My Own Dowtown Detroit Walking Tour
Some interesting places to visit in a short time.
Completed in 1915, the David Whitney Building was named after wealthy lumber tycoon David Whitney, Jr. It was designed in a Neo-Renaissance style by the architectural firm of Daniel H. Burnham, known as “the father of the skyscraper.” The building cost $1 million to complete and is 18 stories high. It features an ornate exterior and a beautiful four-story atrium with skylight. Originally, it housed high-end shops and medical offices buildings. As tenants gradually moved out with Detroit’s decline, the building was left vacant for years. A $92 million award-winning restoration project was completed in 2014, and the building now serves as a hotel and apartment space.
Nicknamed the “Cathedral of Commerce,” the Guardian Building is one of the most expressive Art Deco skyscrapers ever built. Built in 1928 and finished in 1929, the building was originally called the Union Trust Building and is a bold example of Art Deco architecture, including art modern designs. The main frame of the skyscraper raises 36 stories, capped by two asymmetric spires, one extending for four additional stories.
The Ford Piquette Avenue plant holds a very significant place in automotive history. Built in 1904, this plant was the first building built for Ford Motor Company. This is where Henry Ford and his team built the first 15,000 Model Ts, the first affordable car to be accessible to the average family.
The Detroit Historical Society was founded in 1921 and opened the Detroit Historical Museum in 1928. The society and its museum seek to "tell Detroit's stories and why they matter." The current museum building was dedicated in 1951 and features exhibits on Detroit's growth from a frontier town to one of the largest urban areas of the nation.
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.
Known as the Detroit News Building, Detroit News and Free Press Building, or the Detroit Media Partnership Building, this Michigan State Historic Landmark was constructed in 1917 to house The Evening News (established 1873, later known as the Detroit News) [2; 5]. In 1988, the Detroit Free Press joined the Detroit News in a joint-operating agreement, and ten years later the Free Press moved into the News Building. Both papers moved to the Federal Reserve Building in 2014, and the News Building was sold to Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services . Part of the building is now occupied by Molina Healthcare, one of Michigan's largest Medicaid HMOs; the rest is still under renovation .
Now home to Detroit's convention center, Cobo Center dates back to 1960, when the original and now-demolished Cobo Arena was completed. Expanded and renovated throughout the decades, Cobo Center is named in honor of Detroit mayor Albert E. Cobo who was in office from 1950 to 1957. The former arena was home to the Detroit Pistons for many years and may be most historically-significant as the location of a 1963 speech by Martin Luther King Jr. In that speech, King delivered many of the same lines that would become famous in his later speech at the March on Washington, including the phrase "I have a dream." That speech was recorded by Motown Records and distributed as a single record entitled "The Great March to Freedom." With redevelopment plans and the construction of the Cobo Center, the former arena was demolished to expand the convention center which is best known today as the home of the Detroit Auto Show.
On July 24, 1701, Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac landed near this site along with several hundred French and Native American settlers. Their purpose was to create a new French colony and protect the fur trade from the British. They quickly built Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit, a small stockaded settlement which would grow into the huge metropolis of Detroit. The fort would see many decades of skirmishes between the French, Native Americans, and British, before finally being replaced by Fort Lernoult in 1778.