.

Into the clouds

Demolition to clear the site began March 20, 1895, and ground was broken May 27. More than 12,000 cubic yards of earth were excavated for the 14-story Beaux Arts behemoth — enough to fill the beds of about 6,000 pickups. While it was not the city’s first skyscraper — it came six years after the Hammond Building — it would be the city’s tallest, at 221 feet.

On Sept. 1, 1895, the steel skeleton began to rise at a frantic pace. More than 200 workers swarmed the site every day. The building would prove to be unlike any building Detroit had seen before. The recipe called for more than 3,000 tons of structural steel and iron; 300 carloads of fireproofing; 125-150 carloads of terra cotta; and more than 2 million bricks — which, if laid end to end, would have stretched for 252 miles. Though Burnham designed the building at 14 stories, the design featured soaring ceilings that made it the equivalent of an 18-story skyscraper.

The building’s construction set the architectural bar high in another way besides height. It took just 171 days from the date of the groundbreaking until the last of the steel was riveted into place — an incredible feat considering the limited technology the crews had to work with and the relative newness of the skyscraper. The News reported that construction was “going on day and night” in a mad dash that broke the record for erecting such a structure, the company boasted. On Nov. 14, 1895, Mabley employees and citizenry alike gathered to tilt their heads back and follow a steel beam carrying a U.S. flag to its roost on the 14th floor. It was the last beam of many. The roof was finished by Dec. 15.

In those days, marble was the material of choice for opulent interiors, and the Mabley Building’s lobby and 30-foot-wide corridors were sheathed in the finest Italy had to offer. Swirled and veined panels of black, brown and green lent their elegance to the stylish skyscraper. In all, the building sported about 50,000 feet of premium imported stone — laid to end, the marble in this one structure would have stretched the length of 139 football fields. The building also showcased decorative mosaic tiles and ornamental ironwork, and its offices were outfitted in dark mahogany. The building had nearly 4,000 lights, which necessitated its own private electric plant.

Visitors to the building entered through mahogany and glass doors, stepping onto a handsome marble mosaic floor. Once inside, customers were enveloped by luscious yellow- and green-veined marble from floor to ceiling. Marble walls. Marble ceilings. One can only imagine the echo of click-clacking heels as shoppers made their way down those wide hallways with their soaring 19-foot ceilings. At the west end of the first floor was a gallery for Mabley offices that was loaded with bronze finishings. To reach it, you’d scale a decorative staircase made of, what else? Marble.

Situated in the middle of the ground floor were four elevators that whisked visitors into the sky. Unsurprisingly, they were beautifully finished, with elaborate screens of bronze and wrought iron. And, for those in better shape, there ran a broad stairway — clad in marble, of course.

The main entrance to the office portion of the building was on Michigan Avenue. It, too, was adorned with Italian marble and ornamental ironwork. There were four more elevators here dedicated to the office tenants and their customers. The offices themselves were finished in the seemingly requisite mahogany, and the office corridors were marble. (Because why not?) Besides amenities such as office telephone service, individual bathrooms (featuring marble partitions) and exquisite cabinetry, the Mabley also offered tenants a barbershop on the ninth floor, in case they needed a quick shave or trim between meetings. There was not a dimly lit office in the building, the newspapers noted, because Burnham designed the building so that even rooms in the back of the structure had ample natural light. And why not? As the tallest building in the city at the time, it offered unparalleled and uninterrupted views. Business owners happily forked over a premium to be able to work amongst the clouds and enjoy panoramic vistas that included Belle Isle and Canada across the Detroit River. Never before had the horizons so distant seemed so close. The view from the top was, quite simply, majestic.

The building’s exterior was packing plenty in the looks department, as well. Faced from head to toe with terra cotta, it oozed a definite Romanesque Revival flavor. Adding to the wow factor were the colored lights that illuminated the building at night, a newfangled, jaw-dropping sight at the time.

Structurally, the building utilized the most advanced techniques of its day. Technology and good, old-fashioned American ingenuity had allowed buildings to seemingly touch the heavens, advancing from mere sky-scratchers to bona fide skyscrapers. The structure’s foundation was strong, using steel and concrete instead of load-bearing masonry walls. It also was sheathed with fireproofing tile — a major selling point when you’re 14 stories up in a burning building and the fire department’s trying to save you with horse-drawn fire equipment.

The building would be tall. It would be grand. It would be a monument to Mabley. And it would almost put the company out of business.

The mighty Majestic

All that marble, all that grandeur and all those engraved M’s came at a steep price. Before the building was even finished, the company ran out of money. The building was only four months away from completion, and the investors had to scramble to keep things on track. The building company was reorganized June 10, 1896, in order to finish the job. While there would still be a Mabley’s department store on the ground level of the building, Mabley’s no longer owned it.

So now the new owners had a building, but no idea what to call it. Further complicating matters were those pesky M’s plastered everywhere. The story goes that Edward H. Doyle, who was in charge of the building’s new ownership group, reportedly told his partners, “The letter is M, and we will call the building what it is — Majestic.” And with that, the Majestic Building was born.

The building was dedicated Oct. 4, 1896 — and the town was abuzz. “Majestic! The Building Is Appropriately Named,” The Detroit News headline trumpeted that day. The story continued: “The opening of the magnificent new Majestic Building is an event of more than ordinary local importance. … It is a structure of which Detroit has good reason to be proud. It has very few equals for elegance, size and completeness in the entire country, and gives the city an enviable prominence in this age of mammoth buildings.”

On Oct. 17, Detroiters were invited to visit the building and could take in the incredible views, too. The building’s rooftop was home to an observation deck, which its owners boasted would allow Detroiters an “unobstructed view for 12 miles.” Visitors would take the elevator to the top, walk up a short stairway and through a door into the skies above. In an era before flight, this was an insanely big deal. “People drove their horses and buggies great distances just to get dizzy looking down on the town from the roof over its 14th floor,” Harry Golden Jr. reminisced in the Detroit Free Press in 1961. “It cost a lot of money for a look … a dime, when you could get a big Sunday dinner featuring fried chicken for 20 cents. … But by golly, it was worth it. For the Majestic Building was the center of darned near everything in the fastest-growing city in America.”

Mabley & Goodfellow had lost ownership of the building, but it still got to have a store there, leasing the bottom eight floors. Mason, the Detroit architect, and Goodfellow visited a dozen cities to scope out other department stores. They even jotted down notes on the sizes, shapes and styles of tables and shelves. When they got back to Detroit, they mimicked the best of what they had seen in other successful stores. “The expansive fixtures are as chaste in appearance as they are elegant and massive,” the Free Press wrote. It was “one of the finest, even if not the largest, in the land.” From suits to hats to sheet music to flowers, Mabley’s had something for everybody.

The company’s last day in the Russell House was April 10, 1897. The following day, employees began carting stock over to the Majestic. Four days later, on the evening of April 14, 1897, Mabley’s opened for business in its new location. And was it ever a party. “The shopping public of Detroit seemed to concentrate on Woodward Avenue. … It was evident that something of an extraordinary nature had brought them out,” the Free Press wrote the following morning. The store trotted out its full stock and its latest and best fashions for the event. “At 6 o’clock, the doors of all entrances were thrown open and in rushed the people.” A band performing in an outside balcony burst into the “El Capitan” march as employees and police officers tried to direct the mob of “thousands upon thousands” who stormed the store to snap up everything from typewriters to umbrellas to corsets to handkerchiefs.

“The mammoth building was ablaze from basement to top floor with light, and one … was given a new idea of its size and magnificence,” the Free Press wrote.

The store also featured a rather peculiar checkout system, at least by today’s standards. The Free Press described how the typical transaction went down: “The purchaser at any counter on the ground floor sees his good handed to a small boy who sits in a little pulpit over the head and just back of the saleswoman. There, they are deftly done up and the money tossed into a small box and dropped into a brass pipe through which it is shot by compressed air into the cashier’s domain in the basement. Down there, change is quickly made by expert fingers, returned to the pipe and shot back. Several girls will be employed to make change, and the process is carried out more quickly than it can be described so that the wait of the customer is extremely short.”

But there was more to the Majestic’s story than just shopping.

The Human Fly

Harry H. Gardiner was a man who had what you might call a risky pastime: He scaled buildings as if they were mountains — barehanded and without any safety equipment.

Of short stature, but with tremendous upper body strength and mighty mitts, Gardiner would make his ascent in a spiffy white suit and white shoes. No nets. No suction cups. No holsters or cables. He wore all white so that his tiny body stood out against the dark brick and stone so the masses could see him when he got way up high. His first newsworthy climb came in 1897, when he scaled a flagpole at Grant’s Tomb in New York City. Though reports of the actual height of Gardiner’s climb vary — some news articles put the climb at 185 feet, others reported 159 — President Grover Cleveland was in attendance. And the president was impressed. So much so, in fact, that he dubbed Gardiner “The Human Fly.” The nickname stuck, and Gardiner would go on to become an internationally known daredevil.

The native Virginian was in his mid-40s when he brought his act to the Motor City on Oct. 7, 1916. The Detroit News hired him as a publicity stunt to promote its new ad-taking office in the Majestic. Some 150,000 Detroiters descended on Campus Martius during their lunch hour to watch the death-defying stunt. Traffic and streetcars ground to a halt to watch the bespectacled Gardiner creep up the Majestic, fist over his fist, floor by floor.

Once he began his climb, “Gardiner will not speak a word until he has reached his goal. It is his way of giving himself into the care of his Creator before he ventures forth on his walk between heaven and earth,” The News wrote ahead of the climb.

The higher The Fly got, the more silent the crowd became. “They dared not cheer,” The News wrote. “Men stood and stared with bulging eyes. Women hugged their babies to their breasts and held their breath. … His body dangled between heaven and earth. … In that vast crowd, it almost seemed that if a pin dropped it would have sounded like an explosion. Only when he reached the rope waiting for him to be pulled safely over the jutting edge of the top of the building did the really big cheer break. And then it broke in wave after wave.”

Swinging from ledge to ledge, it took Gardiner 37 minutes to conquer Mount Majestic. The showstopper was such a success, Gardiner was scheduled for an encore a few days later. He practiced by climbing the Hotel Pontchartrain across Campus Martius, but the first performance was such a disruption to downtown’s moving and shaking, the second event at the Majestic was called off.

The Majestic was not the first building the Fly surmounted, nor was it even the tallest. Gardiner made his living doing this. He tackled more than 700 buildings across North America and Europe during his career and kept climbing into his 50s. But when his imitators started falling to their deaths, states started banning such spectacles. What happened to him is unclear. Some say The Fly went to Europe to continue his hobby. According to Michael Largo, author of “The Portable Obituary,” a 57-year-old man matching Gardiner’s description — and with the same name — was found beaten to death under the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1928.

‘The grand old gentleman’

Over the years, the Majestic would be home to more than just a department store. There were campaign offices on the ground floor during the presidential election of 1900, pitting William McKinley against William Jennings Bryan. From 1907 to 1933, the Majestic was home to an outpost and a rooftop observation deck for the United States Weather Bureau.

The Mabley’s department store never recovered from its spending binge on the Majestic and soon went under. Its location in the Majestic was taken over by another store, Pardridge & Blackwell. P&B stuck around until 1906, when its success led to it building a new store of its own nearby, on Monroe and Farmer streets. But, much like Mabley’s, which lost its shirt (and pants, hats and dresses, for that matter) by biting off more than it could pay for, P&B also would flounder and fail. Its store would be taken over by another Detroit shopping icon: Crowley-Milner, or just plain ol’ Crowley’s to locals. After P&B moved out, the Majestic was all offices, all the time, save for the ground-floor retail spaces.

The Majestic also was home to the first restaurant in Detroit that served meals cafeteria-style, where you could score a ham sandwich for just five cents. That is, it was a nickel until Henry Ford introduced the $5 workday in 1914, changing Detroit forever. After that the ham sandwich doubled in price — to a dime. But with the city on such a meteoric rise in those days, what was another nickel?

Doomed by progress

The Majestic would remain a steady sight on the city’s skyline for decades. Occupancy remained high, but Detroit of the mid-1950s and early 1960s was a place of immense change. In an era where drop ceilings, fake wood paneling and fluorescent lighting were all the rage, there wasn’t much love or appreciation for the classic beauty of marble and cast iron. Even the storied Old City Hall and the Hammond Building, the city’s first skyscraper, were lost in the mad rush from the past into the future. Money was poured into new construction, not the repair and maintenance of the brick-and-mortar beauties that had begun to fall into disrepair. When a piece of the Majestic’s masonry took a tumble from the sixth floor in March 1951, narrowly missing passersby below, complaints likely sped the building’s demise.

On Oct. 20, 1961, officials of First Federal Savings and Loan announced details of a plan to build a gleaming new modern skyscraper downtown. It would be the first general office building with rental space to go up in downtown Detroit since the 1930s. The plans called for a building that cost $10 million, about $77 million today. The bank’s new home would be tall, and it would be grand. And it would be built on the site of the Majestic. But Detroiters would not let their beloved landmark go quietly.

Some of the Majestic’s tenants had been in the building for decades. Attorney Edward Devine moved into the building in 1902 and was still around nearly six decades later. Lawyer Ezra Frye moved his offices into the building in 1914. His son Robert Frye told the Free Press in 1960 that the family’s ties to the building were so deep, “Mother remembers as a girl the piano player who sat on the marble landing of the lobby staircase, a lure to customers” for the department store in the Majestic.

“So strong is the feeling of devotion that the building instilled in its old occupants that they hold to it with clenched determination,” the Free Press wrote in 1960.

But sentimentality held little sway in this rapidly changing Detroit. With city leaders looking to prove that Detroit was still hip, still growing and still business-friendly, the Majestic stood little hope of being spared. Mayor Louis Miriani even agreed to sacrifice Old City Hall to provide more parking downtown for the new bank building’s employees and customers. The Majestic closed for good on July 14, 1961, when Butler’s Shoes became the last tenant to move out. The newspapers of the time were filled with Majestic memories and obituaries lamenting the building’s loss. How could Detroit be Detroit without that beloved and familiar landmark at the corner of Michigan and Woodward?

“The Majestic Building,” the Free Press wrote in 1960, “is the sort of antiquity that gets a tenacious hold on people. … Full of marble and dark, aged mahogany, it is one of those places where heels clack loudly in the halls and the mustiness seeps through fresh paint.” The Majestic was “a mighty and grand old gentleman” that was “the center of all creation — at least that part of creation found in the Detroit area,” a scribe wrote in the Free Press in August 1961.

On July 11, 1961, Arrow Wrecking Company agreed to do the deed, the same firm that brought down the Hammond Building a few years earlier. The company’s president, Louis M. Sarko, had plenty of experience blowing up buildings and bridges in Italy during his stint in World War II. In peacetime, he plied his trade to erasing skyscrapers from skylines.

Even though the Majestic was doomed to die, pieces of it would live on. The landmark was picked apart, sold by the chunk to bargain hunters and sentimental Detroiters alike. Its marble wainscoting could make for great marble countertops, or maybe someone just wanted to pick up a little something extra for the foyer, a conversation piece about that grand old building that once stood downtown. Arrow set up sales desks in the Majestic’s lobby, where, “from 8 a.m. till late evening, former tenants stream into the lobby to invest a few dollars in sections of the leaf-pattern iron railings, solid brass light fixtures, hundreds of wall mirrors, slabs of antique Italian marble, (and) mahogany wardrobes,” the Free Press wrote. As fast as the 15-man wrecking crew could strip the marble, wood and plumbing from the Majestic’s carcass, buyers were snapping it up. In the first month alone, 279 people scooped up marble washbasins from the Majestic’s majestic bathrooms for a mere $5 a piece. All of the mirrors from the building’s barbershop were sold to a Detroit dance studio. One of the 10 storefronts was taken apart and reassembled in a furniture store just down the Detroit River, in Wyandotte. Even the fire escapes found buyers, as landlords snatched them up for their own properties.

And the Majestic didn’t die alone. The three-story Fintex Building next to it also was flattened in order to make way for the demolition equipment. On Oct. 1, a shower of bricks and plaster from the eighth floor cascaded down, clobbering Detroiters Sam Camelleri, 63, and William Johnson, 51, who happened to be walking by. They escaped with only minor injuries. More than can be said for the Majestic. “The grand old gentleman’s” wounds were fatal.

Mighty Mo and Poopsie

On Oct. 20, First Federal announced the final details of the building that would take the Majestic’s place. Mayor Miriani could not have been happier to have a new modern skyscraper. “It’s just a year ago Walter (Gehrke, board chairman of the bank) said, ‘Get rid of Old City Hall and we’ll give you a new building,” Miriani told the Free Press. “We kept our word to get it out, and (the bank has) kept their word to get it in.” The new building was “another example of what can be accomplished through the spirit of cooperation between business and city government.”

The night following the bank’s big announcement, the death fence went up around the Majestic. The next day, the Majestic would meet its un-makers. Shortly before noon, three cranes queued up on Michigan Avenue as they waited to hitch a ride into the sky and onto the Majestic. They parked along the grave of Old City Hall, which had been relegated to the history books a month earlier. Painted on the sides of these heavy-metal marauders were their names: Big Push, a 5-ton tractor-type loader and scoop; Mighty Mo III, a 220-foot diesel-powered craned and boom — and Poopsie, a 5-ton bantam crane with a 550-foot boom from which dangled a 1,700-pound steel wrecking ball.

Mo slowly hoisted its companions to the top in late October 1961 in order to bring the Majestic down floor by floor. Big Push touched down first on the top of the 14th floor and immediately got to work. Bouncing around like a pinball, it had to make room for its buddy. Detroiters stopped to snap photos of the doomed landmark, a last chance for a lasting memento.

The crane made its ascent about 9 p.m. to begin really bringing the house down. “There goes Poopsie,” a fascinated child told a parent, The News reported. “And there goes the Majestic,” an old-timer said as he passed by. The process would take four months and was done mostly at night to protect passersby from falling debris. It would be a long, slow goodbye for many. “The tortuous demise of the Majestic Building puts a lump in the throat of many a native Detroiter,” longtime Free Press scribe Mark Beltaire wrote in his Town Crier column. “As the wreckers grind it down to street level, many a passerby offers a quiet prayer for a sniff of the past.”

Day after day, the skyscraper was slowly brought down from the sky. “Majestic no longer fits as the name of the once-beautiful building at Woodward and Michigan. Beaten in half by the wrecker’s hammer. It stares with vacant windows at the passing traffic,” the Free Press wrote that December in a eulogy for the longtime fixture of the city’s skyline. “When the job is finished, people will recall the Majestic Building as it stood proudly for more than a half-century, instead of how it looked in death.”

Where generations of Detroiters once wandered amid the grandeur of solid marble, only heaps of rubble and busted bricks remained. Shards of terra cotta and tiny flecks of glass and granite littered the sidewalk. Much of the debris was stuffed into the earth, shoring up foundation walls and filling the basement to make way for the Majestic’s successor. The rest was offered up as fill to anyone who had the means to haul it away.

The 25-story First Federal Building would be completed in 1965. Unlike the old-timey terra cotta that graced its predecessor, the new skyscraper would be faced in sharp, modern-looking black granite and fashioned in the International style of architecture. The building still stands today, though it is now known as 1001 Woodward. This new addition to what some considered an aged, even senile, skyline was heralded as part of the reinvention of Detroit. The city seemed determined to not live in the shadows of its past success, but to re-create itself in a new era of glory. The “twin towers, with their soaring vertical lines and dark granite surfaces, make a strong architectural statement and add a new vitality to the core of the city,” William Hawkins Ferry wrote in his “The Buildings of Detroit.” The Detroit architectural firm of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls would take home the Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1967 for the 338-foot building.

This new stately structure, one might say, was appointed to carry on a majestic tradition at the corner of Michigan and Woodward.