Historic Detroit

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

Ferguson Building

If you've ever wondered why so many of Detroit's historic buildings are missing their decorative cornices, look no further than the Ferguson Building.

The six-story Ferguson Building was erected by the estate of Eralsey Ferguson in 1896. As a speculative commercial building, the Ferguson Building had a variety of tenants, including architects, dentists, insurance agents, dressmakers, doctors, and a photographer when it opened in 1896. In 1898, the Detroit City Gas Co. was headquartered there.

The City of Detroit's Buildings Department files show that on Oct. 7, 1912, an alteration permit was issued for a new terra-cotta and brick front. This front, with its seven regularly spaced window bays, remains today. A buff-colored terra cotta plaque with the name Ferguson is centered on the attic level of the building's facade, where small square windows alternate with blind squares of buff colored terra cotta.

Above the sixth floor, terra cotta arches span the window bays and a band of terra cotta provides a transition to the attic story. Original windows and transoms are intact and functional. Above the fifth story, spandrels of buff terra cotta separate the floors, while terra cotta brackets hinge the fifth floor to vertical piers. Red brick spandrels between the third, fourth and fifth floors are highlighted with white terra cotta squares in each corner and at the center.

The Detroit Journal reported in 1914 that Henry Blackwell Co. made major modifications to the building by tearing out the old entrance and replacing it with a magnificent arcade entrance. A forty foot long show window, said to be the largest in the state, was located between the two doors. The new windows opened by pivoting out toward the street, and the Henry Blackwell Co. had a four-story vertical marquee on the building. The Henry Blackwell Co. declared bankruptcy in 1916. In 1917, the tenants on the first floor were Henry C. Weber & Co. (hardware) and the very exclusive ladies clothing store, Worth & Co.

Many other upscale tenants leased the building before it was occupied by Winkelman's, a women's clothier who remained from 1956 to 1987. Winkelman's spent $500,000 on its renovation in 1956, which included a 63-foot granite and marble facade designed by local architect Ted Rogvoy.

Disaster struck on June 24, 1958, when a 20-foot section of the Ferguson Building's cornice fell, instantly killing Myrtle Taggart, (news reports vary on whether she was 79 or 80 years old). Several bystanders were injured. The collapse was blamed on rusted support rods, and resulted in Mayor Miriani ordering the immediate removal of any "dangerous gingerbread" from buildings. As a result, over two-thirds of the cornices from buildings on Woodward were removed in 1958 in compliance with the City's crackdown and issuance of 1,663 cornice violation notices.

In 1992, building owner Petrie Retail Inc. put its women's clothing chain, Marianne's Plus, in the first floor; Marianne's closed in October 1995.

In 2016, the Ferguson Building and the D.J. Healy Co. Building were purchased by Bedrock and renovated into The Ferguson loft-style apartments and street-level retail space.

The Ferguson Building is a contributing building in the Lower Woodward Historic District, which also includes the Kresge Building, the Traver Building, the Fowler Building, the Heyn's Department Store Building, the Bedell Building, the Elliot Building, the Valpey Building, the Frank & Seder Building, the Frank & Seder Co. Building (Albert's), the Woodward Building, the Richman Brothers Co. Store Building, the Grinnell Brothers Music House, the Fisher Arcade, the Himelhoch's Building, the David Whitney Building, the Broderick Tower, the Telenews Theater, the United Foundation Building, the Lane Bryant Building, the A&M Coney Island Building, the Wright-Kay Building, the Kaiser-Blair Building, the D.J. Healy Co. Building, the Beck Building, the Singer Building and the Rayl Building.

Last updated 16/04/2023