Historic Detroit

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

Traver Building

The five-story Traver Building (1889) was constructed of brownstone, representing an earlier era of commercial architecture that stands out from the rest of Woodward's white terra cotta facades. Its architect, Gordon W. Lloyd, was born in Cambridge, England, and brought to Detroit his love of historicism, the English Gothic, and all the Romantic styles. He also designed one of the most recognizable buildings on the Lower Woodward Corridor - the Schwankovsky Music Company Building at 1500 Woodward at John R Street.

The history of this building begins with R.H. Traver, who established a retail business of men's clothing, hats and furnishings in March 1890. Seaman Leggett Bird entered into partnership with Traver in 1904. After Traver=s death just a year later, the clothier became known as the S.L. Bird Co. In 1914, S.L. Bird retired, and his three sons continued the business as S.L. Bird & Sons.

The Traver Building still retains much of its original grandeur. Composed in two vertical bays, the three supporting piers are articulated in the form of pilasters rising from the third floor to a decorative frieze above, capped by an intact capital with a cherub face. The fourth and fifth stories each have pilasters at the piers. The structure is divided horizontally at each floor with a heavy belt course of brownstone. Below the intact cornice (minus its elaborate ironwork) is blind arcading.

All window openings on the Traver Building are regularly spaced, with each fenestration level containing differently shaped windows. The third floor's windows are grouped into four sets of pairs, the fourth floor windows are four to each bay, and the fifth floor contains arcaded pivot windows. The third and fourth floor windows have transoms shaped into circular tracery. On the fifth floor the transoms are shaped into the window arches.

In 1938, the facades of both the Kresge Building to the south and the Traver Buildings' first two floors were combined visually. Unfortunately, this renovation completely demolished the brownstone storefront and classical detailing of the first two floors of the Traver Building. The interiors were connected and today, these systems are still integrated, including the staircases, streamlined banisters, and elevators.

The interiors of the three upper stories in the Traver Building are perhaps Lower Woodward's most significant. Elaborate gold-leafed columns and moldings with stenciled detailing remain. Additionally, the building has an intact, raised skylight on the fifth floor, with its original multi-toned gold painted geometric and art nouveau-influenced designs. At some point, the windows of the skylight were covered.

The five-story, brownstone structure was purchased by Bedrock in 2012. In 2018, it was renovated into offices and street-level retail space.

The Traver Building is a contributing building in the Lower Woodward Historic District, which also includes the Kresge 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