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Architect Charles N. Agree's Five Most Disrespected Buildings

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This post was authored by Amy Swift.

The Cunningham's Drug Store Building in Dearborn at Oakman Blvd and Grand River was designed by Agree and built in 1938. We think it is at maximum capacity for bad signage, but then again, this is not a less-is-more kinda town.

Architect Charles N. Agree began his practice in Detroit in 1917 and built some great buildings that eventually became quite popular with architectural scavengers. Which is not so good as being popular with the Preservation Detroit people, who led a tour of his work last weekend. We dispatched intern Amy to report.

Agree was described by those that knew him as a "dapper" fellow even into his later years, exemplifing the ideal notion of a dedicated and respectable architect. He was well educated in the Michigan school system, led a successful local practice for four decades, and was heavily involved in community service as well as many professional and civic associations. He was also, most importantly, a snazzy dresser.

During Agree's long spanning and prolific career he designed and built a wide range of project types executed in a variety of architectural styles, including three listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Which is not to say that all his work has fared well. Here now, Curbed's Five Most Disrespected Works of "One of the Most Respectable Architects in Town," a round-up of the Agree works we most want to see spiffed up (or in one case, brought back to life).


1. ? Vanity Ballroom (1024 Newport Ave at East Jefferson; c. 1929)
Opened in 1929, the Vanity is an outstanding example of art deco and Aztec detailing. Unfortunately it is also an outstanding example of a Detroit scumlord operating at his finest. The building's original jaguar sculptures by Parducci are gone, the first floor (upon Curbed's visit) is wide open to vagrants, and major structural elements (such as walls) are crumbling and appear to be unsound; that explains the multiple blight violations stapled to the boarded up door.


2. ? Grande Ballroom (8952 Grand River Ave; c. 1928)
Affectionately known as "the Grandy" to many Detroiters, the Grande Ballroom was an important cultural center and music venue until it closed its doors in 1972. Since then it has been awaiting its transformation into a worship center by Chapel Hill Ministries; however, that project was put on hold indefinitely while weather ravages the open structure. 3. The Stimson Apartment Buildings (Rose Apartments 114 Stimson; Warco Apartments 102 Stimson; Stimson Apartments 90 Stimson)
If you head to Midtown to check out this row of Agree-designed walk-up apartment buildings you will instead find (surprise, surprise) an empty lot. One of the more recent Agree projects to be lost, the Stimson Apartment Buildings hold their place on the list as a representation of the ultimate disrespect that can be paid to a well-planned building.


4. ? The Ferrand Park Apartments (11 Farrand Ave, Highland Park; c. 1926)
Sometimes architects just get it right. Ferrand Park is one of those instances. Gracefully scaled, thoughtfully planned, and beautifully executed, this little number incorporated retail along it's Woodward-facing ground floor, and comfortable apartments above that were accessible from light-filled courts. Although it was occupied until quite recently, today the building is vacant and has been visibly ransacked on the ground floor — though it has fared far better than it's burnt-out neighbor, the Moorish-style Highland Tower Apartments.

5. ? Chicago-Lawton Terrace Apartments (2901 West Chicago Blvd; c. 1937)
As one of the first multi-unit residential buildings in the U.S. to be financed by the FHA, the Chicago-Lawton Terrace Apartments are not only a beautiful example of streamlined deco-style apartment detailing, but also an exercise in practical financing. Today, sadly, the building lies unused and overgrown with weeds. · Detroit Tours [Preservation Detroit]