Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

YWCA (first)

This building stood on Washington Boulevard, on the corner of Clifford Street. It was designed by Donaldson & Meier.

It was built at a cost of $115,000. It replaced a Temple Beth El. The building was "not only architecturally, but practically, is expected to be a credit and a blressing to the city of Detroit," the Detroit Free Press reported in 1902. "There will be no attempt at magnificence, but at the same time there will be no 'scrimping.'"

Its cornerstone was laid April 25, 1904.

The YWCA moved into bigger digs a little further east, at Montcalm and Witherell streets, in 1929. The $1.5 million building, designed by Albert Kahn, was demolished in 1997 to make way for Comerica Park.

The Book Estate bought the old YWCA, as well as the Merrill B. Mills mansion next to it. The house, built in 1854, was originally owned by Merrill I. Mills, mayor of Detroit from 1866-67, and an instrumental player in the push to build Old City Hall. After Merrill B. Mills moved out of the house around 1900, the home housed businesses. The purchase of the Mills mansion was announced May 31, 1924, thus paving the way for a mammoth new addition to the boulevard. The YWCA began efforts to raise funds to build a new home on the other side of Woodward, an Albert Kahn-designed structure that opened in 1929.

The Book Estate planned to demolish the old YWCA and Mills mansion to make way for a 32-story skyscraper that was to be known as the Aviation Town & Country Club of Detroit Building (the building also was known as the Arts Building). The two buildings came down, but the skyscraper - designed by Louis Kamper and his son Paul L. Kamper, never went up. The site served as a parking lot for decades, often providing parking for the Greyhound Bus Terminal next door.

The Detroit City Club Apartments, originally known as Trolley Plaza, was built on the site and opened in the fall of 1981.