By Robert Sharoff
Photographs by William Zbaren
Detroit’s architecture reflects Detroit’s role in the early years of the twentieth century as the country’s leading industrial center, the place where, with the rise of the automobile industry, the future was happening. The metropolitan Detroit area was also home to some of the largest private fortunes assembled in the modern age. All of this is visible in the cutting-edge structures built to serve the needs of the modern business community that was committed to innovation and new processes. Detroit’s public buildings—its museums, libraries, schools, and monuments—are second to none in terms of their overall scale, materials, and detailing. Hotels, stores, theaters, and other commercial venues display a breezy cosmopolitanism consistent with the city’s position as both a technology hub and a crossroads of immigration. Yet despite this remarkable legacy, many of downtown Detroit’s architecturally significant buildings are under threat of demolition and have been placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2005 list of America’s most endangered landmarks.
American City: Detroit Architecture, 1845–2005 is intended to showcase a Detroit that might surprise many readers and bring long-overdue attention to the city’s heritage of fine design. In 90 stunning full-color photographs, the book documents the innovative features of fifty of Detroit’s most impressive buildings. An introductory essay offers an overview of the city’s architectural history and outlines the social forces and the personalities that helped shape the city’s built environment. The heart of American City, however, is the photography, which brings Detroit’s architecture to life in gorgeous detail. Accompanying text identifies each building and provides basic information such as date, location, and architect, pointing out features that make the building of particular interest and importance.
Buildings photographed: Fort Wayne; Lighthouse Supply Depot; R. N. Traver Building; Wright-Kay Building; R. Hirt Jr. Company Building; Chauncey Hurlbut Memorial Gate; Detroit Cornice and Slate Company; Wayne County Building; Savoyard Center; Belle Isle Conservatory; Harmonie Centre; Dime Building; L. B. King and Company Building; Michigan Central Railroad Station; R. H. Fyfe’s Shoe Store Building; Orchestra Hall; Detroit Public Library, Main Branch; Cadillac Place; Women’s City Club; Banker’s Trust Company Building; James Scott Fountain; Buhl Building; Detroit Institute of Arts; Fox Theater; Penobscot Building; Park Place Apartments; Guardian Building; David Stott Building; Fisher Building; Horace H. Rackham Building; Coleman A. Young Municipal Center; Turkel House; McGregor Memorial Conference Center; Lafayette Park; Cobo Hall and Convention Center; One Woodward; First Federal Bank Building; Frank Murphy Hall of Justice; Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls Building; Kresge-Ford Building, College for Creative Studies; SBC Building; Renaissance Center; Horace E. Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain; Detroit Receiving Hospital; Coleman A. Young Community Center; One Detroit Center; John B. Dingell VA Hospital and Medical Center; Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; Compuware Building; and Cass Technical High School.
Hardcover with jacket, 144 pages, 90 illustrations
Dimensions: 9 x 13.25 x 0.75 inches
American City is a visual tribute to the best of Detroit's architectural gems. Sometimes it takes outsiders like Sharoff and Zbaren to see the glory where Detroiters themselves see only decline." – John Gallagher, architecture critic, Detroit Free Press, and co-author of AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture
Sometimes it takes an outsider - or an expatriate - to illuminate the beauty locals forget. With its breathtaking photographs, American City compromises what [author Robert Sharoff and photographer William Zbaren] both men feel are the best examples of Detroit architecture over the years, and it gives a new view of the buildings around us." – The Detroit News