Historic Detroit

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

Valpey Building

The Valpey Building is an eight-story, brick-and-steel frame building designed by Donaldson & Meier for the Valpey Shoe Co., for which it was named.

Its banks of double-hung and transom windows and white-glazed terra cotta are an early example of a curtain wall of glass - more screen than wall. The building is arranged in three bays with three grouped windows in each per floor. Floors four, five and six have windows with transoms and spandrels over each bay containing centered wreaths surrounding crests.

Above the seventh-story windows, small arches join the three windows in each bay. Between each bank of windows on the eighth story, a terra cotta wreath is centered between two short pilasters and over each of the four wreaths is a roaring lion's head. The attic story has three round windows above each bay's center window.

Early photographs depict a much more elegant, neo-classical commercial building than what exists today. Originally, the facade featured a stone balustrade on the third floor, a stone balustrade above the cornice, and an elaborate wrought iron balustrade that ran the length of the fifth floor.

In 1921, the clothing store, Frank & Seder, joined the Valpey Building with both a new building to the north (1425 Woodward) and an older building at 1437 Woodward. A portion of the first floor storefront was renovated at that time, and the upper stories were joined to create continuous selling space for the department store. The cornice was removed in 1958, changing its appearance drastically. Enameled steel signage on the southern storefront obstructed the first three stories, and enameled steel covered the first two stories of the northern storefront, thus revealing two windows from the original third floor facade.

L. N. Valpey & Co. Reliable Footwear, a Detroit institution at the turn of the century, was the original owner and builder of this structure. It was built as a speculative commercial office building for many different types of tenants. A theater program from the turn of the century contained ads for some businesses in the new Valpey Building, including Giradin, Exclusive Ladies' Tailor and maker of Shirts and Shirt Waists, and Mrs. L. Alexander, complexion specialist. After a stint as the Traugott Schmidt Building, the main tenant became Frank & Seder, a departmentalized specialty store for men's and woman's clothing, in 1921. Held's Jewelry store remained in the first-floor storefront although the rest of the building had been renovated.

Today, the building features 42 residential units as well as some retail space on Woodward Avenue.

The Valpey 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 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 17/03/2023