Historic Detroit

University of Detroit Engineering Building

The University of Detroit Engineering College traces its roots back to 1878, when Jesuits started a school in the city.

It was incorporated as the Detroit College in 1881 and continued to grow along with the city’s population. With a growing alumni base and an increasing need for higher education in Detroit, the college allowed its charter to expire in 1911, and the school effected a new organization under the name the University of Detroit.

This Collegiate Gothic structure, located on Jefferson Avenue near St. Antoine and Hastings, was the third building added to the school’s campus, being located across Jefferson from the other two. This four-story 1912-built structure stood near where the Renaissance Center is today.

It was built of reinforced concrete with a front facade made of Bedford stone. It was laid out in an I shape, with a front footage of 100 feet, extending back 200 feet to Woodbridge Street. The front of the first floor housed offices and the building’s lobby, as well as two engineering labs. The second floor was entirely dedicated to classrooms. The third featured general physics and electrical physics labs, two physics lecture rooms, four classrooms and the engineering section of the university’s library. The fourth floor was where the inorganic chemistry and chemical analysis labs were located, as well as a lecture room connected to each.

From an architectural engineering standpoint, it was worth noting that the front facade was an independent piece of self-supported masonry, resting entirely on its own foundation. What does this mean? Basically, it allowed Gottelseben to give the structure deeper windows.

The Engineering School offered alternate weeks spent in the classrooms and manufacturing plants of Detroit. This not only gave them hands-on training, but also allowed them to help pay for their schooling.

This structure, designed by Oscar C. Gottesleben, was razed in the 1950s with a number of structures on the south side of East Jefferson, most likely to help make way for I-375.