Sitting on the corner of Woodward Avenue and East Larned Street in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, the Spirit of Detroit is a large bronze statue that represents the soul and spirit of the city. Dedicated in 1958, the Spirit of Detroit statue represents both the modern and historical essence of the city. Additionally, the statue represents the city’s reputation for sports by sporting a jersey if a particular team is in the playoffs. The bronze statue is also featured on the logo of many of the city’s departments, and it is certainly one of the city's more prolific landmarks in the downtown area.
The statue was built by Metro Detroit sculptor Marshall Fredericks at a cost of $58,000 in 1958, which equates to about $467,750 today. It sits atop a 60-ton marble base and it is 26-feet tall, making the Spirit of Detroit the largest bronze cast monument made anywhere in the world since the Renaissance. The casting for the statue was conducted in Oslo, Norway.
In the late 1950s, the City of Detroit was in its heyday with the car industry, music scene, and other industries booming. When the new City County building was being constructed, Detroit’s (and Michigan’s) most famous sculptor, Marshall Fredericks, was commissioned to create an appropriate statue.
Fredericks designed the main seated figure of the statue to represent Man. In the left hand of the statue is a golden orb representing God, while in the right hand is a family group, including a mother, father, and child. In Frederick’s view, the inclusion of the family was to represent the noblest human relationship. In fact, the plaque on the statue reads, “Through the spirit of man is manifested in the family, the noblest human relationship.” The marble backdrop features the seals of the City of Detroit and Wayne County.1
As the statue rusted over the years, it took on a distinct green color, giving it the alias “Jolly Green Giant.” The statue has also been given a personification, such as on April 19, 1963, when two pranksters painted large green footprints leading from the statue to the “Passo di Danzo” statue nearby, which showcases a nude female ballet dancer. This prank hinted at the statue dating scene in downtown Detroit.
Additionally, the Spirit of Detroit statue donned a Red Wings jersey in celebration of the teams Stanley Cup win in 1997. It has since become tradition for the statue to wear the jersey whenever the Red Wings are victorious.2
The inscription on the symbol wall is from II Corinthians, 3:17 Now the Lord is that spirit and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
The sculpture by Marshall Fredericks was designed to continue the thought conveyed by the inscription and reflects in its conception the spirit underlying all human ideals - The relationship of God to Man.
The main figure represents the spirit of man. In his left hand he holds a symbol of God, and in his right hand, a family group: Father, mother, and child. The artist expresses the concept that God, through the spirit of man, is manifested in the family, the noblest human relationship.3