Historic Detroit

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

Washington Arcade Building

The Washington Arcade Building is an elegant, seven-story Beaux-Arts commercial office building. Designed by accomplished Detroit architects Donaldson & Meier in 1901. (Permit was issued on June 7, 1901) The structure has two facades, one on Washington Boulevard, and the other on Woodward Avenue. They are not identical facades, although each is Beaux-Arts in design. A ground-floor shopping arcade runs from Washington Boulevard to Woodward Avenue.

The first floor arcade entrance is entirely intact and as elaborate as it was the day it opened in 1902. At some point, the first two stories of the Woodward facade of the building were painted black, and then later painted a putty color over the original limestone. The five floors above remain sheathed in the original limestone. Five bays of windows puncture the wall, double sets of double hung windows in each. The building's horizontality is emphasized by a string course above the second and third floors, and a denticulated string course at the sixth floor.

The string course above the third floor is embellished with six scrolled brackets. The mullions between the fourth, fifth and sixth floor center window sets are formed into pilasters with Corinthian capitals. There is an elaborate crest over each of the five window bays at the sixth floor, just under the string course. At the seventh story, there are four decorative lion's heads on the four widest piers. The frieze contains three inset oculus windows. The entire entablature is intact and the denticulated cornice retains the original copper cresting above it.

At about 1946, the architectural firm of Victor Gruen redesigned the first and second stories of the Washington Blvd. façade. Streamlined limestone facing still retains the art deco stainless lettering for Himelhoch's. The distinguished architectural firm of Field, Hinchman & Smith (later Smith, Hinchman & Grylls) moved its office to the top floor of this seven-story building in 1903 to take advantage of the overhead light provided by the skylights.

The Washington Arcade Building was considered the outer fringe of downtown at that time. SH&G had its office located in this building for twenty years B containing a reception room, general office, private offices, draughting room, laboratory, blue printing house, and fireproof vault.

Since 1923 the building has been known to Detroiters as Himelhoch's (funny German name). Himelhoch's was a locally owned and rather exclusive women's department store. The store's high-volume business entered from the Woodward Avenue entrance, while the upscale Acarriage trade entered from the Washington Blvd. side. Himelhoch's began in 1900 in a storefront on the site occupied later occupied by the Hudson=s Building.

Himelhoch's initially occupied only the first three floors of the Washington Arcade Building, while the upper floors were leased office space. As Himelhoch=s grew, it gradually took over space until finally occupying all seven floors of the building. Albert Kahn's firm remodeled the building=s interior for Himelhoch's. Himelhoch's Brothers and Company operated in the building from 1923 until 1978. The department store opened branches in Northland Mall, Dearborn, Westland Mall, Ann Arbor, Fairlane Mall, Toledo, Birmingham and Grosse Pointe. The Irving Shop, the top courtier in Metropolitan Detroit, was located on the Washington Blvd. side of the building until just after World War II when it moved to the Women=s Exchange Building on East Adams.

The Washington Arcade Building was converted into 72 senior citizen housing units in 1982 at a cost of $2,700,000. The senior apartments are fully occupied today, and there are various shops in the arcade.

Last updated 17/03/2023