Historic Detroit

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

Wright-Kay Building

This magnificent six-story, Queen Anne building was one of the first high-rise structures on Woodward Avenue. Located at the corner of Woodward and John R., the architect Gordon W. Lloyd took advantage of the site by placing a conical tower at its corner. Innovative cast-iron construction was employed to frame this well-known red brick and brownstone building.

Other Lloyd-designed buildings around Grand Circus Park and the Lower Woodward Historic District include Central Methodist Episcopal Church (1866-67), 1217 Woodward, the Traver-Bird Building, and 119 State Street.

In its coverage of the opening of Schwankovsky's new music store in 1891, the Detroit Free Press presented the following description: On the second floor is the concert hall, a very bright, cheerful room with a platform at the east end, in the rear of which are dressing and toilet rooms on one side, the elevator and box office on the other. The hall is provided with comfortable theater chairs and has a seating capacity of 425. Outdoor brass band concerts were given from the sixth floor balcony.

In addition to the concert hall, the building contained sales rooms, offices, a musical instrument department, piano show-rooms, musical studios, and rooms for tuning and repairing instruments. By 1910, the F. J. Schwankovsky Company ceased operations and the building was converted into a jewelry store.

The Wright-Kay Jewelry Company, founded by R.J.F. Roehm in 1861, occupied the structure from 1920 to1978. In 1872, Roehm took as a partner a young Civil War veteran and Western Reserve University graduate, Henry M. Wright, forming the firm of Roehm and Wright. In 1886 Roehm sold his share in the business to John Kay and the Wright Kay & Co. name came into being. In the years that followed, the firm prospered and grew to establish a worldwide reputation as a merchandiser of silver tableware, fine china and fine jewelry. The Wright Kay Jewelry Company installed etched-glass windows with their WK insignia, which are still intact.

Unfortunately at some point in its history, the first floor's cast iron columned piers and arches became modernized like many of the other storefronts on Woodward and replaced with brown granite. In 1954, the firm merged with American Music Store Inc., the largest music retailer in the world, also the owner of the Grinnell's chain. The Wright-Kay Company opened several suburban locations, and left the downtown store in 1978.

After being vacant for two years, the building has seen many owners and tenants. It is listed on the State of Michigan Historic Register.

The building was bought by Dan Gilbert in 2011, and is now home to the Wright & Co. restaurant.

The Wright-Kay 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 Kaiser-Blair Building, the Ferguson Building, the D.J. Healy Co. Building, the Beck Building, the Singer Building and the Rayl Building.

Last updated 17/04/2023