Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Welcome to Historic Detroit

May 2023 site update

May. 20, 2023

We’ve got a lot of updates for you this month, as the website continues to see more action this year than I can remember.

Since Helmut Ziewers joined the site as our director of photography in February, we’ve added 96 buildings, 232 new photo galleries, and nearly 1,700 new photos .

Among those new photos are some from a sneak peek we got at the recently renovated Book Tower. I’ve seen a lot of jaw-dropping interiors in Detroit, and in my opinion, the restored Book Tower is right up there with the best. You should definitely take a look.

We’ve also been working on site and accessibility improvements. The biggest is, sadly, still in progress. I had delayed the May update hoping it would be fixed, but we still need a few days. That big update is improving the site on mobile, namely the location filter. We know that more than half of the 30,000+ site visitors we get each month are on mobile, so improving the site’s performance for them is our top priority.

We also are working to implement better search filters across the board. As we inch closer to 1,000 total locations, we know we can’t have folks scrolling for days to find the buildings they want to learn more about. One of those updates will include filtering by whether a building is still standing versus those that were razed, as well as by physical location, whether downtown or in the neighborhoods, etc. In the interim, we are converting all the profile pictures of locations that no longer stand to black and white to differentiate on the main list.

Our rather ambitious project of documenting many of Detroit’s schools continues. The most in-depth addition last month was the S. James Herman School on Tireman. This stunning, unique-looking school was built to serve the kids of the since-razed Herman Gardens. We also dive, briefly, into the infamous public housing project - and the unbelievable scandal that involved the resignation of THREE corrupt Detroit councilmembers. Other significant additions include a history and photos of the since-demolished Scovel Memorial Presbyterian Church, where Henry Ford once prayed.

And it’s all made possible by the generous support of our Patreon supporters. Thank you!

Yours in documenting Detroit,

Dan Austin and Helmut Ziewers

April 2023 site update

Apr. 12, 2023

Last month, we told you about Helmut Ziewers joining the site as our director of photography and that big things were on the way.

Well, in the two months he’s been on board, Helmut has added an astonishing 1,600 images to the site’s galleries. He has single-handedly tripled the number of non-historic images that were on the site. That’s in addition to upgrading 191 building thumbnail images on their individual pages. But that’s not all. Since we last wrote, we have added - wait for it - 51 new locations to the site. That’s insane considering we were averaging only a couple a month for the last few years. It’s amazing what we have been up to. Now, a couple of those new sites have rather bare-bones pages, but not most of them, and we plan to add more info. We’ve begun a rather ambitious project of documenting many of Detroit’s schools. Burgess, Burt, Carstens and Holcomb are first up - with a LOT to go. Though there’s not space here to list all 51 new locations, highlights include St. Agnes Catholic Church, the second Pontchartrain Hotel, the Park Avenue House, the Iodent Building and a slew of buildings along the Woodward shopping corridor downtown.

On top of all that, we’re working on making the site more user-friendly. As we continue to add all these buildings, we know we have to help you find what you’re looking for faster. We hope to have an update on navigation updates for you next month. And as we’ve added individual pages for more buildings, we’re going back through older entries and linking them to these new locations. We’re also trying to make the mobile version of the site better because, well, it’s 2023.

Phew! And we’re not done yet. We’ve got more photos, more schools, more buildings and yes, more vintage postcards in store for you.

And it’s all made possible by the generous support of our Patreon supporters. Thank you! If you're interested in helping us do what we do and keep this progress going, you can become a backer at www.patreon.com/historicdetroit. We'll also be adding some cool new donation incentives soon. More on that later.

Yours in documenting Detroit,

Dan Austin and Helmut Ziewers

March 2023 site update

Mar. 10, 2023

Last month, I shared the incredible news that Helmut Ziewers has joined the site. He has already added more than ONE THOUSAND images in the past month, in addition to some great suggestions to improve the site. We have added new subjects to filter your building searches by, including theaters and churches, and have begun documenting Detroit’s schools – especially those that are closed but still standing. More than 14 locations have been added in the past month. Some are short blurbs with photo galleries; others, like the L.B. King/Annis Fur Building and the Art Stove Building, are full histories.

To sum it up, the past month has seen more updates than almost all of last year. I’m beyond excited and reinvigorated. Thank you, especially, to our Patreon patrons for sticking with us, and stay tuned for more updates and a much better site.

February 2023 site update

Mar. 1, 2023

Exciting news today: The staff of HistoricDetroit.org has doubled in size - to two. Helmut Ziewers, pictured here doing his thing, has agreed to become the site’s director of photography. When I founded this site in June 2011, it was with the idea that the many talented photographers who document Detroit would be bending over backward to share their work on the site. That didn’t happen - and I am not, most would agree, a photographer. For the past decade, the lack of images on the site has been a major source of disappointment and frustration - not to mention a disservice to the 35,000 visitors the site averages each month who come looking for not just history, but images. At the end of the day, it’s a LOT of work researching, writing, maintaining the site and crafting daily social media posts, not to mention updating older entries with news updates, for just one person who already works an incredibly demanding job. And as that job has grown more all-consuming, I have simply struggled to keep up. Helmut and I met in person a few months back while documenting the tragic demolition of the AMC Headquarters. Since then, he has been sharing his work on the site, and has already done so much to further illustrate the stories behind the bricks and share the beauty of our city’s architecture. Everyone is still more than welcome to submit their photography to the website. But in the meantime, Helmut has already added more than 350 images in the last week, in addition to some great suggestions to improve the site. I’m embarrassed to admit, that’s about three times in one week what I have averaged in a year. I would also be remiss not to thank our Patreon patrons for sticking with us during our relatively unproductive stretch. Stay tuned for big updates and a much better site. In closing, I am incredibly excited about the future of the site - reinvigorated in fact. So join me in welcoming Helmut aboard, and look forward to a bigger, better and more illustrative HistoricDetroit.org.

December 2022 site update

Dec. 30, 2022

November was a bit busy with the holiday, but we still added several new locations to the site, including the recently renovated Wilshire Apartments in Southwest Detroit, the largely forgotten passenger steamer Ariel and the unknown-to-even-me-until-recently New Detroit Baths in Corktown, in the shadow of Tiger Stadium.

We added a slew of photos of the interior of the Kresge Administration Building, an oft-overlooked Albert Kahn-designed gem, as well as The Whitney, the iconic restaurant housed in the mansion of a Detroit lumber baron. We also finished documenting the demolition of the United Artists Theatre (pictured here), which has now been erased from the skyline. We’ve also added more postcards, as always.

None of it would be possible if it weren’t for our Patreon donors' financial support and generosity, making HistoricDetroit.org a free resource available to everyone. If you're interested in helping support this website, and get some cool donation incentives for it, go to patreon.com/historicdetroit

November 2022 site update

Nov. 8, 2022

October was a busy one. Last month, we promised you we'd give you two new sites, and we gave you FIVE. We spent a lot of time unfurling the story of the Edelweiss Café, a beautiful Bohemian biergarten that saw the early days of the Kiwanis and even Ty Cobb fisting wienerschnitzel and mugs of bier. We added three churches: Goodwill Community Chapel, Assumption Greek Orthodox Cathedral and Assumption Greek Orthodox. For good measure, we added the Hudson Hotel, a small but stately place that once was home to many of the autoworkers who toiled away in the factories of the east side. We’ve actively been documenting the demolition of the United Artists Theatre. We’ve also added more postcards and photos to our galleries, as always.

None of it would be possible if it weren’t for the financial support and generosity of our Patreon members, who make HistoricDetroit.org a free resource available to everyone. If you'd like to join and get donation incentives, go to www.patreon.com/historicdetroit.

October 2022 site update

Oct. 12, 2022

September saw the Yamasaki-designed College of Education Building at Wayne State added to the site. The end of the month also saw the start of demolition on the United Artists Theatre, and we’ve been out documenting the destruction. We’ve added a photo gallery of the demo, including some taken by flying a drone through a hole in the wall to give you one last look before this landmark is reduced to rubble. Other photo galleries added include Trinity Lutheran Church, Holy Redeemer Parish and St. John Episcopal Church, and new photos were added for the Detroit Public Library and Detroit Athletic Club. We have two more histories under way that have taken a lot more investigative work than anticipated. Stay tuned for those in October.

None of it would be possible if it weren’t for our Patreon supporters' generosity, making HistoricDetroit.org a free resource available to everyone.

September 2022 site update

Sep. 13, 2022

August saw more updates to the site than any previous month in years. For starters, we’ve added three new locations: Metropolitan United Methodist Church and two Greyhound terminals, including a long-forgotten Art Moderne gem on Washington Boulevard. Even more exciting, we have partnered with photographer Helmut Ziewers and added dozens of his images for everything from the Maccabees Building to the Hotel Yorba to Fort Street Presbyterian Church. And we’ve got a whole lot more coming in the months ahead, as well as several new sites. We also added Michigan Central Station construction photos that have never been shared anywhere else, thanks to Michael Rozzo. It’s an exciting time here at HDHQ.

And that’s all thanks to our Patreon supporters for their continued support in helping to shoulder the financial burden of making HistoricDetroit.org a free resource available to everyone.

Michigan Central Station baby photos!

Sep. 1, 2022

Only on HistoricDetroit.org: Baby photos of Michigan Central Station in Detroit.

Big thanks to Michael Rozzo for sharing photos his dad, Arthur Lyman Sarvey, an assistant chief engineer of the Michigan Central Railroad Co., took of the landmark's construction.

See the photos here.

Meet Helmut Ziewers

Aug. 26, 2022

We always encourage metro Detroiters to share their photos of Detroit landmarks on our site. A few have, but even fewer have been as generous with sharing their work as Helmut Ziewers. Helmut takes some incredible shots, and we encourage you to follow him social and check out his website at www.ziewersphotography.com. We've uploaded his work to the pages for the AMC Headquarters, St. Mary's Catholic Church, the Detroit Athletic Club, Lee Plaza, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and more.