Sunday, December 11, 2016

Detroit Then & Now

All of us have heard about what has happened to Detroit, but until you see it for yourself, there is no way to fully understand.

Years ago the place for people in the south to go for jobs were either Chicago or Detroit.  From the late 1800's through the early 1960's, these large cities prospered, evidenced by the opulent, classical, and beautiful architecture.

There is no place that is a more vivid testimony to the change of times than Detroit.

We were in downtown Detroit a couple weekends ago.  From the airport, we passed huge factories with tall smokeless smoke stacks and empty parking lots that covered acres.

 Our hotel was located right downtown in the Grand Circus Park Historic District and near the new Detroit Tiger (baseball) and Lions (football) Ford Field stadiums.
We were only a block from the The Detroit Opera House which has existed in some form or fashion in downtown Detroit since 1869.  The original facade is very ornate with the newer addition quite contemporary.
 Our hotel is one of the very few remaining buildings in this area that has been renovated and still stands as a renewed version of the past.  Let me share it with you.
This is the David Whitney Building on Park Avenue and now the Aloft David Whitney.
Opened in 1915, it was named for David Whitney, Jr, who was a wealthy Detroiter who earned millions of dollars as a lumber baron dealing in white pine; his father was said to be the employer of Paul Bunyan.  He was also a real estate and shipping magnate.  During it's construction, in 1914 the Detroit Free Press called the building the "finest in the country."
 On the left is the original building and the right is a projected sketch for the 1959 renovation.
Typical of Detroit at the time, the exterior was styled with clean lines in a Neo-Renaissance style faced with terra cotta and glazed brick.  The original fa├žade was altered in 1959, when decorative cornices were replaced with a 'modern' top. 
 The original lions on the top were painstakingly restored during the renovation process.
 It was designed with retail on the first four floors, including clothing stores and jewelers.  A central four-story atrium allowed light into the interior of the upper-floor offices, most of which were medical.  There were 19 floors housing office and retail space with a two-story mechanical penthouse at the rear of the building.

 When the Whitney family sold the building in 1966, more than 300 doctors and dentists had offices here.  It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Grand Circus Park Historic District in 1983.
In January 2011, the Detroit Downtown Development Authority approved a $1 million loan to help Whitney Partners LLC purchase and renovate the building. Their plan included restoring the decorative exterior elements that were removed in 1959 and the four-story lobby.

Their vision for a boutique hotel, apartments and retail were finalized in December 2011 with an agreement with the Aloft division of Starwood Hotels to operate the 136-room hotel. The hotel occupies floors two through nine of the building with 108 high-end apartment units on floors ten and above. The $92 million renovation began in March 2013 and was completed in December 2014.
 The lobby is a spectacular entry with its marble floors and walls and multi-storied columns.
 Of course the skylight draws the eye upward.
The black marble wall of gold inscribed elevator doors speak to the grandeur of the original building.
This old mail box remains as a testament to the past.
From our fourth floor room, we had this amazing view in all directions.
In contrast to all this grandeur, the rooms were an Art-Deco design.  But, the beds were super comfy and the huge windows amazing.
But, let me show you what we saw out these amazing windows.  We saw the sorry story of what typifies much of downtown Detroit today.
The "Detroit People Mover" now runs in front of the hotel connecting the Grand Circus Park Historic District to the Financial District.
 These were places of business that are now empty with boarded up windows and decorated now with graffiti cheapening the once proud facades.
 Signs advertising apartments are all over downtown.  But the window air units tell one a lot of what the interior must be like.  The evidence of neglect is always a very sad thing whether it be a city, a building or a person.
I took a short walk right around the hotel.
Notice sculpting of the Holy Family on this Bank building
I can't end this review of our trip without some of the best views.
 Our big 300+ lb. left guard encouraging his quarterback.
 That same big guy loving on his adoring family.
 The scoreboard showing the team winning the MAC Championship title and who they will play in the coveted Cotton Bowl on January 2.

2 comments:

  1. How interesting and how sad too. Looks like you all had wonderful accomodations. Great photos!

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  2. This was all soo interesting! And parts of it soo spectacular and beautiful, and yet parts of it soo sad. Game looks like soo much fun. Cotton bowl? HOW exciting! Congrats to them

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