David Stott Building
This sleek 38-story Art Deco skyscraper was built by the heirs of Detroit’s flour king.
David Stott ran one of the largest flour mills in the Midwest, and was also one of the city’s largest property owners at the time of his death on June 4, 1916. Stott’s progeny first conceived the idea of honoring their pops with a skyscraper back in 1921, and went through 22 sets of plans before picking a winner. It was designed by the firm Donaldson & Meier, though Henry Meier had died more than a decade earlier. The general contractor was the Martin & Krausmann Co.
The property was not particularly wide considering the building’s height, which created headaches for Donaldson and led him to go with a tall, slender design. Construction began on June 1, 1928. The tower cost $3.5 million to build - the equivalent of $46.3 million today, when adjusted for inflation.
The tower stretches 436 feet above Capitol Park at State and Griswold streets, formerly the site of the Hodges Building, which dated back to 1871. The Stott formally opened June 17, 1929, though its first tenant moved in that April.
Almost from the get-go, the Stott was in trouble. The Depression that hit that year wiped out much of the family’s wealth, leading to court battles and the tower being sold a year after it opened for only $1 above its $1.3 million mortgage in order to satisfy a bank judgment.
In May 1933, the state Supreme Court settled a dispute between Stott’s seven children over the decision to build such a skyscraper ahead of coming economic uncertainty. “The specific instance of claimed incompetency which the minority stress is in the erection and financing of the David Stott Building,” the court wrote at the time. “Because of the turn of business in 1929, the building may have been a mistake. In any event, it was no greater error than a multitude of shrewd business men made at the time. The testimony does not identify any person, anywhere, who sensed and appraised the coming depression and fully put his home in order.”
Mistake or no, the Stott eventually rebounded. However, like most buildings downtown, the Stott lost many of its tenants in the 1960s, but managed to hang on for several more decades. Even as buildings were boarded up or torn down in Capitol Park, the Stott continued to house lawyers and architects.
The tower is made of reddish-orange brick - faced on the first three floors with marble — and limestone, and has several setbacks that taper as the building climbs. “As the new David Stott Building rises a tall, slender but substantial mass of old rose colored brick, it makes a spectacle that arrests the attention and causes the spectator to view it in detail from the sidewalk to the uppermost of its 38 stories,” the Detroit News wrote in June 1929. “The tendency of architectural style in office buildings the country over is toward more lively colors — more lively, but still dignified, warm, pleasing to the eye.”
The building, the fourth tallest downtown when it opened, also features sculptures by Corrado Parducci, whose work is featured in other structures downtown, including the Free Press Building. Its six elevators were one of the Stott’s most celebrated features when it opened. Newspapers raved how they could zip riders up the tower at 835 feet a minute, letting them reach the top of the tower in about 30 seconds.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the studios of WABX-FM studios were on the 33rd floor.
The recession of the late 2000s clobbered Detroit hard, especially its auto industry. Despite the preservation of its ornate lobby, for a couple of years, only one of its elevators worked. Its tenants started to flee, and those who stayed were told in June 2010 that the building would close.
In late September 2010, developer Emre Uralli, doing business as Luke Investments, presented to the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority a plan calling for 4,400 square feet of first-floor retail space, five floors of offices and 110 apartments. The project would cost about $67.4 million, and it hinges on lining up financing in a tough economy and the continued turnaround of downtown Detroit.
While he opened the Sky Bar in the Stott, the rest of the project never happened. Instead, Uralli put the Stott up for auction. It sold for $8.95 million on Sept. 12, 2013. He also auctioned off the Free Press Building - another building he bought but did nothing with - at the same time, getting $4.025 million for it Sept. 11.
Businessman Dan Gilbert bought the Stott in May 2015 and began restoring it.