Detroit’s Beautiful Yet Abandoned Art Deco Skyscrapers


Image: Urbanarcheology

What does a building have to do to get a little respect? It seems being beautiful and having an interesting history is not enough as the following ten skyscrapers of the Roaring Twenties will show. Detroit seems to be a whole treasure trove of amazing Art Deco skyscrapers, sadly waiting for a new purpose. Or the wrecking ball.

Why did Detroit of all cities experience a construction boom in the 1920s? For a variety of reasons. First of all, its strategic location along the Great Lakes waterway made the city a transportation hub. This plus the city’s industry-spurred growth and the establishment of the Ford Motor Company in 1904 brought migrants from the South as well as tens of thousands of European immigrants into the city.

To date, Detroit has one of the largest collections of late 19th and early 20th century buildings in the United States, a good portion of them abandoned as we will see. Here’s our list of the bold and the beautiful.

Image: forgottendetroit

1. Book Tower, Detroit – 38 floors, 475 feet (145 m)

Standing tall and beautiful.

The Italian Renaissance style Book Tower took ten years from 1916 to 1926 to build and was completed just at the beginning of the Art Deco phase. Named after Detroit’s Book Brothers, the office tower was briefly the city’s tallest until the completion of the Penobscot Building in 1928.

In July 2006, the building was sold to the Pagan Organization whose offshoot Northeast Commercial Services Corp. filed for bankruptcy in May 2007, not even a year later. In January of this year, Bookies Tavern, the last occupant, moved out, leaving the building completely vacant. Though plans exist to renovate the Book Tower and turn it into 300 apartments and retail space, nothing has been finalised yet.


Image: Aaron Barth

2. Broderick Tower, Detroit – 35 fl Beaux Arts 369 ft, (113m)

The Broderick Tower with a whale mural by local artist Wyland painted in 1997.

The David Broderick Tower, completed toward the end of the Roaring Twenties in 1928, is a mix of Neo Classical and Beaux Arts. It is named after David Broderick, an insurance broker, who bought the building in 1945.

Since Broderick’s death in 1957, the tower has changed ownership many times and closed completely in the 1980s. Except for bars and restaurants occupying the first floor, the building has been abandoned ever since. However, redevelopment has been underway and the tower is set to reopen in early 2010. Planned is a mall on the first four floors, office space on the two floors above and residential apartments on floors 5 through 34.