Former General Motors Headquarters and the Fisher Building, Detroit

While still only arrived in Detroit for a few hours and driving up Woodward Avenue, I spotted this gigantic massing of buildings off in the distance where the grand thoroughfare begins to rise up into the highlands. Basically, with the exception of the parking garage, the entire ensemble is the work of Albert Kahn. I didn’t get any good pictures of it, really, but that brown building in front is the 1928 Argonaut Building, formerly General Motors’ design department.

That leviathan of a building, with eight projecting wings sitting on a pedestal, is the former headquarters of the General Motors Corporation, also designed by Kahn, further showing his versatility as an architect.

General Motors Building Detroit, Michigan, 1921. May 4. Photograph.

Completed in 1922, I can’t help but notice a similarity in the elevation of the wings to our own Union Trust Building here in St. Louis by Adler and Sullivan.

Around on the south side is the General Motors Laboratories building.

North of the GM Building, which no longer has any employees from that automobile corporation, is the Fisher Building, built by the company that was a part of General Motors constellation of related concerns.

You can read more about the history of the Fisher Building here. It is an Art-Deco masterpiece, completed in 1928, and originally possessed gold-plated roof tiles instead of the green ones today.

I love the photograph below, capturing sort of Film Noir feeling of the lobby.

Siegel, Arthur S, photographer. Untitled photo, possibly related to: Detroit Michigan. Lobby of the Fisher Building. Wayne County United States Michigan Detroit, 1942. July. Photograph. Library of Congress.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sean B. says:

    Yep, Detroit was Cleveland, Ohio’s figurative younger cousin when it’s interwar period, multi storied office building boom. As for the William C. Durant, “old” General Motors headquarters property having exterior similarities with Saint Louis’s Union Trust building. It’s due to the fact that Albert Kahn found some fancy in William Le Baron Jenney and Louis Sullivan’s design principals for less unnecessary building ornamentation when planning some multi story skyscrapers beyond some River Rouge complex factory buildings

    1. cnaffziger says:

      I’ve even read commentary stating Detroit was a “second tier” city until the arrival of the auto industry. I think that’s a bit harsh, but the influence of the Big Three on the city’s economic boom in the early Twentieth Century cannot be overstated.

  2. Sean B. says:

    I agree about the second tier city label being harsh. Along with oversimplified. Heck, Cleveland, Ohio never exceeded a pre 1960s Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland by the calendar years 1930 and 1931
    More than one, “politically incorrect,” pink fleshed city founders, English tongued judicial courts speaking, urban jurisdiction

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