Historic Detroit

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

Holmes Building

Many have wondered what used to stand on the tiny piece of land between the Metropolitan and Wurlitzer buildings.

Meet the Holmes Building.

The building was designed by the Detroit firm Pollmar & Ropes and built in 1902 for John H. Holmes, who rented out the six ground-floor retail spaces to a number of tenants over the years.

For much of its life, however, it would be home to the Derma-Way (later changed to Dermaway) beauty school, for some four decades starting in the 1920s.

Holmes died in the building on Dec. 19, 1924.

On Dec. 27, 1966, the building was destroyed by fire.

It took 130 firefighters and 24 pieces of equipment to extinguish the five-alarm blaze. The first alarm was sounded at 7:15 a.m., and the fifth by 8:02 a.m.

Dermaway occupied most of the building at the time, but the Holmes also was home to a novelty shop, restaurant and a cleaners.

The fourth floor was mostly used for storage at the time of the fire.

The fire apparently started in the basement, but its cause was unknown. The firefighters were able to stop the blaze from spreading to the Wurlitzer Building next door, though there was water damage to the building.

"The fire raged out of control for nearly two hours," the Detroit Free Press reported the following morning.

The building was torn down shortly thereafter and has been a vacant lot since. When the long-vacant Wurlitzer Building was finally rehabbed in 2018, the former site of the Holmes was beautified and used to house some of the building's equipment.