When the First National was completed in March 1922, the 25-story building was Detroit’s tallest skyscraper. Though it wouldn’t hold the title for long, it did help Detroiters get over the loss of the popular Hotel Pontchartrain, which was demolished to make way for this Albert Kahn design at Woodward Avenue and Cadillac Square.
“The ‘Pontch’ is gone and a structure of which all Detroit is proud looms in its place,” The Detroit Free Press wrote ahead of the opening.
The First National’s banking lobby was one of the five largest in the country, with 69 teller windows, and the building’s elevators were the zippiest in town. The two dozen other floors held a number of other tenants.
The bank traced its origins back to 1863, and First and Old Detroit National Bank grew to be one of the city’s larger financial institutions. Two months ahead of the opening of its new HQ, the bank shortened its name to simply First National Bank.
On July 12, 1927, ground was broken on a 25-story addition that included an 800-car parking garage, which opened April 10 of the following year. Today, this 750,000-square-foot giant is the oldest structure ringing Campus Martius. It was bought in August 2011 by businessman Dan Gilbert, one of his earlier real estate acquisitions downtown.
More on this building coming soon.