Historic Detroit

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

Brown Brothers Building

In 1882, Detroit draftsman Ernest Witbech inherited lot 81 of Section 8 of the Governor and Judges Plan, and it remained in the Witbech estate until 1963. Permit #68 was issued to architect Gordon W. Lloyd on December 23, 1887, for the construction of this five-story brick building on the site.

Originally, the structure was a cigar factory, first the Brown Brothers manufactory and later the United Cigar Stores factory.

In 1920, Detroit grocer Henry J. Smith leased the structure. Milford Golden bought the building in 1963 and is the current owner. The building was altered in 1970 and 1971 in order to provide space for a pub, dental clinic, and business school.

In 1858, Gordon W. Lloyd, a native of England, arrived in Detroit. The training Lloyd received as an apprentice to his uncle, Ewan Christian, taught the young architect about the restoration and construction of churches. Influenced by the Gothic Revival, Lloyd designed Christ Episcopal Church in 1861 and Central Methodist Episcopal Church in 1866-67, both in Detroit. Lloyd designed residences and institutional buildings as well, including the Parker House at 975 E. Jefferson Avenue and Dowling Hall of the University of Detroit downtown campus. Lloyd's warehouse of 1887 for the D.M. Ferry and Company bears some stylistic resemblance to this factory building of the same year.

Architecturally speaking, the building is Victorian Romanesque in style, characterized by the semi-circular arches of the fifth and sixth stories, contrasting textures of stone including the rough stone belt courses, patterned brick courses at the lintel or arched level of windows, decorative, carved capitals and corbels.

The building is articulated in three vertical bays on its front, north-facing facade that are divided by pilasters rising to the parapet. A highly decorative cornice divides the fifth and sixth story of the north and west elevations. The first floor has been altered significantly. The building is a near twin to another Lloyd design formerly located on Lamed Street, which was demolished for the expansion of Cobo Hall, now Huntington Place. As such, it is a significant example of Lloyd's commercial work.

The building interior was extensively restored and renovated in 2015 by Hannah-Neumann/Smith. Today, the building serves as a downtown satellite location for the H.W. Kaufman Group.

Last updated 18/04/2023