A hotel has stood on the site of the Book Cadillac since the early 1830s. The Antisdel Hotel was one of the earlier hotels built on this site in downtown Detroit.
The Cadillac Hotel was built in 1888 and gained a reputation as one of Detroit's most luxurious hotels.
The Book-Cadillac Hotel was completed in 1924.
The Book-Cadillac Hotel
One of the hotel's grand ballrooms in the 1920s
The hotel's beautiful Italian Garden room
Architect Louis Kamper's vision of Washington Boulevard. The Book brothers wanted to create a "Fifth Avenue of the Midwest' along Washington, but the plan was never fully realized due to the Great Depression.
The Book-Cadillac closed in 1984 and suffered years of vacancy, deterioration, and vandalism. Shown is one of the Venetian Ballroom before renovation.
The Venetian Ballroom after renovation
The exterior was also restored, bringing new life to the Michigan Avenue statues of Detroit's early historic figures (L to R): General Wayne, Antoine Cadillac, Chief Pontiac, and Robert Navarre.
The Westin Book Cadillac opened in October 2008 after almost $200 million in renovations
Backstory and Context
The Book brothers, James, Herbert, and Frank, were real estate entrepreneurs from one of Detroit’s wealthiest families. They had a grand vision to turn Washington Boulevard into the “Fifth Avenue of the Midwest.” They bought the Cadillac Hotel in 1917, and tore the outdated building down. They hired architect Louis Kamper to create a new hotel more fitting to their master plan for the boulevard: a skyscraper 33 stories high that would hold the distinction of being the tallest hotel in the world. Kamper designed an Italian Renaissance exterior, with statues facing Michigan Ave of four of Detroit’s major historic figures: Revolutionary General Anthony Wayne, founder Antoine De Le Mothe Cadillac, Chief Pontiac, and civic leader Robert Navarre. Three copper terraced pyramids decorate the top.2 The hotel's informative booklet, "A Legend Returns," tells about the amenities of the hotel at the time:
“The 1924 grand opening of the hotel showcased 1,136 of the most modern rooms of the time, all with private baths (an enormous luxury for that era); the most technologically advanced heating and electrical systems; five restaurants (including the men’s only English Grille); an eight-seat woman’s beauty shop; a 20-seat men’s barber shop; tea room; cigar stand and a team of 36 telephone operators to handle calls for 1500 telephones. The opening night gala entertained 2,000 people with a feast from a team of 200 French chefs.”3
At the time, it cost $14 million to build,
or about $200 million today. The Book-Cadillac opened on December 8, 1924. The hotel was
host to seven US Presidents and many celebrities over the years, including Martin
Luther King, Jr, Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth.3
Its two grand ballrooms were a major social center, hosting galas and
conventions, and its Italian Garden Room drew visitors to marvel at its
beautiful two-story glass ceiling. The hotel was featured in the 1948 film State of the Union with Spencer Tracy
and Katherine Hepburn. A radio station broadcast from the top floor of the
building for years.4
The hotel fell on hard times and suffered declining
business during the Great Depression. The Book brothers lost their ownership of
the building in 1931, and it changed hands many times throughout the next
several decades. At one point it was rebranded as a Sheraton and then a
Radisson. The grand hotel could not survive Detroit’s decline in the latter
half of the last century, and the doors were closed in 1984.4
The Book-Cadillac stood vacant downtown for over
20 years. In 2006, The Ferchill Group, LLC of Cleveland, Ohio, worked with city
leaders to redevelop the historic landmark. The entire structure was gutted. After
a two-year renovation costing $180 million, the Westin Book Cadillac opened its
doors on October 6, 2008. The 89,000 square foot building now has 458 rooms, as
well as seven floors of luxury condos.3