Historic Detroit

Spirit of Detroit

“The Spirit of Detroit” is a Detroit icon, synonymous with the city itself and the dedication of those who love the Motor City.

The bronze monument sits on a 60-ton marble base and is parked in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in the heart of downtown Detroit. He overlooks Detroit’s main drag of Woodward Avenue, and is a stone’s throw from Hart Plaza. Metro Detroit sculptor Marshall Fredericks created the piece, starting work on the massive figure in the late 1950s. The 26-foot bronze monument was the largest cast statue made anywhere in the world since the Renaissance.

While the “Spirit” cost $58,000 (about $467,750 today, when adjusted for inflation) to erect, Fredericks waived his fee on the projet. “He considered the job as part of his civic responsibility, the News noted in 1998. It is unquestionably one of his greatest works - and certainly his most popular.

The green giant was dedicated Sept. 23, 1958. Fredericks did not name his work the “Spirit of Detroit.” Its name came from the people of Detroit themselves, likely inspired by the biblical verse behind the figure, 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

“I tried to express the spirit of man through the deity and the family,” the artists told the Detroit News. “Gradually, people began calling it ‘Spirit of Detroit.’ “

The giant is often cloaked in oversize jerseys of the city’s sports teams whenever they’re in the playoffs.

In 2007, tens of thousands of dollars in improvements were made to the icon in time for its 50th birthday. The elements had eaten away the statue’s green patina, and in the 1990s, a vandal damaged the statue’s thigh with an ax.

More on this Detroit landmark coming soon.