Detroit – April 2019 – The Guardian Building

With the auto industry booming in the 1920s Detroit was flush with cash. As a result most of their grand buildings date from that period – which coincided with the Art Deco movement in architecture.

The Guardian Building is the best example in Detroit, and one of the very best in the world. It has made every single list of top 10 Art Deco skyscrapers every published.





In addition to the Art Deco, they use a Native American theme throughout the exterior and interior.





This unique, and stylish mix is fantastic.





The building is asymmetrical, with a taller tower on the north end, with a slightly shorter wing on the south.

The unique custom coloring became so popular that it is now known as ‘Guardian Bricks’.





As you enter the smallish lobby you are greeted by this great mosaic.




The north tower elevator lobbies are unique from any other with the native theme continuing. Note the stained glass window.





A close up of the stained glass. The building was designed by Wirt Rowland, and features the colored materials set in geometric patterns.





A close up of the elevator lobby ceiling shows this detail.





A Montel metal screen separates the lobby from the banking hall.





This close up of the Montel metal screen shows the very cool clock.





The massive banking hall gave this building it’s nickname – the Cathedral of Finance, with it’s strong design homage to the great cathedrals of the world.





The hall is 3 floors high and is flanked on the south end by an impressive mural.





The mural is by Michigan native Ezra Winter, and celebrates all the highlights of the state. Winter also did the mosaic featured above.





A detailed look at the mural shows this industrial side, which compliments an agricultural side (not pictured).





At the apex of the mural is a tribute to finance (after all it was built as a bank)





The newer lighting retains the art deco look.





The ceiling is covered in an acoustical absorbing material, a 3/4″ thick horsehair covering over the plaster ceiling.





This design keeps down the echoing in the great hall, as well as provides a much easier restoration that a 90 year old building requires from time to time.





Even the information sign contains the Native American elements.

The Guardian Building is truly one of the greats, worth a trip to Detroit by itself.







Detroit – April 2019 – The Fisher Building

A weekend in Detroit touched on a significant amount of the auto industry history without really seeing an actual car (except the obvious high percent of American made cars on the streets and freeways of the city).

An organization called ‘Pure Detroit’ offers tours of historic structures, including the Fisher Building. Completed in 1928 as an Art Deco masterpiece, the Fisher was designed by noted Detroit architect Albert Kahn.





Despite being one of the tallest buildings in the city when completed, it is not downtown, rather about 3 miles north in an area that was named ‘New Center’. Developed in the 1920s New Center was envisioned as one of the original ‘edge cities’.

In reality the Fisher Brothers had tried to purchase a complete city block downtown, but at that time Detroit was a boom town and no land was available, making the New Center option even more attractive.




The Fisher Brothers founded Fisher Body, who provided the automobile bodies to General Motors. Most of the office space in New Center was occupied by GM, and their suppliers.

They chose this area to be closer to their factories.





As you enter the three story barrel vaulted concourse. The building is noted mostly because it contains forty (yes 40) different types of marble.

The Fisher Brothers were noted for their philanthropy and they felt that by providing a grand space for their business, as well as the public in general, they were giving back to the city.





As an architect Kahn had to be elated when the Fisher Brothers essentially said, spend what you need, make it memorable.





Including in the building is the Fisher Theater. With over 2000 seats it remains one of the oldest theaters in the city. The day we were there a matinee of ‘Hamilton’ was performing, resulting a large crowd gathering as we completed our tour.





Even areas like a small food court is opulent.





The mosaics, as well as other pieces of sculpture and frescoes were completed by Geza Maroti. As with much of the art in the period, the works have symbolism, including numerous eagles symbolizing America stretching to greater heights.





Lighting is always difficult to capture properly but when made the focus they make an interesting look.





A close up of the ceiling reveals one of the numerous tributes to knowledge.





The mezzanine level offers a nice glimpse of the ceiling, along with the main concourse.





The railing are very stylish….





… but obviously not OSHA complaint height.





The mezzanine level has great symmetry.






Just across the street is Cadillac Place. From the 1930s until the 1970s, this was the headquarters of GM.





From the 26th floor there was a nice view back toward downtown Detroit on this hazy day.

Our effervescent tour guide Jordan was great. She was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable – Pure Detroit should be proud to have her.






Chicago – February 2019 – Art Deco Skyscraper Details

We continued the architecture tours with ‘Art Deco Along The Riverfront’. This tour took us into many buildings we had been in before, but each docent will focus on different details, so you always come away with a new appreciation of the building.

We started on the Wacker Drive side of 333 North Michigan Avenue.





This building has granite at the bottom and limestone the rest of the way with reliefs carved into the stone on the exterior.





The elevator lobbies are great. The concept of Art Deco was it was new, young and fresh, and the doors that have decorative panels by Albert Stewart called Night Day illustrate that.

The panels show two young adults in a manner that 5 years earlier would’ve been unacceptable with their ‘risque’ look.





All Art Deco buildings have great letter boxes, and 333 North Michigan was the same. The letter box became a favorite subject for me of this tour.






We went back to the Carbide and Carbon Building. Each docent we have had has a slightly different story on the inspiration of this building, champaign bottle, battery, etc.

Our docent Jeff said it was modeled after the American Radiator Building in New York. Below is the Carbine and Carbon Building.


This photo off of the internet is the American Radiator Building. It seems obvious Carbide and Carbon Building was designed from this look.






The Water Street view of the building shows much of the detail on the exterior.





The Michigan Avenue entrance is the most impressive.





Once inside it is Art Deco heaven. The radiator grills.





The lobby lighting and mezzanine railing.





The letter box.





The elevator door detail. The full elevator lobby photo is the featured photo for this posting.





Even the trash cans have style.





We moved just down the block to the Chicago Auto Club building, now a Hampton Inn.





Again it seems every tour took us into this building, but close observation reveals more details previously missed.





Yet another letter box – which is best is up to individual opinions.





The detail of the balcony, with the light reacting strangely in this photo.





Since it was once a motor club they have retained where the maps used to be set out for the travelers (alas no maps anymore)





Lighting and wall detail.





The famed mural/map of American roads of the mid 1920s.





As we continued down Wacker Drive there was evidence of other Art Deco style, including the lighting, since Wacker Drive was built at about the same time.





While not all of the bridge houses are in Art Deco, this one is.





We passed by 121 West Wacker without going in the lobby, as it is under renovation. This building is interesting as it mirrors closely the Chicago Board of Trade Building – visible way down LaSalle Street in the lower right of this photo.





At the corner of Lake and Wells is the Trustees System Services Building. This building is unique with the mix of materials and the progressively lighter to give the illusion the building is taller than it is.





The interior of the large windows has a great art piece.





The main stairs depict someone who saves as good (on the left) and someone who didn’t as bad (on the right). Ironically the people who built the building were shysters and went bankrupt early in the depression, causing a riot outside the building.





Our last stop was the famed Merchandise Mart. This massive building has nearly as many square feet as the Willis Tower, more than the World Trade Center in New York at 4 million square feet.





Built in the Art Deco style, it has less ‘bling’ than others, but still many nice features.





The building logo is in the granite floors.





The interior of the building is 2 blocks long.





Our last letter box of the tour.





Jules Gierin completed 17 murals for the lobby depicting commerce throughout the world.





Our last stop on our tour came to appreciate the up lighting common in Art Deco buildings. As I almost always end these blogs, our docent Jeff was entertaining and informative – never having to rely on his ‘cheat sheet’ cards.








Chicago – February 2019 – Board of Trade Building Architectural Details Tour

Another rarely offered Chicago Architecture Foundation tour was a detailed look at the Chicago Board of Trade Building.

We met inside briefly before going outside to view the building from LaSalle Street. Among the highlights is the statue of Ceres on top of the building. The statue has no face, which some urban legends say it was because when the building was completed it was much taller than the other buildings, but our docent says that is untrue.





Knowing we were going to visit soon I was able to get an overview photo from Willis Tower just before we headed over.

Note the much lower glass roof to the right – more on that later.





The Board of Trade Building no longer has trading floors, but when they did they mostly dealt in agricultural items such as grains and animals.

This history is celebrated on the outside by a series of bovines (lower left and right center), as well as the two sculptures next to the clock.

The one of the left is Mesopotamian, which was the oldest civilization where crops began, and the Native American on the right represents the new country (America) and the crops.





The Goddess of Industry and Goddess of Agriculture had been positioned on the original building in the 1800s, but were relocated when it was torn down and this building was built.





This photo shows what the trading floors looked like. Unfortunately they are no longer there, as everything has become electronic. The 8 sides ‘pits’ shape now serve as the logo for the building.






Opened in 1930 at the height of the Art Deco movement, it is a masterpiece in the style.





Art Deco pieces are everywhere – from the lighting in the entrance…





To the main lobby lighting bank.





The air ducts….





and the coffee shop. The shop is named for Ceres, who was the Goddess of Grain. Interestingly cereal is named for Ceres.





More detail on the railings of the mezzanine.





The interior also has a number of symbols for grain worked into the design including this railing.





Since it was completed just a couple of years after Lindburgh crossed the Atlantic, they though it would be cool to include a separate mail box for Air Mail.





More grain symbolism on the elevator doors.





In 1980 a 23 floor expansion was completed to the south. While it retains some of the Art Deco elements, it is nowhere near as opulent as the original building.





They did retain some of the elevator doors that were eliminated in some refurbishing and now use them as art behind the security desk.





The new section is the one mentioned earlier with the large glass ceiling and atrium.

One highlight in the atrium is a fiberglass cow, decorated with the logo of the building – the 8 sided symbol representing the shape of the trading pits.






Gracing the atrium is this 3 story mural of Ceres, which from 1930 until 1973 hung in the agricultural trading floor.





The glass atrium rises 12 floors above, starting on the 12th floor.





It was designed by the same person who designed the Thompson Center, Helmut Jahn.





Returning to the original section, we toured the mezzanine level.





Even something as simple as the staircase handrail has amazing detail.





We went to the basement, passing by the floors with modes of transportation in them.





Our last stop was the vault. We had seen this on the Open House Chicago tours, but it is always worth a stop.





I asked our docent which was the infamous vault of Al Capone, and she indicated she believe that to be urban legend, as everything in Chicago seems to want to have an Al Capone connection.

With that our tour of the Chicago Board of Trade Building was completed. Once again our docent was knowledgeable and entertaining, and the tour was well worth it.







Cincinnati – January 2019 – Union Terminal

As noted in previous postings the Cincinnati Union Terminal is a masterpiece of art deco that was completed in 1933. It has the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere, measuring 180 feet wide by 106 feet high.









Once it closed as a rail station in the early 1970s it lived on briefly as a shopping mall before becoming the Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990.

It is immensely popular, with the original information booth serving as the ticket booth for the museums.





Fortunately each weekend day they offer tours of the building. While (as noted in other posts) portions of the building are undergoing restorations, it is still an amazing place to see any of it.

Our docent lead us on an hour tour, giving highlights and details.





The art deco touch is evident throughout, including this ticket booth for one of the smaller theaters.





Among the highlights are the massive mosaic murals on the main rotunda, as well as others hidden in corridors. The detail in the murals are amazing.

All depict either transportation or industry of Cincinnati over the years (up to 1932).


















An ice cream shop off the main rotunda was once the women’s tea room. The entire room is Rookwood (a famed Cincinnati ceramics pottery company).









While it was abandoned as a train station in the 1970s, Amtrak has returned and uses a small portion of the building. It too has a great art deco look, with inlaid wood depicting railroad scenes.





A bank of phone booths grace one wall – without phones, but you can always close the door and use your cell phone.





Pierre Bourdelle was a framed French artist who designed linoleum panels with floral design for the walls of the women’s lounge.

Fortunately it is no longer a women’s lounge so anyone (including me) can see it.





A private dining room, and former men’s lounge, has a large mural of a map of Cincinnati and nearby northern Kentucky on the wall and mirrored walls giving a great effect.





A second view of the room.





Finally a stop in the main dining room that features some recently discovered food themed artwork.

The Cincinnati Union Terminal was, and continues to be, one of Ohio’s great buildings.









Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Part 3

Day 3 of touring the city with Open House Chicago started with another building that is not officially part of the tour – Union Station.

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Union Station is in my opinion the second best train station in America (Grand Central Terminal is first, and the Washington Union Station is tied with this one).

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You make a grand entrance down the staircase.

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Past the Corinthian Columns…

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A quick look back up the stairs…

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And you are in the Main Hall.

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Unlike Grand Central, Union Station still has the cool old wooden benches.

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On this early Sunday morning there were about 20 people in the Great Hall, and 15 of us were taking photos.

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The 100-400mm provides close up of the details on the ceilings.

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And the tops of the columns.

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Even the Amtrak ticket office has a good look to it.

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More classic touches.

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While the Amtrak ticket office matched the building this ugly kiosk does not.

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The Amtrak business class lounge is new but matches the look and feel of the rest of the station.

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Across (underneath) Canal Street is another newer section of the station.

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Leaving Union Station we headed down West Jackson Street toward our first official Open House Chicago stop of the day.

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But not before passing this great new addition to downtown Chicago, with a massive map of the Chicago River up the entire side of the building.

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200 West Jackson Street – The Open House Chicago spot was a 28th floor tenant lounge in a recently remodeled building.

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Even though we were on the 28th floor, the Willis/Sears Tower towered over us.

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A collection of south loop buildings.

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Additional south loop buildings.

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Just down the street is the Chicago Board of Trade – one of the classics.

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This is Art Deco at it’s finest.

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We have been here before, but our New York friend had not – what better way to show him what Chicago has than to come into this lobby!

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While minimalist, the elevators are classic Art Deco as well.

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As cool as the lobby is – the basement holds another treat, this massive vault door and safe deposit box room.

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For the really important stuff – a vault inside a vault.

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The security guard/stand up comedian entertained the crowd with his description of the room, and it’s history. He said all he really wanted to be was Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman – and I think he could do it. What a hoot, and informative.

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This box is reputed to have belonged to Al Capone.

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to be continued…..

 

 

Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 2

Doors Open Pittsburgh continues…

 

Koppers Building – When it was completed in 1929 this 35 floor building was topped out at 475 feet high, making it Pittsburgh’s tallest for a time (passed a short time later by the Gulf Tower).

Constructed of polished granite and Indiana limestone, it is an excellent example of Art Deco.

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Lets head inside.

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As we entered we were greeted by a couple of the more than 200 volunteers. Events like this rely on volunteers, and all weekend we met welcoming, enthusiastic people who made the visits more worthwhile. A big thank you to all of the volunteers, but on to the visit….

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The three story lobby has a variety of marble finishes.

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There is significant use of bronze throughout the lobby including another great mailbox.

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Do you ever wonder where the elevator is? Not in this building!

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The cool clock collection continues…

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Even the handrail is stylish.

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First Lutheran Church – One stop that was not originally on our itinerary was the First Lutheran Church, but a hard rain shower had come along so we ducked inside.

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They are proud of the fact that this church was the first English speaking Lutheran church west of the Alleghenies, having been founded in 1837.

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The ceiling is amazing.

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As is the pipe organ.

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As with most churches, this one has some very ornate stained glass windows.

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Union Trust Building – Another building built by Henry Clay Frick, the Union Trust Building was completed in 1916 in a Flemish Gothic structure.

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It is believed that the roof is modeled after the Woolworth Building in New York, with the terra cotta dormers and mechanical towers that look like chapels.

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Even with this stunning roof, the most amazing feature of this building is the lobby, and its massive atrium leading up to the skylight.

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A closeup of the skylight.

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What a great building.

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The clock tour continues in the Union Trust Building.

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As does the mailbox tour.

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City/County Building – As we continued our day it became obvious that Pittsburgh experienced a massive building boom in the 1910s. Another example of this boom is the City/County Building, which was completed in 1916.

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The entire build emphasized local resources, from the architects to the materials and construction workers, it was directed that all the resources should come from Allegheny County.

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The lobby features a bust of William Pitt.

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As well as sculpted columns.

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Our visit included a stop at the Mayor’s office.

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Pittsburgh is noteworthy for their unique dialect, differing from the rest of the country with the accents and use of words. The most common of these is ‘Yinz’, which is Pennsylvanian for Y’all. Another is the way that downtown is pronounced (Dahntahn), and is celebrated with this sign in the Mayor’s office.

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Also open were the Council Chambers, located directly next to the Mayor’s Office.

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Oliver Building – The Henry Oliver Building is located directly across Smithfield Street from Mellon Square. Completed in 1910, the 25 story building now contains offices and an Embassy Suites hotel.

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The building was designed by Daniel Burnham. Interestingly other than Chicago, Pittsburgh has the most Burnham buildings still standing (7), and when first built they were actually taller than those in Chicago. It is thought by some that this is as a result of the steel barons, whose steel was required for the skyscrapers, for this ego boosting building boom.

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The building features another great safe.

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Art Deco is used throughout.

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The mailbox collection continues….

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The highlight however was being permitted to go check out the 25th floor lobby of the Embassy Suites, and the views from the windows throughout the floor.

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continued…..