Sunday, April 9, 2017

Architectural Salvage from Historic Detroit Buildings

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Like most cities, Detroit, Michigan's skyline is changing rapidly, and as the city recovers from its bankruptcy, investment in the downtown city center has inspired a change of the landscape. With that change, historic buildings are adapted for new use or replaced, and building parts are salvaged. We recently acquired a few building parts from three historic Detroit buildings that are now available for purchase at our shop.

Detroit's J.L. Hudson's department store opened in 1911 at Woodward and Gratiot Avenues standing at a whopping 410 feet tall, it was the tallest department store in the country. Designed by architects Smith, Hinchman & Grylis, the store was a Goliath seconded only by Macy's Department Store in New York City. Its design took elements from the Neoclassical style including its cornice and finials.

J.L. Hudson's Department Store finial circa 1911.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

The J.L. Hudson's store was closed in 1983 and was demolished in 1998, but not before these gorgeous cast iron finials were salvaged.

Old Main Wayne State University, Detroit photo credit

Constructed between 1894 - 1896, Old Main was originally built as Detroit's Central High School. Made of brick and limestone harvested from the land it sits on, the building contained 103 rooms with space for nearly 2,000 students. The high school began offering college level classes in 1917, and in 1923 the building was formally integrated into the College of the City of Detroit, the precursor of Wayne State University.

Mirrored medallion, photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Old Main takes from Neoclassical design with symmetry and acanthus leaf motifs. The mirrored medallion above is an existing element from the original interior of the building. Old Main still stands today in Midtown Detroit as a recognizable symbol of Wayne State University.

Cass Tech High School, Detroit, photo credit
Built in 1917 the Cass Technical High School building was place where students could learn with their hands. The school provided industrial and commercial training to prepare students for a career in a Detroit factory. This school was ahead of its time providing a focus on job training rather than arithmetic and writing.

Bronze clock from Cass Tech High School.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

The school was built with Gothic details, barrel vaulted ceilings, and marble floors. Brick and limestone comprised the "shell" of the building. The building was demolished in 2011 and replaced by a modern facility. Today, items salvaged from the 1917 building include this bronze Neo-Gothic/Beaux Arts wall clock.

For more information about these salvaged Detroit items or visit our shop or website!

   Wayne State University College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts

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