Historic Detroit

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Kresge Building

Sebastian S. Kresge founded his retail company in 1899 in a four-story building at 189-91 Woodward Ave. (since demolished). He moved his business down the block to the Wesson Building in 1909, and named this spot at the corner of Woodward and State "Kresge Korner." The Wesson Building (1880) was demolished for a new Kresge's store, which opened for business on Oct. 1, 1917, and still stands today.

S.S. Kresge Co. initially occupied the basement, first, second, seventh, eighth and ninth floors, while the remainder of the building was used by S.L. Bird & Sons as an extension of its store to the north. The nine-story structure is faced with beige brick with double sets of windows arranged in three bays on its Woodward side and five bays on the State Street facade. A molded string course of terra cotta separates the eighth floor from the ninth, and the top of the ninth floor is ornamented with foliated classical detailing in terra cotta.

Many changes and renovations to the building have occurred over time. A photograph from the early 1920s depicts a large vertical marquis from S.L. Bird & Sons running down both sides of the southeast corner of the building, and more Bird signage running horizontally above the fourth floor. Renovations in 1938 further joined the Kresge store with the S. L. Bird building to create one continuous retail space on the basement, first floor and mezzanine levels. The building's systems were remodeled with air-conditioning, new lighting, and an escalator to the second floor. On the exterior, the brick and terra cotta detailing was replaced with enameled steel banding wrapped around State Street and up Woodward.

Below the second story windows, a horizontal signage area was composed of stainless steel bands above and below a red background with stainless steel lettering stating: S. S. Kresge Co. 5 and 10" (five-and-dime). An exciting streamlined stainless steel marquis canopy was lit underneath with white light bulbs at the corner entrance.

In 1966, the Detroit Free Press reported that S.S. Kresge Co. formally re-dedicated its Woodward-State downtown store following a nine-month, $150,000 remodeling program. The facade renovation completely covered the windows on the second story and updated lettering read simply, "Kresge." Additionally, the storefront entrances were changed to plate glass with stainless steel supports. The cornice was removed and replaced with yellow brick.

In 1987, Kmart sold their Kresge stores to the McCrory Corp. Kresge Store #1 became a McCrory's store until the chain ceased operation in 1994 and the building closed. The Kresge Building was purchased by Bedrock in 2012. In 2017, the first floor and mezzanine level were renovated for the Under Armour activewear store, which filled the space for five years. Remaining above are offices for two of Dan Gilbert’s companies.

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

Last updated 20/03/2023