Historic preservation…. redesigning Detroit, without removing its beautiful architecture.
The conversion of the Detroit fire department headquarters to this magnificent hotel shows that history can be preserved and that repurposing can be extended much further into decor, in a way that acts as a time capsule of treasured history.
Originally built in 1929, the 62,910 sq. ft. firehouse is a “steel-frame, fire-story Neoclassical building” built by architect, Hans Gehrke that was continuously occupied until 2013. The City of Detroit’s Historic Designation Advisory Board describes the architecture as follows:
The four fire engine doors are outlined by terra-cotta-trimmed arches displaying rope moldings, dentiled lintels, and keystones. A rosette in a circle decorates each spandrel. The first level is a story and-a-half tall to accommodate the fire trucks. A terra-cotta beltcourse separates the first level from the second story above. The banks of windows above are set in closely spaced pairs above the engine bays and singly at the ends. The original wooden double-hung windows are still in place, many containing air conditioning units. Between the second and third stories appears another broad terracotta band containing a dentiled cornice. The walls above are demarcated into bays by broad and shallow piers that support a tall terra-cotta entablature with dentiled cornice topped by anthemion cresting. Metal spandrel panels separate the third and fourth-story and fourth and fifth-story windows in the center four bays. The Washington Boulevard façade has much of the same detailing, but there are some differences. There are three engine bays in the center with a large window at either end in the street level of the projecting center section of the façade and an entrance –pedestrian at the right and rolldown vehicular at the left – at either slightly recessed end of the façade. Above the north and south doors are cartouches containing firefighter horns and hats (For more information about the building’s history, Click Here).
When the property went up on the market, area locals were concerned that the building
would be bulldozed. This would of course not be an option as the exterior was protected by law, as long as it was still structurally sound.
Today, the building has been converted into the glamorous, Detroit Foundation Hotel. From the white subway tile, to the chef’s table that overlooks
the Apparatus Room…. even to the fire pole and what were once hallways for the fire department offices… it is truly a historic gem revisioned. Thewalls… reclaimed wood, the interior structure… maintained, but yet refocused. Each detail that has been added to the hotel was carefully selected to enhance the beauty of its original purpose. A must see on your next visit into Detroit.