Art Deco in Detroit

Jonathan Witmer shares his “Pure Michigan Moment,” a business trip in Detroit that ended with a one-on-one tour of downtown architecture, an experience he’ll never forget.

Flickr photo credit: _hollycatherine

Campus Martius Park

While I was in Detroit for business last summer, I found the group Preservation Wayne, which gives After Work Tours every Tuesday. I met the guides in Campus Martius Park for the scheduled “People Mover Tour.” I was the only person, so the guides asked if I had a different tour in mind.

I really like the Art Deco style of the 1920s and ’30s, so off we went to the Guardian and Penobscot buildings. The elevator doors are the epitome of Art Deco design. It may not sound very exciting, but it was cool to an Art Deco geek like myself.

Flickr photo credit: _hollycatherine

View from the McNamara Building

Our tour lasted about an hour, and at the end, the guides showed me one more historical gem: the Grand Trunk Pub. The pub’s atmosphere was amazing, and they had great Michigan beers on tap. Not only did I get a personalized, in-depth tour of Detroit’s Art Deco skyscrapers, but they bought me a beer, too! It was an experience I will never forget.

Since his trip, Jonathan is always looking for opportunities to go back to Detroit. In early December, he and his wife celebrated their anniversary with a weekend in the city, which included a visit to the Grand Trunk Pub.


Jonathan Witmer submitted this blog as part of Michigan Travel Ideas “Pure Michigan Moment” blog contest which they ran last year.

5 thoughts on “Art Deco in Detroit

  1. Many people don’t realize that Detroit has the largest abundance of art-deco style buildings from the pre WWII era, a style and detailed workmanship that has been disappearing in recent years in most American cities. The Fisher Building is an Art Deco masterpiece with a 28-story marble and granite tower and two 11-story wings and is among my favorites. The Maccabees Building is a fourteen story tower that is another must see when visiting the area. The Detroit Naval Armory is one building that is often overlooked but truly is a masterpiece in it’s own right.

  2. A lot of people are unaware that we have a lot of examples of great architecture here in Detroit, including some H.H. Richardson, Albert Khan, and more. I recall taking an architecture class and doing a walking tour and it was like the whole world opened up new! It is unfortunate that many gems like some of the old theaters and the Train Station are gone or all but gone, but there are still many fine examples left.

  3. I am former Michiganian. Born and raised in St. Clair Shores. I left Michigan in 1990 to move to Arizona.
    But I have fond memories of Mich. Going to the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, working in Downtown Detroit, the Ren.Cen., Going to Port Huron and numerous vacations to Traverse City in the 50′s to Alpena, to Macinac Island,
    and other various ventures in the state.
    I was very disheartened when I heard how much the State of Michigan had been
    hit by the Economic Slump in the 90′s. I was back in 2010. for a Grade School
    Reunion. I got a taste of how the State is trying to get back on it’s feet. I still
    have Relitives back there. I will always call Michigan my home.

    Al O’Brien

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