Historic Detroit

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

Detroit Fire Department Headquarters (former)

Steel-frame, five-story Neoclassical building faced in brick and terra cotta (1929). Hans Gehrke, architect.

The long-time home of Michigan’s oldest fire department, the massive square headquarters building stands at a site occupied by fire department facilities continuously since about 1840 until the DFD moved out in 2013. The footprint of the building, located at the northeast corner of Washington Boulevard and West Larned Street, runs to the alley south of the Marquette Building and, on the building’s east façade, to the building at 234 West Larned. The building is clad in dark red brick in a running bond pattern and trimmed in gray-buff terra cotta. A grey granite bulkhead rises about three feet in height. On the West Larned façade the building is divided into six bays, with the four central ones slightly projecting. These central bays contain the arched, terra-cotta-faced portals to four engine bays with deeply recessed double doors. To the engine bays’ right eastshield bearing the DFD initials flanked by angels, one holding an axe, the other a pike. An identical surround in the same location at the façade’s opposite end outlines a window.

The pedestrian doors are surmounted by terra cotta crests marked “DFD” for Detroit Fire Department. In the entablature above the doors, is engraved the words “Fire Headquarters.” The four fire engine doors are outlined by terra-cotta-trimmed arches displaying rope moldings, dentiled lintels, and keystones. A rosette in a circle decorates each spandrel. The first level is a story and-a-half tall to accommodate the fire trucks. A terra-cotta beltcourse separates the first level from the second story above. The banks of windows above are set in closely spaced pairs above the engine bays and singly at the ends. The original wooden double-hung windows are still in place, many containing air conditioning units. Between the second and third stories appears another broad terracotta band containing a dentiled cornice. The walls above are demarcated into bays by broad and shallow piers that support a tall terra-cotta entablature with dentiled cornice topped by anthemion cresting. Metal spandrel panels separate the third and fourth-story and fourth and fifth-story windows in the center four bays.

The Washington Boulevard façade has much of the same detailing, but there are some differences. There are three engine bays in the center with a large window at either end in the street level of the projecting center section of the façade and an entrance – pedestrian at the right and rolldown vehicular at the left – at either slightly recessed end of the façade. Above the north and south doors are cartouches containing firefighter horns and hats.

The building went through extensive renovations to become a boutique hotel in 2017 (The Foundation Hotel). McIntosh Poris Associates worked with Aparium Hotel Group to repurpose the former Detroit Fire Department Headquarters and adjacent building, previously known as the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars, into the Detroit Foundation Hotel. Together, the two historically registered buildings accommodate 100 hotel rooms, office/conference spaces, Detroit-focused retail, and a fitness center.

Last updated 18/03/2023