The Buhl brothers, Frederick and Christian, came to Detroit early in the Nineteenth Century. They made their money in the fur trade and then in the hat business. As Detroit became a leading industrial metropolis, they turned to manufacturing as well as retailing and property development. They founded the Detroit Locomotive Works and then the Buhl Iron Works that later became the Detroit Copper and Brass firm. They added to their wealth by entering the hardware business and then erected an office building at the corner of Griswold and Congress that became an attractive location for prosperous law firms. Frederick Buhl served as mayor of Detroit in 1848, while his brother, Christian, served as mayor twelve years later after holding a variety of other political offices.
The skyscraper building boom in Detroit reached its zenith in the late 1920s, reflecting the demand for office space generated by the vehicle industry. A third generation of Buhls decided to make more profitable use of their prime downtown land by replacing their small office building at Griswold and West Congress with the 26 story building that you see. They selected the Smith, Hinchman and Grylls firm and, fortunately for them, the skilled and imaginative Wirt Rowland was selected as the architect. His most magnificent accomplishment is the nearby Guardian Building but he created a beautiful structure in the Buhl Building, one that has great appeal some eight decades after he first sketched it.
Read on for more and also check out Historic Detroit for more about the Buhl & architect Wirt C. Rowland, avid modernist, supporter of the Arts and Crafts movement, and key contributor to the Art Deco-style skyscrapers along Detroit’s skyline.