Temple Beth El by architect Minoru Yamasaki

Temple Beth El, Study #01, photo by Brian Day

Temple Beth El was established in 1850 as the first Jewish congregation in the state of Michigan. Their history page notes that there were just 60 Jews out of a population of 21,000 at that time.

The Michigan Notable Book Michigan Modern’s page on Temple Beth El says in part:

Temple Beth El is located in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, on a low rise adjacent to Telegraph Road, a wide and heavily traveled thoroughfare. Mature spruce and pine trees are present around the base of the structure to shield the worshippers from outside distractions. The unmistakable design of the sanctuary incorporates a tent-like form to recall the “Tent of Meeting” referenced in the Bible and the earliest places of worship used by the Jewish people. The cast-in-place concrete structure consists of two pairs of closely placed sloped columns, or tent poles, supporting curved ridge beams at the top of the structure and tied together by elliptical ring beams at the structure’s base. Below the ring beam is a transparent curtain wall of clear glazing that gives the illusion, from the exterior and interior that the tent-form roof is hovering above the open sanctuary space. Between the ridge beams is a transparent skylight that provides natural light into the sanctuary and further emphasizes the “lightness” of the structure. Catenary steel cables suspended between the ridge and ring beams support the gentle curve of the lead-coated copper roof which soars some seventy feet above grade.

The administrative offices, social halls and religious school are located in a one-story wing that extends north from the main entrance to the sanctuary on the building’s west elevation. The Temple Beth El comprises approximately 112,500 square feet, and can accommodate up to eighteen hundred worshippers.

Read on for more!

View the photo bigger on Facebook where there are other photos in his Metro Detroit Modern Architecture Study and see more of Brian’s photography at brianday.org.

Flyby of Detroit’s Book Tower

flyby-of-the-book-tower-in-detroit

Fly By, photo by Tom Hughes

Historic Detroit is definitely one of the best websites if you want to dig deeper into the history of Michigan’s largest city. Dan Austin’s entry on the Book Tower & Book Building has current and historical photo galleries of both buildings, map and an extensive account about the history of the structure. It says in part:

She’s one of a kind. Some might even say beautiful in its ugliness.

No skyscraper in Detroit, let alone the Midwest, looks quite like the Book Tower on Washington Boulevard. It’s a rather awkward-looking building, whether you look at its unusual maze of an external fire escape or the intricate, over-the-top details on its crown that are tough to appreciate without a pair of binoculars. It’s an undeniably unique piece of the city’s skyline and a rare breed of classical Renaissance-style architecture and skyscraper. As an added bonus, joined at its hip is one of the city’s oldest surviving office buildings.

The 36-story Book Tower opened in 1926 on the southwest corner of Grand River Avenue and Washington, coincidentally, the original lot that the Books’ grandfather had bought on the boulevard. Its first tenant was Detroit Bond & Mortgage. At 475 feet tall, the Book Tower would lay claim to the title of tallest building in town. Though it would hold the honor only briefly: The 47-story Penobscot Building would overtake it two years later. Today, the Book Tower is good for only the seventh-tallest landmark in town.

 

…Intricately carved Corinthian columns, florets, scrolls and crests are all over the place. Horizontal bands of Italian Renaissance ornamentation break up the towering skyscraper with nude female figures gracing its midsection like a belt. Nearly from ground to the top of the 36th floor, the building is covered in detail. Ferry quotes Kamper as saying, with a trace of a Bavarian accent, “I like it varm.” “Varm” or not, Kamper’s strategy on the Book tower didn’t work. His decision has been ridiculed and criticized by critics almost from the onset for not realizing the limitations on designing a structure so tall. He didn’t take a fire evacuation route into consideration when designing it, necessitating the addition of the unusual fire escape all the way down the tower. Kamper had the building faced in a porous limestone that sucked up pollutants in the air, making it almost impossible to keep clean.

Read on for lots more and follow HistoricDetroit.org on Facebook – good stuff!

View Tom’s photo bigger, see more in his Detroit slideshow, and view and purchase work from his website.

More buildings & architecture on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT: Detroit’s Masonic Temple

masonic temple auditorium detroit

masonic temple, photo by ryan southen

On April 27, 1764, a charter for the “Zion Lodge of Masons, No. 1” – the first Masonic Lodge west of the Alleghenies – was granted to Masons in Detroit. Since I’m going to see Portugal the Man/Cage the Elephant there next weekend, that’s close enough for me to learn a little bit more…

Detroit’s Masonic Temple (aka The Masonic) is the largest building of its kind in the world. Construction began in 1920 and was completed in 1926. They explain:

By 1908, interest and membership in Masonic fraternities had grown to such an extent that the Masonic Temple Association of Detroit began to consider either enlarging the existing Masonic Temple on Lafayette Boulevard or building a new, larger facility.

Land on Bagg Street (now Temple Avenue) was acquired and by 1920, the architectural firm George Mason and Company had completed an integrated design of a multi-function complex. Ground was broken on Thanksgiving Day, 1920. The cornerstone was laid on September 18, 1922, during a ceremony attended by thousands of Detroiters, using a trowel previously used by George Washington during the construction of the U.S. Capitol.

Significantly, the opening of the theater was celebrated during a concert by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ossip Gabrilowitsch, on February 22, 1926–George Washington’s birthday. The formal dedication of the building took place on Thanksgiving Day, 1926. Once again, thousands of Detroiters were present for the ceremony.

George Mason’s unique design included three theaters (one was never completed, but is sometimes used by movie-production crews), a Shrine building, the Chapel, eight lodge rooms, a 17,500 square foot drill hall, two ballrooms, office space, a cafeteria, dining rooms, a barber shop, 16 bowling lanes–1037 rooms in total–in addition to a powerhouse that generated all electricity for the complex.

Mason also incorporated the artistic conceptions of the sculptor, Corrado Parducci, in the building’s magnificent lobby, which was an adaptation of the interior of a castle he had visited in Palermo, Sicily. Parducci also designed light fixtures and chandeliers, decorative arches, medallions, plaster decorations, and a myriad of other artistic details that are unique to the many varied spaces in the building.

Head over to The Masonic for lots of panoramic tours and also a panoramic view of the Corner Stone Laying. Also, if the name George Mason rings a bell, click that link to learn about this prolific architect whose works include Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel!

View Ryan’s photo bigger, see more in his HDR slideshow, and follow him on Facebook at Ryan Southen Photography.

PS: Lots more Michigan architecture on Michigan in Pictures.

PPS: It’s also supposedly very haunted!

Charles Stewart Mott and the Mott Foundation Building

Mott Foundation Building in Flint

The Mott Foundation Building in Flint, photo by Steve Brown

My post on Tuesday generated a little controversy because I stated who I was supporting in Michigan’s primary and also that I’d continue to share my personal opinions here on Michigan in Pictures. Most readers who commented agreed, including Jim Schaefer who shared the most powerful comment I’ve ever read on my work:

Dear Farlane…I’m so glad you posted item #4 today along with the great photo. I had to move to Sheboygan, WI in 2014 for health reasons, leaving behind 45-yrs of life in Flint, MI. I’ve been saving your photos and their accompanying stories on a daily basis for several years now in their own special folder on my laptop. They are my daily reminder about all of the good things about Michigan that some Michigan residents seem to take for granted.

Unfortunately, some of these same people have conveniently forgotten about your 1st Amendment rights to editorialize on your own website. Shame on them! I am also a 72-yr old Army veteran who served a 13-month tour in a combat zone in Korea in 1966. That’s why I’m so glad that you reminded people to vote today. I was drafted against my will back in 1966 but I served my country and did my job over there and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone take away my right to vote. So you keep right on posting all of those great photos along with the Michigan history behind them.

May God bless you always…Jim Schaefer

God bless you too Jim, and here’s something for your desktop folder from Flint! The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation shares this about their founder:

Charles Stewart Mott
Charles Stewart Mott

Charles Stewart Mott established the C.S. Mott Foundation in 1926, in response to his deep concern about the welfare of Flint, Mich., as well as his abiding affection for his adopted community.

An automotive pioneer, Mr. Mott was an original partner in the creation of the General Motors Corporation, founded in Flint in 1908. As one of the city’s leading industrialists, Mr. Mott was elected mayor, serving three terms (1912–13, 1918) during periods of overwhelming and turbulent growth in the city. As mayor he was responsible for instituting fair property assessments, orderly accounting audits, health and safety ordinances, building codes and a house numbering system.

Read more about Mott in Autos not Apples. Here’s a few facts about the 16-story Art Deco building that bears his name and houses the Mott Foundation:

  • Flint’s first skyscraper with a total height of 226 feet to the top of the passenger elevator penthouse.
  • Designed by Smith, Hunchman & Grylls (SmithGroup) the oldest practicing architectural firm in the US.
  • Construction took one year to complete at a cost of approximately $2,000,000.
  • Original design included seven retail stores on the first floor. There were also originally men’s rooms on every floor, but women’s restrooms only on every other floor.
  • The Freight elevator is still operated with the vintage 1930 controls.
  • Building name was changed to the Mott Foundation Building on January 1, 1945.

View Steve’s photo big as a building and see more in his Flint, Michigan slideshow.

More Flint and more architecture on Michigan in Pictures. Also check out this guide to the architecture of Flint for more of the city’s architectural heritage.

Detroit’s Buhl Building

Buhl Building Detroit Michigan

buhl building | detroit, michigan, photo by Ryan Southen

Detroit1701.org is an excellent resource for the history of Detroit. Their page on the Buhl Building says (in part):

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.

View Ryan’s photo bigger, see more in his Detroit slideshow, and be sure to follow him on Instagram. If you’re interested in a great wedding photographer, head over to his photography website!

More architecture and lots more Detroit on Michigan in Pictures!

Hundred Mile High City: Detroit’s Penobscot Building

Hundred Mile High City by Detroit Derek

 

Hundred Mile High City, photo by Derek Farr

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.

The Wikipedia entry on the Penobscot Building says:

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.

View Derek’s photo bigger and see more in his massive Detroit slideshow. He says the title of his photo came from the Ocean Colour Scene song, Hundred Mile High City.

More architecture on Michigan in Pictures.

Detroit Water Board Building

Water Board Building Upper Floors--Detroit MI

Water Board Building Upper Floors–Detroit MI, photo by pinehurst19475

historicdetroit.org’s page on the Water Board Building explains:

The Art Moderne-styled Water Board Building has been a familiar part of Detroit’s skyline since October 1928. The Common council provided $1 million in the 1927-28 city budget for a triangular-shaped building on a site bounded by Randolph, Farmer, and Bates Streets. Louis Kamper – a Detroit-based architect known for his work on the houses of prominent Detroiters, as well as Detroit landmarks like the Book Building (1917), the Washington Boulevard Building (1923), and the Book-Cadillac Hotel (1924) – originally planned for a 14-story building. But, “because of the high value of the site, the Board decided that … it would build a twenty story building.”

The completed building reflects the trend toward simplification of forms typical of the Jazz Age. Standing 23 stories, it is comprised of a five-story base, a 15-story shaft, and a three-story penthouse. The total cost – including the $250,000 paid for the site, and the architect’s five-percent commission – was $1,768,760.20. It was one of the last buildings designed by Kamper, who was in his late sixties during its design and construction.

…The BOWC’s new building was constructed in a record-breaking seven months. It was considered state-of-the-art and fireproof by 1928 standards.

Click over to Historic Detroit to read a whole lot more and see a couple of old photos. Also check out the Water Board Building at Detroit 1701 where I found a link to this 300 year history of the Detroit Water Board.

View the photo big as the building and see more in pinehurst19475’s water board building slideshow.

More architecture on Michigan in Pictures.