Historic Detroit

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

Fowler Building

The estate of E. M. Fowler built this structure at an estimated cost of $150,000 in 1911, replacing the old Hunter & Hunter store building that burned in 1910. The Fowler Building is a white glazed terra cotta skyscraper, similar in general concept to the Gage Building in Chicago. Architect Louis Sullivan's Gage Building (1899) was a landmark in architectural design for its reduction of the terra cotta exterior to a skeleton in order to express the underlying structure of the steel frame.

This revolutionary construction technique permitted the expansion of the windows into continuous strips. The eight-story Fowler Building possesses the most intact terra cotta exterior in the Lower Woodward Corridor. The structure is composed of three vertical bays of ribbon windows containing a strip of three windows in each. Dark metal window surrounds and dark spandrels cause the window areas to appear recessed, emphasizing the white terra cotta skeleton. The top floor is set apart from the floors below by a string course with dentil moldings. Just under the cornice is a terra cotta plaque with the name FOWLER in block lettering. In the late 19-teens and early 20's, the plaque had a scripted Kline's in the same spot.

The terra cotta piers of the two center bays on the eighth floor are each decorated with vertical foliate designs. The second floor is separated from the upper stories by a belt course, and its window arrangement is different as well, containing large plate glass with multi-paned window panels on each side, similar to Chicago-style windows. The overhanging first floor marquee is still extant, and the glass block windows above it are intact as well.

In 1958, the cornice was removed from the Fowler Building, as were the majority of Woodward's historic cornices.

The Fowler Building housed Kline's Ladies Wear from 1911, when it opened, until 1958. The Kline Garment Company was owned by Eugene B. Kline of New York City, who had similar stores in St. Louis, Kansas City and Cincinnati. In 1958, City Specialty Stores, Inc. (operators of Franklin-Simon) purchased the Fowler Building. Franklin-Simon Ladies Wear was a Detroit-based retailer with chain stores in neighborhood malls. Franklin-Simon closed in 1977.

The building was purchased by local real estate developer, Howard Fridman, who named the replacement retail store "Pam's" after a county clerk who processed the store's incorporation papers. Pam's was a women's and men's clothing and accessories store and it remained at this location until the mid-1980s.

The building sat vacant until bought by Bedrock in 2019, but unlike most of the company's purchases, still sits vacant with no tenants at this point.

The Fowler Building is a contributing building in the Lower Woodward Historic District, which also includes the Kresge Building, the Traver 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 Ferguson Building, the D.J. Healy Co. Building, the Beck Building, the Singer Building and the Rayl Building.

Last updated 20/03/2023