They called it the “Haven for Honeymooners.”
The Wayne Hotel was the center of Detroit social life at the turn of the 20th century. It was also the city’s most popular hotel of the era.
The key to the Wayne’s success was its location along the Detroit River, at Third Street and Jefferson Avenue. Across the street was the Michigan Central Railroad Depot, and the smoke-belching D&C steamers huffed and puffed their way to a dock there. The popularity of the Wayne makes sense when you think about it: If you’re visiting a new town and don’t know where you’re going, you don’t want to get lost by straying too far. The Wayne’s proprietor, Jim Hayes, knew this and set out to make the hotel a one-stop shop for visitors. Hayes would run the Wayne for decades.
The hotel was decked to the nines, complete with marble floors, glitzy chandeliers three swanky bars, a hair salon, bubbling fountains, elevators and baths, which were still something of a luxury. There was room for 350 guests. Its location along the river meant that many of its guests got a view of the water and the steamships chugging up and down the river. During the summer, a two-story pagoda-like pavilion built out to the water’s edge, provided entertainment, such as music and dancing.
About 1912, Hayes drilled out behind the livery and struck mineral water. This enabled him to tack on a popular mineral bathhouse. Southeast Michigan was fairly renowned at the time for its mineral baths; nearby Mt. Clemens was even known as the Bath City.
The Wayne also boasted a casino and even a roller rink, and it did double duty as an early Detroit convention center. It hosted some of the city’s earliest auto shows in its pavilion.
But while the railroad gaveth, it also tooketh away.
In 1913, Michigan Central opened its new depot in Corktown. This led to a dramatic dropoff in business for the Wayne. Then the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, further siphoning off tourism money. Hayes finally closed the hotel in 1922, though the bathhouse limped along for a bit longer.
The hotel building became the Railway Exchange Building, presumably dealing with the freight rail lines that still were in use on the old Michigan Central tracks. D&C took over the Wayne’s pavilion and used them until May 1950, when the city condemned the D&C terminal as part of an effort to redevelop the waterfront and make way for what is now Cobo Hall.
The building was razed in 1931, and the rest of Hayes’ empire, including the mineral bathhouse, fell in 1955 to make way for Cobo Center and the Lodge Freeway.
More on this building coming soon.