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Exploring with James

Detroit’s New Center

Published 2013-06-29 · By James Bursa

About 3 miles north of downtown Detroit is an area called New Center. The area has some notable buildings that you shouldn’t miss when visiting the city.

This mural is on a railway viaduct near the boundary between Midtown and New Center.

New Center mural

Just west of Woodward Avenue, on Grand Boulevard, are two impressive buildings by Albert Kahn. The first is the Fisher Building (1929).

Fisher Building panorama

Here’s the Art Deco facade of the 26 floor tower.

Fisher Building tower

If you visit, be sure to go inside the 3 story lobby arcade. Huge chandeliers hang from above.

Fisher Building interior

There are balconies, lots of marble, and intricately decorated ceilings.

Fisher Building arcades and ceiling

The building is mainly offices, but also contains a theatre. When I went, on a weekend, it was almost empty, except for a security guard.

Fisher Building details above entrance

This is the main entrance. Reflected in the glass is the General Motors Building.

General Motors Building reflected in the Fisher Building entrance

The General Motors Building (1922) is now used by the State of Michigan. There are four wings and a central spine set back from the street.

General Motors Building front

Here’s the main entrance. The building is now known as Cadillac Place.

General Motors Building main entrance

The interior doesn’t seem that impressive after seeing the Fisher Building lobby, but it’s still grand and luxurious.

General Motors Building lobby

Heading a few blocks north, there are residential streets of big old detached houses in good condition. Here are some on Bethune Street.

New Center houses

A few more, with the Fisher Building in the background.

New Center houses and Fisher Building

Just a few blocks away from those houses I found areas like this, with overgrown and almost empty lots. All my visits to Detroit have been in the Spring, so the abandoned lots look lush and green, and probably less depressing than at other times.

Overgrown and almost empty blocks

This colourful mural is back on Grand Boulevard, on the opposite side of Woodward Avenue from the Fisher and General Motors buildings.

Mural on Grand Boulevard

Also nearby in New Center is one of the first Ford factories, the Piquette Plant. It’s now a museum, but I didn’t get a chance to look inside.

Ford Piquette Plant

That’s all from New Center. Here are a few other Detroit discoveries I made.

The Dequindre Cut Greenway is a former railway line, now a park, which stretches from the river to Eastern Market. It was raining when I found it, so I’ll have to explore it next time I visit.

Dequindre Cut Greenway

Just west of downtown is this building that I hardly noticed on my first two visits. From the outside, it’s just another slightly run-down industrial building.

John K King bookstore building

It’s the John K King bookstore, and inside are four floors packed with used books. I spent at least an hour browsing and found several books I’d been looking for.

John K King bookstore inside with No! Smoking In Plant sign

It’s the largest used bookstore I’ve ever seen, and I recommend a visit.

John K King bookstore shelves along windows

Finally, here I am eating at American Coney Island, one of the famous Detroit “Coneys”. A Coney or Coney Island is the Michigan name for a hot dog or hot dog restaurant, presumably after Coney Island in New York.

Lunch at American Coney Island

Look at my Detroit set on Flickr for many more photos of Detroit from my three visits there, or click on any of the photos in the article for more details or a larger view.

The Historic Detroit site has more information on these buildings.