Historic Detroit

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

Welcome to Historic Detroit

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.

August 2022 site update

Aug. 8, 2022

July 2022 site update recap:

Last month, saw three new buildings added to our website’s ever-growing list of offerings. First up, Andy Brogowicz and I added the old Academy of the Sacred Heart, a site that went from offering up prayers to offering up Packards. Next, I added the stunning Van Dyke Manor apartments in West Village. Finally, many folks don’t know that La Choy foods began in Detroit. When I learned that its old HQ and factory is slated for demolition, Amy Elliott Bragg of The Night Train: Detroit and I teamed-up tell its fascinating story.

But wait, there’s more. We have added photos not only of our new site additions, but dozens of others, too. In fact, there are too many locations to list here.

Thank you to our Patreon supporters for continuing to help shoulder the financial burden of making HistoricDetroit.org a free resource that is available to everyone.

July 2022 site update

Jul. 13, 2022

Last month, we added yet another building for which no history existed online or in any publication I’m aware of. The first Norton Hotel was the start of the hotel legacy of Charles W. Norton. We laid out the story of the man and the hotel, including the fact that it was built on top of graves from the original Ste. Anne’s cemetery. We’ve also set out to update a number of buildings’ pages to reflect the last few years of activity, including big ones, such as the Book-Cadillac and Eddystone hotels.

Last month also saw a brief break from adding postcards to focus on photo galleries. They include about 50 photos, both historical and contemporary shots.

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 2022 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 2022 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 2022 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.