When I saw Derek’s photo, I remembered that I had posted a photo of the Penobscot several years ago. I found that photo has been deleted from Flickr and therefor from Michigan in Pictures as well. So here then is the definitive Penobscot post.
Upon its completion, it was the eighth tallest building in the world and the tallest outside New York City and Chicago. Like many of the city’s other Roaring Twenties buildings, it displays Art Deco influences, including its “H” shape (designed to allow maximum sunlight into the building) and the sculptural setbacks that cause the upper floors to progressively “erode”. The building’s architect, Wirt C. Rowland, also designed such memorable Detroit skyscrapers as the Guardian Building in the same decade. At night, the building’s upper floors are dramatically lit in floodlight fashion, topped with a red sphere.
Although the Penobscot Building has more floors than Comerica Tower at Detroit Center (45 above-ground floors compared to Comerica Tower’s 43), Comerica’s floors and spires are taller, with its roof sitting roughly 60 feet taller than Penobscot’s (566′). The opulent Penobscot is one of many buildings in Detroit that features architectural sculpture by Corrado Parducci.
The Penobscot Building served as a “compass” for pilots in airplanes during its early years, due to its position of facing due north. The building also served as an inspiration of sorts for the Empire State Building in New York City, and many individuals worked on the construction of both towers.
The Penobscot Building web site says that the building serves as the fiber-optic hub for the entire Detroit area and touts it as the place for office space. You might also enjoy Historic Detroit’s page on the Penobscot Building, the Emporis page on the Penobscot and this 3D model of the Penobscot Building for Google Sketchup.
More architecture on Michigan in Pictures.