Historic Detroit

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Rayl Building

The T.B. Rayl Co. Building, at Woodward and Grand River avenues, was built in 1915 and designed by the firm Baxter, O'Dell & Halpin.

The T. B. Rayl Co. Building is located at the northeast corner of Woodward and Grand River directly north of the J. L. Hudson Building site, designed by the architectural firm of Baxter, O'Dell and Halpin in 1915. This building is one of downtown Detroit's unrecognized gems.

1400 Woodward was initially constructed as the T. B. Rayl & Co. Store. Rayl's sold "hardware" which at that time meant everything from sleds and ice skates to mantle pieces, tool chests, cutlery, and toy banks. The art nouveau decorative design of the exterior was a reflection of the decorative elements homeowners could purchase at Rayl's. Liggett' s Drug Store originally occupied the western half of the first floor space and Rayl has the eastern half in addition to the second story.

In the 1930's, Lloyd's Furs occupied the second floor, and attracted attention with elaborate neon horizontal signage over the Liggett=s Drug Store signage. Also in the 1930's Sobel and Drielsma, architects, constructed new a storefront in the northern 20 feet of the Woodward side of the building. It was a moderne deco storefront for Sally Frocks, done in shiny black Carrara glass held in place by aluminum supports. This renovation was featured in The Architectural Record in 1935.

Detroit architect Ted Rogvoy designed renovations to the interior and exterior of the building in 1956 for the Meyer Jewelry Company. Rogvoy designed a gray granite first floor storefront with large plate glass windows. The upper three floors of windows were filled in with lighter red colored tiles. Little gold treasure chests (symbol of the Meyer Treasure Chest of Jewels) still decorate the tiles in the center of those lower windows.

Rogvoy also added a 1950's style contemporary clock that projects from the southwest corner of the second story of the building. At some later point, black granite was placed on the northern storefront that had previously been renovated for Sally's Frocks.

After Meyer Jewelry Company left, a retail clothing business called A. J. Men's Wear (Big Men, Shoes, Watches), occupied only the first floor space until it moved to 1225 Woodward (the Fowler Building). Today the building-owner's business, Eastern Wigs, has been operating on only the first floor since September 1997.

The architects arranged the Woodward facade of the building into three bays of windows with three narrow windows in each. The seventh story windows (originally the top floor's windows) were joined into arches to create an effect similar to Gothic tracery. The mullions between the windows in each bay were designed as slender piers terminating in an arcade of arches. The southern facade of the building on Grand River has five bays of windows in the same arrangement. The original windows are intact on floors five through seven: a long narrow window with a transom, and both are divided in half to create four panes in each window.

Unfortunately, the structure has undergone many changes over time. At some point before the 1930's, an eighth story was added to what as originally a seven-story building. The same color tile was used on the addition, but the tripartite design of the structure was irreversibly altered. The addition's windows are arranged in three bays, as are the original windows below, but the new square windows are double hung and an entirely different shape than the originals. Finally, the beautiful curved cavetto cornice was removed in the early 1990's.

Today, the building is home to the Shinola Hotel. Throughout the construction of the hotel, there was an underlying commitment to restore the building to its original look and feel.

The Rayl 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 Ferguson Building, the D.J. Healy Co. Building, the Beck Building and the Singer Building.

Last updated 26/02/2023