Former City Hall and the Wayne County Building, Detroit

Siegel, Arthur S, photographer. Detroit, Michigan. Top of Detroit’s city hall dwarfed by the modern Penobscot Building in the background. Wayne County United States Michigan Detroit, 1942. July. Photograph. Library of Congress.

Keen observers might have wondered what that Second Empire building in the foreground of that historic photo of the Penobscot Building was. That tower and Mansard roof belonged to the former city hall of Detroit, ignominiously demolished against the wishes of a majority of citizens in 1961. Designed by James Anderson, it opened in 1871. It was replaced by the totally forgettable pile we looked at before.

City Hall, Detroit, Michigan. [No Date Recorded on Shelf List Card] Photograph. Library of Congress.

Facing off down the street is the Wayne County building, inspired by the Colossal Order combined with an attic story of Michelangelo and originally employed in the exterior of St. Peter’s Basilica.

It is quite the building, with two monumental bronze sculpture groups flanking the pediment on the roof.

The tower is perhaps a little bit of a confused mess compositionally, but I still like it overall.

Designed by John Scott and opened in 1902, it was built to obviously mirror the composition of the old city hall down the street.

This ends our visit to Detroit. Like I said before, it’s an amazingly fascinating city, one that is dramatically misunderstood by those who have never visited, and maybe more so by those have visited with their preconceptions hardened.

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