Historic Detroit

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

Capitol Park Building

This building was built in 1912-13 for the Peter Smith & Sons Co., a prominent Detroit grocer. Originally named the J. Henry Smith Building, this skyscraper was designed by Leonard B. Willeke of Cincinnati-based Allyn Engineering Co.

The building was Willeke's first project in Detroit. He moved to the city a few years later.

When it opened on March 17, 1913, the 10-story building was home to the largest grocery store in Michigan. Smith & Sons occupied the lower five floors of the building, with other merchants and office tenants on the rest.

Peter Smith founded the grocer with a store at Gratiot Avenue and Farmer Street. Ads claimed that the store carried "the largest and most complete line of everything to eat, west of New York."

Perhaps because of the construction of the Smith Building, however, the company went out of business around 1924.

After that, the building became the headquarters of the American State Bank, however, the company folded in the Depression. It then was turned into T.B. Rayl's Hardware & Sporting Goods. Rayl went out of business in the 1950s, and the skyscraper became home of dentists, finance agencies and others.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the building was used as lofts on the upper floors. But it also was home to White Room Studio, which recorded a number of Detroit artists, including Kid Rock, the Electric Six and The Detroit Cobras.

But, other than a party store on the ground floor, the building closed.

State development officials approved in February 2015 a $1-million grant to help a trio of developers transform the building into 63 apartments and nearly 15,000 square feet of commercial space. All in, the renovation represented a $22.7-million investment, including a $6-million state bridge loan and $3.1 million in federal historic tax credits. The project was performed by Lansing-based developer Richard Karp and developers Kevin Prater and Richard Hosey III of Detroit.

Today, that former party store is the location of the popular steakhouse Prime & Proper. The rest of the building is again home to lofts, following a renovation in 2018.

The name "Peter Smith & Sons Co." is set into the brick and spelled out in tile. This sign was painted over with "T.B. Rayl's Hardware," but that paint has flaked off, returning the old grocer's name to the city skyline for the first time in almost a century.