The Guardian Building is a landmark skyscraper and class-A office building in downtown Detroit, Michigan, within the Financial District. Built in 1928 and finished in 1929, the building was originally called the Union Trust Building[3] and is a bold example of Art Deco architecture, including art moderne designs.[4] It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, and is currently owned by Wayne County.[2]

Guardian Building
Guardian Building is located in Michigan
Guardian Building
Guardian Building is located in the United States
Guardian Building
Interactive map showing the location of Guardian Building
Location500 Griswold Street
Detroit, Michigan
Coordinates42°19′47″N 83°2′45″W / 42.32972°N 83.04583°W / 42.32972; -83.04583
ArchitectWirt C. Rowland of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls
Architectural styleMayan Revival, Art Deco
Part ofDetroit Financial District (ID09001067)
NRHP reference No.89001165
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJune 29, 1989[2]
Designated NHLJune 29, 1989[1]

Architecture edit

Tall Spire
Shorter Spire

The main frame of the skyscraper rises 32 stories, capped by two asymmetric spires, one extending for seven additional stories. The roof height of the building is 496 ft (151 m), the top floor is 489 feet (149 m), and the spire reaches 632 ft (192.6 m). Its nickname, Cathedral of Finance, alludes both to the building's resemblance to a cathedral—with its tower over the main entrance and octagonal apse at the opposite end—and to New York City's Woolworth Building, which had earlier been dubbed the Cathedral of Commerce.[4] Native American themes are common inside and outside the building. Wirt C. Rowland, of the Smith, Hinchman & Grylls firm, was the building's architect. The building rises from a granite and stone six story base with two Corrado Parducci created sculptures flanking the Griswold Street entrance. The exterior blends brickwork with tile, limestone, and terra cotta. Rowland's attention to detail was meticulous. He supervised the creation of the colored brick cladding to achieve the desired color for the exterior. Afterward, the brick was marketed by the manufacturer as "Union Trust Brick" and after 1939, as Guardian brick".[5] Rowland designed furniture for the bank's offices and his attention went as far as designing tableware, linens and waitress uniforms for a restaurant in the building.

The building's three story, vaulted lobby is lavishly decorated with Pewabic and Rookwood tile. The semi-circular exterior domes are filled with Pewabic Pottery; Mary Chase Perry Stratton worked closely with the architect in the design of the symbolic decorations.[6] (See Savage, infra.) A Monel metal screen divides the lobby from the banking hall on the second floor, the screen features a clock in the center designed by Tiffany. The building includes works by muralist Ezra Winter in the mosaic above the main lobby desk and the mural at the end of the banking hall.[7] The large mosaic is of a pine tree and text that states the Union Trust Company's purpose for the building, "Founded on principles of faith and understating, this building is erected for the purpose of continuing and maintaining the ideals of financial services which promoted the organization of the institution". The mural highlights Michigan's industries such as manufacturing, farming and mining. In order to dampen the sound in the banking hall, its cement-plaster ceiling features a hand-painted canvas ceiling, which was stretched over a mat of horsehair.

Innovations edit

The Monel Metalwork

The Guardian Building featured innovations in both design and technology. The building's designer, Wirt Rowland, specified Monel metal in place of the commonly used brass and bronze for all exposed metalwork on the building, an innovation which was widely adopted, most notably on New York's Chrysler Building. Rowland dispensed with traditional forms of decoration, using instead colored materials (brick, stone, and terra cotta) set in geometric patterns on both the interior and exterior of the structure. The building's elevator system represented the first use of technology which automatically stopped the car level with the floor and opened the doors, tasks formerly handled by the operator.[8]

William Edward Kapp, architect for the firm of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls has been credited with interior design work on the Guardian Building.[9]

History edit

The skyscraper was built by the Union Trust Company, founded in Detroit in 1890 by Senator James McMillan, and Dexter M. Ferry, along with investments from Russell A. Alger, Col. Frank J. Hecker, and Christian H. Buhl.[4] During World War II, the Guardian Building served as the U.S. Army Command Center for war time production.[4] The Guardian served various tenants as an office building in downtown Detroit. In 1982 it became the headquarters of Michigan Consolidated Gas Company ("MichCon") subsequent to the divestiture of MichCon by ANR Company in 1981. Under the leadership of President and COO Stephen E. Ewing, MichCon restored the lobby and vaulted ceilings on the first floor in 1986. It would stay MichCon's later to be called MCN Energy Group headquarters until the merger of MCN with DTE Energy in 2001. It was sold by DTE to a local real estate developer, the Sterling Group, in 2002.

The Sterling Group invested $14 million in the building and reopened the lobby to the public, which had only been accessible to employees after MichCon purchased the building.

On July 18, 2007, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced it has entered into an agreement to purchase the Guardian Building to relocate its offices from the Wayne County Building. The deal was reportedly part of a larger deal worth $33.5 million in real estate purchases in downtown Detroit.[10] The Guardian Building has become a souvenir item along with other Detroit skyscrapers.[11]

Tenants edit

  • SmithGroupJJR[12]
  • Wayne County - Departments: Buildings, Commission, Corporation Counsel, Department of Information Technology, Economic Development Corporation, Management & Budget, Economic Development, Wayne County Land Bank, Benefits, County Executive, Healthchoice, Health, Veterans Services, Prosecutors & Detectives, Personal/Workforce, Indigent Defense Services, Juvenile and Youth Services

Detroit Land Bank Authority, Guardian Cafe Featuring James Oliver Coffee, Bank of America, Huron Capital, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Eagle Security Services, Federal Criminal Attorneys of Michigan, Law Office of Sklar & Rataj, Jacobs & Diemer, Roncelli Construction Services, Attorney Kenneth Sebree, Wade Trim, WSP, Bajoka Law Group, Guardian Store, Green Room, Crazy Gringo, Land Capital Ventures, Law Office of Maria Mannarino, , Steingold Law Firm, The Detroit People Mover, City Tour Detroit, The Monzo Group, St. J Style, Law office of Nathan & Kamionski, Pitts Law Firm.

Gallery edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Guardian Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
  2. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  3. ^ Hill, Eric J.; John Gallagher (2002). AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3120-3. P. 94.
  4. ^ a b c d Zacharias, Pat (March 9, 2001). Guardian Building has long been the crown jewel in Detroit skyline Archived 2014-02-24 at the Wayback Machine. Michigan History, Detroit News. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  5. ^ The Guardian Building: Cathedral of Finance James W. Tottis; Wayne State University Press, 2008 page 136
  6. ^ Nolan, Jenny (February 13, 2000).Pewabic tile, Detroit's art treasure Archived 2013-01-21 at Michigan History, The Detroit News. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  7. ^ Tottis, James W. (2008). The Guardian Building: Cathedral of Finance. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8143-3385-3.
  8. ^ Smith, Michael G. (2017). Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0814339794.
  9. ^ Witsil, Frank (June 15, 2021). "Downton Abbey fame leads to Meadow Brook Hall architect getting credit he deserves". Detroit Free Press.(subscription required)
  10. ^ Duggan, Daniel (August 30, 2007). Guardian Building purchase OK’d. Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  11. ^ InFocusTech skyscrapers. Retrieved on July 16, 2009.
  12. ^ "SmithGroupJJR - Contact Corporate". Retrieved December 1, 2015.

Further reading edit

  • Ferry, W. Hawkins (1968). The Buildings of Detroit: A History. Wayne State University Press.
  • Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, Shadowing Parducci, unpublished manuscript, Detroit.
  • Meyer, Katherine Mattingly and Martin C.P. McElroy with Introduction by W. Hawkins Ferry, Hon A.I.A. (1980). Detroit Architecture A.I.A. Guide Revised Edition. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1651-4.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Savage, Rebecca Binno; Greg Kowalski (2004). Art Deco in Detroit (Images of America). Arcadia. ISBN 0-7385-3228-2.
  • Sharoff, Robert (2005). American City: Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3270-6.
  • Smith, Michael G. (2017). Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0814339794.
  • Sobocinski, Melanie Grunow (2005). Detroit and Rome: building on the past. Regents of the University of Michigan. ISBN 0-933691-09-2.
  • Tottis, James W. (2008). The Guardian Building: Cathedral of Finance. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8143-3385-3.
  • Tutag, Nola Huse with Lucy Hamilton (1988). Discovering Stained Glass in Detroit. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1875-4.
  • Lacy, Robert, Ford, The Men and the Machine, Little Brown & Co., 1986, pgs. 328-334

External links edit