The Hotel Normandie was a member of Detroit’s old guard of hotels, standing on Congress Street between Woodward Avenue and Bates Street.
The site had been the site of a hotel since 1825, when Joseph Campau hung his shingle. Campau was the largest landowner in the state and was known by Native Americans as “Chemokamun” — Big Shot. The old hotel was replaced in the 1870s by a pair of them: The Rice Temperance Hotel stood on the west half, and the Atlanta House was on the east. These two were combined, remodeled and transformed into the six-story Normandie, which opened April 22, 1890. It was run by Frank H. Carr and Edgar F. Reeve, well-known proprietors in town.
"Everything is new and of the latest design," the Detroit Free Press wrote at the time. "There is little doubt that it will score a pronounced and enviable success, right from the start."
It wasn’t the city’s biggest hotel, but it had a loyal following. It was said that those who stayed at the Normandie always made sure to check back in on their next visit to the Motor City.
But, as the Detroit News wrote in 1927, “There is nothing more ruthless than the march of Progress. … Whatever is in the way of juggernaut, so to say, is razed, crushed and obliterated.”
That juggernaut was a 25-story addition and 800-space parking garage for the First National Building. The Normandie closed June 11, 1927, and started coming down about two weeks later.
More on this forgotten building of Detroit coming soon.