Sebastian S. Kresge, the founder of the company that would become Kmart, can be credited with building two pretty fabulous Detroit Buildings: what downtown residents now call the Kales Apartment building, as well as the current Metropolitan Center for High Technology. Who would have thought that a discount chain that built endlessly ugly suburban strip-mall stores began by hiring Albert Kahn to build two excellent (and still well-used) Detroit buildings? In 1912, the S.S. Kresge Corporation had 85 stores and built the Kales in downtown as an HQ in 1914. There were 257 stores in 1924, which led Kresge to hire Kahn for a new Detroit headquarters building, what is now the Metropolitan Center for High Technology built in 1927. By 1929 there were almost 600 stores in the Kresge empire. In 1962, the S.S. Kresge Corp. opened the first Kmart store (months before the first Wal-Mart opened) followed by eighteen more that year. As should come as no surprise, Kmart got more suburban and left the Kahn-designed building for a new headquarters in Troy, MI in 1972.
Could there be a better site for group of preservationists to gather? Last Thursday, the group formerly called Preservation Wayne (in the middle of undergoing a name-change to Preservation Detroit) held a fund-raiser in the second former Kresge HQ building and invited us along to snap a few photos. The limestone building has a copper-clad Mansard roof, a beautifully-polished granite floor lobby, inlaid walnut paneling and Corrado Parducci architectural sculptures. The night gave them the opportunity to talk up a new project: raising money for the McGhee House, located at 4626 Seebaldt in Detroit. According to the press release, "The McGhee House was one of two cases brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948. Defended by the NAACP’s Thurgood Marshall, the court’s landmark decision in Shelley v. Kraemer ruled racially restrictive covenants in property deeds legally unenforceable and in violation of the 14th Amendment." To donate to the restoration fund or to volunteer on the project, please contact Preservation Detroit.