The Bedell Building and the Heyn's Department Store Building, both ten stories in height, are the tallest structures on this block of Woodward. It replaced the Empire Theater on its site in 1923. The Bedell Company was a national chain that exclusively sold women's high-end fashions, headquartered in New York City. Opening day press coverage noted that Detroit's new Bedell Building was one of the Bedell City of seventeen Bedell Shops across the nation.
The Bedell Building was designed with three bays of windows grouped into sets of three. Floors three through seven have spandrels containing incised blocks centered above each window. The eighth floor's spandrels have incised fans above each window, and the ninth repeats the block pattern that was used on the other floors. Its classically detailed cornice is intact, although the lettering for Bedell's was removed from the plaque at the top.
The entablature just above the tenth floor windows has a swag relief carved above the center window in each bay. This building underwent a major two-story facade renovation in 1940, when multi-layered terra cotta in earth-toned tawny colors was applied, resulting in an art deco pattern of plaques of frozen waves alternating with three bars of color in between the windows. The new facade=s emphasis was the large signage for the F. W. Woolworth Co. This layer of history still exists today, although the lettering for Woolworth's is removed.
In 1940, the F. W. Woolworth Co., also based in New York, leased the building from local owners. In 1941, Woolworth's doubled its floor space by constructing a new structure to the north (1261 Woodward), and joining it with the Bedell Building. When the combined store opened, it had four entrances on Woodward, three sales floors, and an escalator connecting them. The ten stories of the Bedell Building contained offices, kitchens and stock rooms. There were three restaurants and a "stand-up bar"; practically all the foods were prepared in the store's own kitchen and bakery. In 1941 Woolworth's was staffed by 500 employees.
A renovation in 1960, added plate-glass picture windows, a lighted sign, and all-new interior fixtures. The eighth and ninth floors were turned into sales areas for rugs, furniture, and household appliances. The building has been vacant since Woolworth's left downtown for good in 1984. In July, 1997 the Woolworth Corporation closed all of its remaining stores nationwide.
Located in the former Woolworth retail space in the Bedell Building today, the 3,500 sq. ft. Downtown Welcome Center is part of the Lofts of Merchants Row development that has brought the Lower Woodward Historic District back to life.
The Bedell Building is a contributing building in the Lower Woodward Historic District, which also includes the Kresge Building, the Traver Building, the Fowler Building, the Heyn's Department Store Building, the Elliot Building, the Valpey Building, the Frank & Seder Building, the Frank & Seder Co. Building (Albert's), the Woodward Building, the Richman Brothers Co. Store Building, the Grinnell Brothers Music House, the Fisher Arcade, the Himelhoch's Building, the David Whitney Building, the Broderick Tower, the Telenews Theater, the United Foundation Building, the Lane Bryant Building, the A&M Coney Island Building, the Wright-Kay Building, the Kaiser-Blair Building, the Ferguson Building, the D.J. Healy Co. Building, the Beck Building, the Singer Building and the Rayl Building.