Historic Detroit

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

Welcome to Historic Detroit

June 2022 site update

Jun. 16, 2022

Last month saw me add a building that many have asked about, but of which no history existed online or in any publication I’ve been able to find. The Deaconess Hospital on East Jefferson saw the birth of many Detroiters, but its demise happened without any trace online. We’ve set out to set the record straight on that. Also added was the University of Detroit Mercy Memorial Tower. (Go, Titans!)

I also added about 50 more vintage postcards to the site in the last month. There are now more than 2,500 postcards on the site – and still way, way, way more to go.

May site update

May. 10, 2022

This may be the most extensive update I’ve had for you since pre-COVID. April saw us unveil TWO comprehensive new entries, one of which is a long overdue addition to HistoricDetroit.org. I’ve also added two less-thorough but still decently sized new locations. It's been several months since we've been able to add such significant additions to the site, so I hope you enjoy them.

First, I spent a LOT of time chronicling the history of what is now the Cadillac Square Apartments, opened in 1927 as the Barlum Hotel. Anyone who's been downtown will no doubt recognize it, but few have told its story before. That story includes the ambitions of one of the most prominent, but largely forgotten, developers of downtown in the 1920s, J.J. Barlum. We dive into his story and his mission to redevelop a slice of downtown that meant so much to his family. Barlum did much more than just build white terra cotta-clad buildings; he also ran steamship companies and a bank, and chaired the railways and streetlighting departments. Read all about the Barlum building and Barlum the man at: https://historicdetroit.org/buildings/cadillac-square-apartments

I also wrote what is, as far as I can tell, the only history of the building that the Barlum Hotel replaced, the Burns Hotel. Though it didn't last long, it, too, has a colorful story. The hotel was run by James D. Burns, a sheriff, a brickmaker and the owner of the Detroit Tigers responsible for gaining the team's admittance to the American League. Burns and his hotel's story are here: https://historicdetroit.org/buildings/burns-hotel

I also added the Helen Newberry Nurses Home and the old Detroit Police HQ that once stood where the Water Board Building is now. We’ve got more in store.

There also have been about 50 new vintage postcards added to the site of various places, mostly downtown. I want to get a few more sites added before switching over to expanding the photo galleries. As always, if you have photos you’d like to share on the site, I’d love to have them. I’m just one guy running the whole site – and I’m decidedly NOT an accomplished photographer.

And our Patreon supporters have helped make all of this possible. Thank you for your continued support in helping to shoulder the financial burden of making HistoricDetroit.org a free resource that is available to everyone.

April site update

Apr. 12, 2022

The flashiest update for you is that we created a new Belle Isle postcard tag, which involved tagging hundreds of individual cards. It’s never been easier to see how Detroit’s island jewel once looked in color. The demolition of All Saints Church in Southwest Detroit led us to add the building to the site. We’ll be expanding its history as the city says goodbye to this historic house of worship. We also spent an embarrassing amount of time sifting through misinformation on the fate of the Palmer Park Casino. We determined that books and websites were wrong about it being lost to a fire … but sadly haven’t been able to uncover the truth yet. We added it to the page and will update as we continue to dig. More postcards and historic images have been added to various pages. If you have photos you’d like to share on the site, let us know! We’d love to share them with the world, and we will NEVER sell or license your images without your consent. If we are contacted for licensing an image, we’ll give you every last penny of the fee.

Belle Isle postcard tag added

Apr. 4, 2022

An update long overdue on our site: We've added a Belle Isle tag in our vintage Detroit postcards section, so you can see the way Belle Isle was 100 years ago in color. They're also still tagged under "parks" and by the individual building/monument name. View the hundreds that we've uploaded so far here: https://historicdetroit.org/postcards/belle-isle

March site update

Mar. 11, 2022

We’ve spent much of our free time documenting buildings that are soon to meet the wrecking ball. We’ll be uploading photos of the State Fairgrounds Coliseum and AMC Headquarters in the next week or so. Both are sadly destined for that ever-crowded architectural graveyard in the sky. We also managed to unearth the architect of the Mt. Royal Hotel, a Black-owned hotel that had been forgotten by even Black history experts, thanks to the BSEED building permits. We’ve also been going back through and updating building pages that had been sorely lacking updates. The United Artists Theatre, Women’s City Club and Eddystone Hotel, for example, are all Ilitch properties that are finally seeing movement. Our never-ending postcard digitization and coding/tagging project also rolls on. We’ve added almost 100 new ones over the past month.

February site update

Feb. 9, 2022

So, a brief update, both personally and about the site. First, the (maybe?) bad-but-it’s-OK-now news: I thought I had contracted a vaccine-and-booster-dodging case of COVID and was REALLY sick at the beginning of this month. PCR tests say it wasn’t, but man, I sure was convinced – and still sort of am. Anyway, I’m better now. This means, however, that some of the progress I had hoped to make on the site got delayed. I did add to the site the Mt. Royal Hotel, a long-forgotten Black hotel in the Piety Hill neighborhood. This one was so forgotten, in fact, that not even Detroit’s two most prominent Black history scholars had heard of it. You can read all about it on our site. Also added were the old Salvation Army Citadel, the Lee, Cady & Smart warehouse in Southwest Detroit and the steamer Promise, which used to run to Belle Isle and was the first vessel to make the run from Detroit to Boblo Island.

Thank you to our Patreon supporters for their continued support in helping to shoulder the financial burden of making HistoricDetroit.org a free resource that is available to everyone.

Updates to the site

Dec. 16, 2021

We have updated the entry for TCF Center to reflect the building's new name of Huntington Place, and added new pages for 7300 Woodward, the steamer Promise, the AMC Headquarters, Victoria Apartments, Young Woman's Home, Fairfax Hotel, Holmes Building, Brunswick Hotel and Summerfield & Hecht. In addition, we have added dozens of new photos and hundreds of new images to our postcard section.

New Patreon merch for supporters!

Sep. 8, 2020

NEW MERCH ALERT! It's been a labor of love running HistoricDetroit.org for you the past nine years, but sadly, our hosting costs, Heroku back end fees and photo licensing can't be paid with hugs 'n' kisses. We'd like to thank all of our Patreon patrons for your continued sustaining support! Because we rely so heavily on your donations to keep the site going, and because we know you deserve to be rewarded for your generosity, we've added new donation incentives. You can change your donation incentive at any time, so if you've already received one incentive, feel free to choose another! We've added new T-shirt designs that are EXCLUSIVE to our generous Patreon members. In addition to new retro designs for the Belle Isle Children's Zoo and the Leland Hotel (City Club, what?!), we've also dusted off our "Made in Detroit USA" shirts, one of our more popular T-shirt designs from our previous foray into apparel five or six years ago. Hopefully this will keep you feeling the love after you've already fulfilled your donation incentive! Because we DO love you - as do the thousands and thousands of visitors we get each week for our free public service. You can check out how you can help keep HistoricDetroit.org running by going to www.patreon.com/historicdetroit. Thanks, as always, for helping us continue to tell stories of Detroit's historic places and people!

Meet Detroit's "Swaying Splinter"

Aug. 3, 2020

We've added half a dozen new buildings to the site, including the Citizens Building, an architectural curiosity that was only 20 feet wide but 150 feet tall. This caused it to sway in high winds! Our page on the building includes previously unpublished photos you won't find anywhere else!