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I grew up in Detroit during the 1960s. Even though I now live in Lansing, Detroit is my home, my main street. With all the headlines from Time Magazine and Dateline NBC, people forget the opulence of Detroit, its influence on society and public space (even today).
The Pontchartrain Hotel
There are over five hundred Detroit images at seekingmichigan.org. One titled “Bird’s-eye View of Detroit from Dime Bank Building showing City Hall, Pontchatrain Hotel, Campus Martius, Cadillac Square and Wayne County Building” (shown above) caught my eye. I knew the names but wanted to know more. I could not, however, square the location of the Pontchartrain Hotel (southeast corner of Cadillac Square and Woodward) with the “Top of the Ponch” across from Cobo Hall. The Buildings of Detroit: A History, by W. Hawkins Ferry, provided the answer. Architect George D. Mason designed this ten-story hotel to replace the Russell House in 1907. By 1916, an additional five stories were added. (See postcard below, entitled, “Cadillac Square looking East from City Hall.”) At the Pontchartrain, “gala events took place in the glow of Tiffany lighting fixtures amid a forest of potted palms. But more important in the annals of civic history were the famous financial transactions that transpired there.” (Buildings of Detroit, page 211.)
Interestingly, this hotel lasted only thirteen years. It closed on January 31, 1920. It was demolished, and the corner became the site of the First National and Central Savings Bank (Architect: Albert Kahn, 1922). The reason for the hotel’s demise: the eighteen-story Statler Hotel located at Grand Circus Park and Washington Boulevard. The Statler opened in 1915, offering guest rooms with private baths, in-room telephones and air conditioning in public areas. Such amenities helped to put the Pontchartrain, with its shared baths, out of business.
“The Campus Martius” postcard includes a view of the Old City Hall, Majestic Building, Old Opera House, Merrill Fountain, and Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Detroit City Hall was demolished in 1961. The Majestic was razed in 1962. Merrill Fountain was relocated to Palmer Park in 1925. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument continues to exist. Sculpted by Randolph Rogers, and unveiled in 1872, the monument was moved 125 feet south of its original home as part of the Campus Martius Reconstruction in 2003. The monument is now part of a 2.5-acre park near Compuware World Headquarters. With its extensive landscaping, moveable seating, and ice skating rink, the park attracts more than two million visitors year-round. It recently won the ULI (Urban Land Institute) Amanda Burden Open Space Award.
The selection of Campus Martius Park illustrates the power of well-designed open space to make a tangible difference in the quality of life in urban areas, said award creator Amanda M. Burden, chair of the New York City Planning Commission, director of the New York Department of City Planning, and 2009 laureate of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. “This park has far exceeded all expectations, in terms of the lift it has provided to Detroit’s social and economic well-being,” Ms. Burden said.
(ULI Press Release, April 16, 2010.)
The award includes a $10,000 cash price to the Detroit 300 Conservancy, which originally developed the park as a legacy gift to the city.
Wayne County Building
This last postcard shows the Wayne County Building, circa 1910. This building still exists. And this is good. It provides continuity to our past, which is the point of Seeking Michigan’s Main Street collection. Check it out today.
To Read More
Read more about the ULI Amanda Burden Award, at http://www.uli.org/AwardsAndCompetitions/AmandaBurdenOpenSpaceAward.aspx
Read more about Detroit City Hall, the Majestic Building, and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at www.buildingsofdetroit.com