Downtown Detroit Highlights
Downtown Detroit Highlights
Renaissance Center/GM World HQ
Harmonie Park/Paradise Valley
Ford Field/Comerica Park
Detroit Opera House
Fox Theater/Fillmore Theater
Westin Book Cadillac
Spirit of Detroit
Riverfront/Milliken State Park
Renaissance Center/GM World Headquarters
Originally built in 1977 for $350 million by
Henry Ford II and some rich friends, the
building, designed by John Portman, was
intended to spur a renaissance for the city of
Detroit, hence its name. The fortress-like design
of the building (remember the heating/cooling
berms?) made it difficult to enter and exit and
navigating the public levels is still quite difficult.
General Motors bought the building in 1996
for $73 million and poured $500 million
into renovations to make the building
more navigable and to enhance access for
pedestrians on both Jefferson Ave and the river
side of the building.
The central tower of the Renaissance Center
houses a hotel, currently a Marriott, which
when built was the tallest hotel in the world at
73 stories. It is now the tallest hotel in North
America and the tallest building in Michigan.
The top floor is home to the Coach Insignia
There are over 7000 people working in the
complex, with the largest tenants being
General Motors and Blue Cross Blue Shield of
Michigan. It contains over 70 shops, restaurants
and services including a 4 screen movie
NO RIDING ON WEST SIDE
OF REN CEN @ MARRIOTT
and the Ferry’s Beet #2 is still very popular.
theater making it almost a city unto itself. The
Harmonie Park & Paradise Valley
Renaissance Center is so densely populated it
A center in the German settlement, Harmonie
has its own zip code (48243).
Park was named after the Harmonie Club where
performances were held. In 2010 the park was
Originally settled by the Germans in the 1830s,
renovated and the name was changed to pay
Greektown became the center of Detroit’s
homage to the African-American neighborhood
nightlife as the Greek residents moved further
of the same name that had been bulldozed to
out of downtown and the businesses remained.
make way for I-375. The club is now home to
The group of buildings housing the Greektown
Michigan Arts League and goes by the name
Casino was originally built in the 1850s as
Virgil Carr Center for the Performing Arts.
Schmidt & Sons Furrier and trappers would
The Carr Center offers music and story telling
bring their beaver pelts to the back door, hence
programs in the park.
the name of the mall it was built into in the
1980s, Trapper’s Alley.
The Hemeter Building built in 1911 at the corner
of Randolph and Grand River was once a cigar
The building housing Fishbones restaurant was
rolling factory. Before Detroit was known for
the Ferry Seed Company, the first company to
building cars, cigars were a major export. The
make seeds available in small retail packaging.
building now contains loft apartments, a further,
Ferry’s seeds became known around the world
great t-shirt and accessories store and a bar. Harmonie
Park recording studio sits above its live webcast radio
station and bar. Both locations often host the best in
Comerica Park is the home of the Tiger's baseball
franchise and was completed in 2000 to the tune of $300
million. Make sure you take a photo at the 15' tiger at the
front of the stadium. The park hosted the MLB All Star
game in 2005 and the World Series in 2006.
Ford Field brought football back to the city of Detroit in
2002 incorporating the historic Hudson’s warehouse into
its domed architecture. Ford Field was the site of Super
Bowl XL in 2006.
Detroit holds the title as the second largest theater
district in the US with over 13,000 theater seats in just a 2
block radius. Many of Detroit’s theaters started as movie
palaces built in the 1920s including the Fox Theater, the
Opera House and the Fillmore Theater. Live stage theaters
include Music Hall, the Gem and Century Theaters
and Orchestra Hall. Each theater has its own beautiful
character so try to catch a show to see the interior.
Means “Field of Mars” in Latin. Mars was the Roman God
of War so Campus Martius was originally the gathering
place for military training in Roma and here in Detroit.
Our troops actually left from our Campus Martius to fight
in the Civil War.
Point of Origin of the City. In 1806, after the 300 or so
wooden structures in town burned in the great fire of
1805, Augustus Woodward was sent from Washington
DC to be the Chief Justice of the area. Woodward had
become familiar with the city planning efforts of L’Enfant
in DC and created a similar street plan for Detroit. The
origin of the spoke and wheel plan is here in Campus
Martius and marked by a glass circle in the ground
between the restaurant and the Woodward Fountain. It is
here that Eight Mile Rd is eight miles from.
Originally called Central Market in the 1840s, Cadillac
Square was the main farmers market for the area. Due
to the difficulties in bringing livestock into an ever more
crowded downtown, the market was moved east to what
is now known as Eastern Market in 1891.
What was originally known as the Union Trust Building
and a “Cathedral to Finance” was designed by Wirt
Rowland of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls architecture firm
and completed in 1929, just before the crash of the stock
market. Detroit was bustling in the 1920s and Rowland
felt that one had to really shock people with color in order
to get them to notice a building. Color is exploited inside
and out using a custom orange colored exterior brick
now known as “Guardian brick”, locally-made Pewabic
tiles over the exterior doorways, Rookwood tiles in the
lobby ceiling and African Numidian marble on the stairs to
the banking lobby. The metal used on the grating to the
banking lobby and the elevators was a new type of metal
called “Monel”. It is a nickel-based alloy and a precursor
to stainless steel.
The upper banking lobby was an expansive rather empty
space. To minimize sound transmission the ceiling is
comprised of a layer of plaster followed by a layer of
horsehair and then a layer of canvas. The designs on the
ceiling are painted on the canvas. On the back wall is a
mural of Michigan displaying the various industries of
the time as well as our transition from an agricultural
economy to an industrial one.
The building is now owned by Wayne County and houses
the County Executive and upper management. Smith,
Hinchman & Grylls, the oldest architecture firm in the
US, still has their office there, as they have since it was
built. Bank of America shares the banking lobby with Pure
Detroit, the first shop dedicated to showing Detroits
pride, and the Rowland Café, a coffee shop named for the
architect, a convenience store and a reprographic facility.
Spirit of Detroit
Now an icon for the city of, the 26 ft. tall bronze sculpture
created by Metro Detroiter Marshall Fredericks was
installed in 1958. At the time of its creation it was the
largest sculpture since the Renaissance period. It is
referred to as the “Spirit of Detroit” because of the
biblical passage behind the statue.
Also behind the statue are the seals of the county and
the city. The county seal shows General “Mad” Anthony
Wayne shaking hands with a Native American after the
Northwest Indian War (in which the Americans took
control of the Northwest Territory). Wayne County is
named after the General although he actually never set
foot in the area and sent Colonel Hamtramck in his place.
Wayne County originally included land as far as what is
now Chicago and parts of Ohio.
The seal of the City of Detroit was designed after the great
fire of 1805 during which the 300 or so wooden structures
making up Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit all burned to the
ground. After the fire, Father Gabrielle Richard stated,
“Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus” which means “We
hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes” and
this became our city motto. The seal depicts two women
comforting one another as the fire burns on one side and
new buildings have been erected on the other; the new
city motto rings the picture.
Named for Senator Philip Hart who died during its
construction, Hart Plaza is a 14 acre plaza that can hold
40,000 people. The plaza opened in 1975 and annually
hosts many cultural events including the Hoedown,
Jazzfest, R&B Ribfest, African World Festival, Arab
and Chaldean Festival and the internationally known
Electronic Music Festival. (Did you know Electronic Music
was created right here in Detroit?)
It was near the west end of Hart Plaza that Antoine de la
Mothe Cadillac landed with his 75 canoes to establish Fort
Ponchartrain du Detroit in 1701. Ponchartrain was the
French Minister of Marine and Detroit means “the strait”
and refers to the body of water connecting Lake Erie to
Lake Saint Clair.
There are many pieces of art on Hart Plaza. The circular
Transcending by David Barr and Sergio De Giusti was
commissioned through a competition of 120 entries in
2003 by the Michigan Labor History Society. The Horace
E. Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain and Pylon were
both created by Isamu Noguchi in the 1970s. Gateway to
Freedom located nearest the shoreline is the most recent
addition in 2001. It represents Detroit’s important role in
the Underground Railroad and was sculpted by Ed Dwight.
Across Jefferson stands a white marble-clad building
called One Woodward Avenue. It was designed by Minuro
Yamasaki in the early 1960s. After starting his career here
in Detroit at Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, Yamasaki went on
to design the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
Detroit Riverfront/Milliken State Park
As in many cities, Detroit’s waterway has been used to
transport raw materials and goods to and from Michigan
cities. Its beauty not considered until recently once
our industries moved to other countries. The Detroit
Riverfront Conservancy now manages much of the land
along Detroit’s shoreline and is transforming it into a safe
and vibrant recreational area. Detroit’s Riverwalk will
eventually span from the Ambassador Bridge to the Belle
Isle Bridge at. It provides miles of entertainment including
exercise programming for all ages.
The State of Michigan runs its only urban park along
Detroit’s riverfront. Milliken State Park encompasses 31
acres and includes a safe harbor marina, picnic areas
and a new lowland area with native plant life that would
have existed along the shore before Detroit was settled.
Soon an indoor adventure and discovery center with rockclimbing wall with zip lines, an interpretive forest, archery
range and classroom space.