Detroit – April 2019 – Controlled Urban Exploring

Unfortunately for Detroit when your population goes from nearly 2 million to 600,000, and most of the jobs leave the city you are left with a lot of vacant properties. One of the most famous is the 3.5 million square foot Packard Automobile Factory.




Completed in the early 1900s, it was state of the art for it’s time.




At one point there were 90 buildings in use across the campus. Today only one remains in use, the rest are decaying to various degrees.




Designed by Albert Kahn it was a model factory for 1911. This view is of the former administration office building.




The complex has been vacant so long a tree has grown over a fire hydrant.




At it’s peak 40,000 people worked here.




Today bridges lead to nowhere.




While it closed in the 1950s as a car factory, portions of it were used for a variety of other purposes until the 1990s.



There is a large amount of graffiti throughout.




Including places you wonder how they got up there.




Debris is strewn about everywhere, including this column from one of the buildings with the rebar wrapped around it.




The campus has a tunnel complex throughout – originally used to provide electrical and other utilities.




Today it is mostly filled with debris like tires. The light down the tunnel is from collapses on down the line.




This bridge ‘sort of’ connects two buildings.




Some random dumping, including a boat that was then covered in graffiti.




A bumper – but no car.




Our intrepid white hard hatted group wandered about with the Pure Detroit guide learning about the history of the Packard Company and the facility.




At last we made our way up the ramp to where the assembly line ended.




With a look down the line. In the history of the factory over 1.5 million cars and trucks were produced here.




Some of the more artistic graffiti.




One of the buildings minus every single window frame (the glass has been gone from the buildings for decades).




Some of the buildings were originally built with 2 floors, but later expanded. Look closely you will note that the columns are slightly different between the floors indicated a later construction for the upper floor.




There were a number of hard core photographers in the group.




This building still has some remaining window frames, at a great happenstance view.




An elevator building that is amazingly still somewhat standing.




Ironically the complex has become popular with large scale movie production – this ‘concrete’ is actually a piece of Styrofoam painted to look like concrete from the latest ‘Transformers’ movie.




The last bastion of glass…




A survivor of the apocalypse – or a slightly burnt teddy bear in a factory in Detroit, minus one arm but still a smile.




The front building area has been cleared of debris as they try and restore it to a functional state.




While the office area has been cleared out waiting for a lot of money to come along to rebuild.




The funeral for the Packard Automobile Company was held over 60 years ago, and the factory itself over 20 years ago – but Detroit still holds out hope someone will bring this amazing place back from the dead. (and it was total coincidence a vintage hearse drove by while we were standing there waiting on the tour).







Cleveland – March 2019 – Re purposing Historic Buildings as Hotels

Cleveland has notoriously been divided into two side, the East Side and West Side, separated by the Cuyahoga River. As a promotional campaign the local tourism board was sponsoring an event called ‘Tourist in Your Hometown – Crossing the River’. As part of this campaign they were offering a guided ‘hike’ around downtown checking out old buildings that have been restored and re purposed as hotels.

Our tour started out on the Mall outside of the old Cleveland Board of Education Building, now a Drury Hotel.





Designed by Cleveland architects Walker and Weeks, the building was completed in 1903 as part of the Group Plan. This plan designed a number of public buildings around green space in the middle of the city (The Mall).





The building’s exterior has a number of classic features.





The lobby features two murals by Cora Holden. Completed in 1931 the murals feature historical greats.





One of the first large scale redevelopment of a classic old building into a hotel was the venerable Arcade. In 2001 Hyatt Hotels restored the building to this fantastic state. While I have featured the Arcade in previous postings, you can never get enough of this elegant building.





A close up of the clocks and some of the railings.





Even the light poles have amazing detail.





The Guardian Bank Building was completed in 1896 as Cleveland’s tallest building – towering 221 feet above Euclid Avenue. Designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge it was remodeled by Walker & Weeks in 1939, giving that firm a hand in the first 3 buildings we toured.





Today it has been restored into a Holiday Inn Express, as well as private apartments and the office of an interactive agency called Rosetta.

As with many of the old buildings, the ceilings are amazing. The building was funded by President Garfield’s sons, Harry and James.





One interesting feature of the tours were actors portraying historic Cleveland people. For the morning portion of the tour we met Garrett Morgan.

Garrett was an amazing person, born in Kentucky in the late 1800s he came to Cleveland in his teens where he started working on sewing machines. Having learned about machines, he went on to develop the modern traffic light as well as a breathing apparatus that was successfully used by Garrett and his brother to save more than 30 miners who were trapped under Lake Erie in a fire.





Our morning tour ended at the Metropolitan at 9, a hotel that is a building that was built in the 1970s. While normally that wouldn’t qualify it as historic, they bypassed that rule since it is attached to the Cleveland Trust Rotunda building.

We visited the basement vaults that have been restored into a bar, complete with a demonstration of their signature flaming drink.





The afternoon portion of the tour started out at the Schofield Building. Now restored into a Kimpton Hotel, the building was completed in 1901.

The building was restored in 2013 with 122 hotel rooms and 52 apartments.





The lobby is simple yet elegant.





Our tour took us up to an 11th floor room with a great view down Euclid Avenue.





As well as the Cleveland Trust Rotunda across East 9th Street.





Our last stop was in the Colonial and Euclid Arcades, where a Residence Inn is now located.





The Colonial Arcade was completed in 1898, running the distance between Euclid Avenue and Prospect Avenue. While not as grand as the Arcade, it is still an impressive space.





It was here we met John D Rockefeller, who at times would’ve stayed at the Colonial Hotel, the original hotel in the Colonial Arcade. Rockefeller was the richest person of all time – in 2018 dollars he was once worth over $400 billion dollars. Today’s richest people (Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates) are worth around $100 billion.





The Historic Hotel Tours were a nice way to spend the day, they gave us some tchotchkes, some munchies and even a free drink! The guide was very knowledgeable and informative, and the entire event was free.