When working on our most recent challenge project with Belle Isle Conservancy, I went back through my architecture books hoping to find one with information on Belle Isle. While I didn’t find anything about Belle Isle I did discover one of my favorites, Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins by Dan Austin. I was drawn back to this book a few years after I bought it and found myself flipping through the pages looking at the buildings that I had only read about and had not had the opportunity to visit.
The book talks about many of Detroit’s iconic architecture and it shares their history as well as the state they remain in today which at that time was 2010. Now seven years later some of these buildings stories have changed drastically.
Cass Tech High School –
Lost Detroit told the story of the old Cass Tech High School, this building opened in 1922 by Detroit firm Malcolmson and Higginbotham and had an edition done by Albert Kahn. This school was in session till 2005 when the new building was completed. Many a famous Detroiter graduated from this school including Diana Ross and Jack White. Cass Tech High School currently sits across the street from its predecessor, a new school that reflects the teachings that it was founded on; science, engineering, music and art to just name a few. The story of old Cass Tech High School is a sad one, as it was torn down in 2011 and currently the lot remains empty.
Metropolitan Building –
On my first visit to Detroit, I went for a stroll and ended up eating at Detroit Beer Company with my fellow Oregonian before my flight back West. I sat on the patio and thought “wow, what a beautiful building, I hope something becomes of it” as I stared up at the Metropolitan.
The Metropolitan building is truly a jewel of Detroit, literally and figuratively as it was once home to the city’s jewelers and watchmakers. It was built in 1925 by Detroit firm Weston and Ellington and has sat empty since 1978. Inside are remaining elements of jewelry display cases and storefronts and large windows that have been recently cleaned from their heart graffiti.
Flash forward almost a year from my first visit to Detroit and while working at Quinn Evans, I am fortunate to experience first hand the exciting changes happening to the building. Soon this jewel of Detroit will once again shine for all to see.