This hotel may not be the oldest in Detroit, but its name is as old as the city itself.
The Pontchartrain is a 367-room, 25-story hotel that opened its doors in 1965. Located at Washington Boulevard and West Jefferson Avenue, the high-rise was built on the site of Detroit’s first European settlement, Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, which was established July 24, 1701, by French explorer Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac. Fort Pontchartrain was a military outpost that served as the first European settlement in what is now Detroit.
The hotel's name also pays tribute to another prominent Detroit hotel that honored that history, the Pontchartrain Hotel, which stood on Campus Martius from 1907 to 1920 and helped give birth to the automotive industry.
This second Pontchartrain was dedicated on the 264th anniversary of the city's founding, July 24, 1965. The building was designed by King & Lewis and is known for the angular bay windows that provide every guest with beautiful views of Detroit and Canada. It followed in the brick-and-mortar footsteps of Cobo Hall, the city's convention center that opened in 1960 and is right outside the hotel's doors. The hotel sought to capitalize on convention traffic. Cobo is today known as Huntington Place.
It is worth noting that the once-beloved Pontchartrain Wine Cellars, a restaurant serving fine French cuisine and fine wine and the birthplace of the popular Cold Duck beverage, was not located in the Pontchartrain Hotel but across from it, at 234 W. Larned St., between Shelby Street and Washington Boulevard. The restaurant closed in 1991, though the building still stands today. (The restaurant's first location when it opened in 1935 was at 618 Wayne St., today a street known as Washington Boulevard.)
The hotel changed hands a number of times over the years, but as Detroit spiraled toward its 2015 bankruptcy filing, the hotel struggled, finally closing and going into foreclosure in 2009.
A group owned by a Mexican and European investor group, Operadora de Servicio Para Hoteles de Lujo, bought the hotel out of bankruptcy for $8.5 million three years later, in 2012. The hotel reopened July 17, 2013, following a $5 million renovation to its rooms, restaurant and lobby with a new name, the Crowne Plaza Downtown Detroit Riverfront. But most Detroiters still called it "the Pontch."
Michael O'Callaghan of the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau told WDIV-TV at the time that he was elated by the news of the planned reopening.
"When people are staying over for conventions at Cobo Center and they look across at the hotel immediately across from the convention center and see it is closed, it really does make a statement about the whole city," O'Callaghan told the TV station.
In June 2015, plans surfaced that called for building a 28-story second tower for the hotel. Those talks were revived in 2018 as a 28-story, $164 million expansion with 498 rooms, but quickly fizzled that fall, when the Detroit City Council called for a neutrality agreement for a labor union to represent hotel workers.
On July 23, 2021 - a day before the city's 320th birthday, it was announced that the Crowne Plaza Detroit would be return to its namesake roots, and was rebranded the Fort Pontchartrain a Wyndham Hotel.
In November 2022, the ownership group yet again revived the expansion proposal, this time exploring a 390-room addition that would include 40 for-sale condos.
More on this building coming soon.