Detroit – April 2019 – Random Sights

Our weekend in Detroit resulted in some venues that didn’t result in enough photos for a single posting so they are grouped together in ‘Random Sights’

Up first – Eastern Market.




Detroit has one of the finest farmers markets in the country. Contained in a number of indoor and outdoor ‘sheds’, they offerings vary throughout the year.




On this day there was little produce, but many people with various meats and even landscaping items.




A few street performers were on hand trying to generate some tips.




Surrounding the market are many food service companies. A number of the buildings had food related murals.




A little Detroit muscle in the Market.





In nearby Dearborn is the Henry Ford Estate.




When you invent the Model T you can have any house you want. Henry had this nice home on what was once a 1700 acre grounds. Most has been developed into a college, mall and corporate center for Ford.




This home’s styling has kept up better than most of it’s era.




And when you start a car company you need a really stylish 5 car garage.





A brief tour of downtown revealed a number of art pieces. This skyscraper at One Woodward Avenue was designed by Minoru Yamaski. If the design of the windows looks familiar it is because he later designed the original World Trade Center in New York.

The statue is The Passo di Danza (Step of the Dance).




The Spirit of Detroit is a large statue completed in 1958. Today this symbol adorns most of the city of Detroit’s department logos.




A recent addition is a 17′ high statue called ‘Waiting’ . While many like the addition some say the ‘X’ for eyes represent death.




Detroit is in Wayne County – and the County Building is in a classic Roman Baroque Revival style,, and was completed in 1902.




Cadillac Tower was the first building outside of New York and Chicago to be 40 floors tall when completed in 1927.




Across the street from the Guardian Building is the Buhl Building. Stylish in it’s own right, it pales to its world renown neighbor.




From the 32nd floor of the Guardian Building we had a great view of the surrounding area. This is a view southwest looking at the Ambassador Bridge leading to Canada (on the left), as well as the Rouge Factory in the distance.




The Renaissance Center was built in the 1970s in an effort to revitalize downtown, however it was built across an 8 lane street, along the river, and with huge walls that visually were imposing. Fail.




From our high vantage point we could see out to the vacant Packard factory that we toured the day before.




The Penobscot Building was Detroit’s tallest building from it’s completion in 1928 until the Ren Center was finished in the 1970s.




The building was named after the Penobscot Native American’s in Maine. The exterior motif pays tribute to them.







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.






Cleveland – March 2019 – Historic Downtown Buildings

Since we were in downtown Cleveland for the Historic Hotel tours, we took the opportunity to check out some other great old buildings.

Most of the buildings are on the National Historic Registry, but interestingly not all.

The Leader Building is a 106 year old, 15 floor structure along Superior Avenue. The name comes from it’s original owner – the Cleveland Leader newspaper. Designed in a Beaux Arts style, it is currently undergoing renovations.








The Main Library was completed in 1925, situated between Superior Avenue and the Mall. Both the Library and the Federal Building next door are on the National Historic Registry.







The Federal Building and Post Office Building was part of the 1903 Group Plan, which built the Mall and a number of the buildings surrounding it. Since it was the first building completed under the plan, it served as the model for others.

The Beaux Arts styling contrasts nicely against some of the newer buildings.







The Society for Savings Building on Public Square was completed in 1889. For 10 years it was the tallest building in Cleveland, eventually being surpassed by the Guardian Bank Building (visited during the Historic Hotel Tour).

The Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance styles give this structure a lot of character, resulting in it’s inclusion in the National Historic Registry.









The Old Stone Church was added to Public Square in 1855, the oldest significant structure in downtown Cleveland.





The 15 floor building at 75 Public Square was designed by Hubbell & Benes. In use for more than 100 years, there are plans in place to convert the building to apartments.





The Terminal Tower and the Union Station complex. When built in the late 1920s, the Terminal Tower was the tallest building outside of New York when completed. It it part of the massive complex built by the Van Sweringen brothers, who also built rapid transit lines to the suburb of Shaker Heights (which they also built).





The May Company building has been on the southeast corner of Public Square since 1915, designed by the famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. As you can see it too is undergoing restoration.





The City Club Building is located on Euclid Avenue. Completed in 1903 as the Citizens Savings and Trust Bank, it became home to the City Club of Cleveland in the 1980s.





Our next stop for lunch was at the Cleveland Trust Rotunda. A recent post featured this building, but it is worth a second look. It has been restored into a Heinen’s Grocery Store.










While it may seem strange to end up at the bus station, in Cleveland it is worth it. The Greyhound Station on Chester Avenue is an Art Deco Masterpiece.










Chicago – February 2019 – Then and Now

The ‘Time Travel’ series continues in Chicago start with Van Buren Street Station in 1907 and now. Note the Art Museum in both photos for orientation of the view.






The Chicago River looking west in 1946 and now. Same bridges, but not much else (although the Merchandise Mart is still there, just hidden behind Marina City.






Buckingham Fountain from 1955 to now gives evidence to how many buildings have been built in the last 60s years.





Michigan Avenue north of the river from 330 N Michigan again shows all the new buildings, although the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower still grace the riverfront itself.





Meanwhile down at street level looking across the same bridge in 1955. Of note is the mid 50s Ford making the right turn compared to the Honda Civic today. Both were one of the most popular cars of their day.

Also of note are examples of clothing as well as the change in street lighting.





This view of State Street in front of Marshall Fields/Macy’s has the change over from streetcars to buses. At some point they must have cleaned the exterior of Marshall Field’s as it is much brighter today.





While turning around looking south down State Street – in the 1950s it was large old Plymouths, Packards and Chevy’s. Today is a Prius parade while the traffic blocked the intersection.





Moving back over to Michigan Avenue in the late 1950s shows the recently completed Prudential Building (1955). Not only was it the tallest building around it was the only building on Randolph Street, east of Michigan.

The reason for this was they were just beginning to replace the freight rail yards with buildings. Clearly by 2019 all available space has been built up.





This view from 1960 shows the freight yards east of Michigan Avenue, right in the middle of Grant Park. While Columbus Avenue took part, the park is much better for the city than the rail lines.





The El crossing the river to the west loop (at a slightly different angle in 2019) shows the huge growth along the river from 1960 until today.





The skyline view from Adler Planetarium also shows the dramatic change. This skyline view is from 1965. (full disclosure the ‘current’ photo is from last July, not this last week – nobody was sitting along the stone step along the lake in Chicago in February).





Our final view is from 1970, and the recently completed John Hancock Tower – the first 1000′ tall building in Chicago. This view too is impressive in the changes seen in downtown Chicago in the last 50 years.

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.







Chicago – February – Sunny Morning from the Willis Tower

We woke up to bright sunshine on a very cold Chicago morning, with no plans until late morning so we made our way to the Willis/Sears Tower observation deck 1300′ up.





We have been there before, but not with perfectly clear skies. It turned out there was a bit of a haze along the horizon, which was amazing as a cold front had come through the night before.





The Willis Tower Skydeck’s feature is ‘The Ledge’, a Plexiglas space sticking out the side of the building where you look straight down through the Plexiglas to the street far below.

The young Mennonite (??) couple had no trepidation walking out on that, but I stayed back and took photos!





The view due north from the tower past Lincoln Park and the Lake Michigan shoreline.





The postcard view of downtown Chicago.





As with Lake Erie in Cleveland, Lake Michigan also freezes. With the winter weather going from cold to somewhat warm and back, the ice is spotty.





It was apparent as soon as we got up there with the very bright sunshine low in the sky photos looking east were tricky from the glare, but this view of Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium came out nice.





Whereas this view to the southeast had more glare but an interesting look on the water in the background.

Notice yet another 70 floor apartment building being built. Cranes are common in the skylines of Chicago.





The Carbide and Carbon Building (green building with gold top in the middle of the photo) was once one of Chicago’s tallest at just over 500′ when it was completed in 1929.

Now it is dwarfed by all the newer ones.





The view northwest along the Kennedy Expressway, which even at 10:30 in the morning had slow traffic coming into the loop.





With the bright morning sun many in this building chose to lower their shades, but from this view it almost looks as though there are numerous broken windows.





A closer view of Lincoln Park and the marina.





This unusual shaped building is the River City Apartments, designed by Bertrand Goldberg – who is most famous for designing Marina City

He apparently likes round shapes.





The Citadel Center with it’s highly reflective glass looks like a jigsaw puzzle of surrounding buildings waiting to be put together.