Historic Detroit

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

Cadillac Hotel

In its time, the Cadillac Hotel was one of Detroit's finest hotels and stood on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Michigan Avenue from 1888 until 1923. Presidents Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft all stayed there.

The corner has been home to a hotel since the completion of Blindbury's Hotel in 1852, which later became the Antisdel House. The Cadillac Hotel's origins date back to 1885, when Daniel Scotten bought the east half of the block on the north side of Michigan between Washington and Shelby. On that site he built a four-story business block between Washington and Shelby that was rented to a grocery company that soon failed. It was then that he built the Cadillac Hotel, designed by the firm John Scott & Co. in 1888. The structure, with its Italianate and Romanesque style, proved successful, so he bought and razed the Antisdel next door and built an addition to his hotel on top of it.

Scotten was born on Dec. 11, 1819, in Norfolk, England, and migrated from New York in 1836, before relocating to Detroit in 1853. He would go on to become one of Detroit's most respected millionaires of the late 19th century, however, it wasn't the hotel business that made him rich. He was one of Detroit’s most successful cigar manufacturers, establishing the Hiawatha Tobacco Factory three years after arriving in the city. Scotten bought out his partners in 1882, and renamed the firm the Daniel Scotten Co. That same year, his business manufactured 2 million pounds of tobacco. Scotten Street in Southwest Detroit is named after him, as his tobacco factory was located on West Fort and what was originally Campau Street (now Scotten).

Before it rolled out cars, Detroit rolled out cigars and cigarettes, as tobacco manufacturing was one of the city’s most industrious industries. By 1890, there were more than 300 tobacco companies in Detroit, employing 2,400 people and shipping around the world millions of pounds of cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco and good old-fashioned cancer sticks. Among the brands were Mayflower, White Elephant, Yankee Girl, American Eagle and Fast Mail.

By 1891, the Cadillac Hotel covered the entire block fronting on Michigan between Washington and Shelby.

Scotten died at age 79 on March 3, 1899. The millionaire is buried in Woodmere Cemetery with only a modest grave marker.

On June 30, 1903, the Detroit Board of Commerce was formally organized and incorporated under state law inside the Cadillac Hotel's Turkish Room. It had 253 charter members, including J.L. Hudson, who paid $100 each to join.

As Detroit entered the 20th century, Washington Boulevard was still mostly residential, but times were changing. The Book brothers -- real estate moguls Herbert, Frank and James Burgess Book Jr. -- were looking to turn the thoroughfare into the exclusive, fashionable shopping district of Detroit and started snatching up property along it. Meanwhile, the Cadillac had become outdated and was struggling to compete with the larger and newer Statler and Pontchartrain hotels.

Looking to capitalize on the hotel business that was booming thanks to their investments in the boulevard, the Book brothers bought the Cadillac and took it over May 1, 1918. Historian William Hawkins Ferry wrote that the Book brothers were born inside the hotel and played along the landscaped mall outside it. Though it seems unusual that all three would be born in a hotel, especially considering how their father was a notable doctor in Detroit at the time, it is certainly possible he delivered them at home.

The Book brothers ran the hotel until plans were finalized for something bigger and more grand. The Cadillac Hotel closed its doors for good on June 26, 1923, and was razed later that year to make way for one of Detroit's most beloved and opulent landmarks, the Book-Cadillac Hotel.