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Detroit’s Architecture and Highlights

Published 2013-06-04 · By James Bursa

I went to Detroit recently over the Memorial Day weekend. This is the 3rd time I’ve been there – my previous visits were in May 2010 and May 2011. Here are some of the highlights and changes that I noticed.

Downtown has a dense collection of impressive skyscrapers, both old and new. This is the Guardian Building from 1929 (left) along with One Detroit Center (1993) and One Woodward (1963).

Guardian Building with bridge to One Woodward

More detail of the Guardian Building.

Guardian Building entrance detail

On the Detroit River, which separates the USA from Canada, is an open area called Hart Plaza. This is the view north to downtown.

Hart Plaza and Jefferson Avenue

Here’s the view south across the river towards Windsor, Ontario.

Windsor and the Detroit River from Detroit

The Renaissance Center is a cluster of skyscrapers that dominates the skyline. The centre tower is the tallest hotel in the world, according to my 1996 Guinness Book of Records.

Renaissance Center and river walk

This building is the Ford Auditorium. It was demolished after my second visit.

Ford Auditorium and Renaissance Center

Unfortunately many of the buildings in downtown are empty. This is the Old Wayne County Building.

Old Wayne County Building and neighbouring buildings

There’s a For Sale sign in front.

Old Wayne County Building and For Sale sign

Heading north along Woodward Avenue, which is the main spine of Detroit, there’s a pair of skyscrapers: Broderick Tower and David Whitney Building.

Here they are in 2010. Both are empty and the Broderick has missing windows. This was one of the most striking things I saw on my first visit.

Broderick Tower and David Whitney Building before reconstruction

Detail of the top of those two buildings, also in 2010.

Broderick Tower before reconstruction

Fortunately, these buildings have recently been renovated. The Broderick Tower is now rental apartments, and construction is happening to the David Whitney Building. This is the view in May 2013.

Broderick Tower and David Whitney Building after renovation

This mural on the side of the Broderick was also revealed.

Broderick Tower with mural of whales

Another impressive downtown skyscraper is the Penobscot Building.

Penobscot Building

West of downtown, in an area called Corktown, is Michigan Central Station. This enormous building is sadly in very poor condition.

Michigan Central Station

Broken windows on the top floors.

Michigan Central Station top floors

There are several notable buildings in Midtown, which is north of downtown.

The Detroit Masonic Temple is a monumental heavy-looking building. Look at the monstrous mouth that forms the entrance.

Detroit Masonic Temple

Here’s the Public Library.

Detroit Public Library from Woodward Ave

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is worth visiting for the Diego Rivera murals inside.

Detroit Institute of Arts

A typical scene along Woodward Avenue.

Woodward Avenue looking south from midtown

There’s more information on most of these buildings at Historic Detroit.

See part 2 of this series, which covers New Center and other discoveries, below.