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The Palms Apartments: Architectural Brilliance, Now Restored

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Photography by Chris and Michelle Gerard

Walking into the breathtaking lobby, its obvious that The Palms Apartments were built for people with money. Leaded glass windows, marble stairs—the perks go on and on. But in terms of architectural greatness, those finishes are just icing on a concrete cake.
Before Albert Kahn designed the Packard or the Highland Park Plants, he helped design the Palms Apartment House. It may look innocently residential, but it shares the reinforced concrete bones of Detroit's great factories. It's nearly indestructible.

Virtually abandoned during the '80s, the building was in atrocious shape when Nick Mazzola's father bought it just three years ago. Since then, they've been putting in long days on a meticulous renovation, painstakingly bringing the building back to its original splendor. Today, only a few of the building's 62 units still need work.

"This area was completely destroyed," Nick said, showing us a hallway that feels entirely original. "It was completely gutted."

While the Palms helped Albert Kahn perfect his concrete-reinforced design, the thick walls have an added benefit for the tenants: complete silence. Even the noisiest neighbors can't penetrate nearly a foot of concrete and plaster.

Kahn co-designed the Palms with his mentor, George D Mason. You might know him as the architect of the Masonic Temple, one of the most entrancing buildings in the whole city. Between Mason's detailing and Kahn's concrete design, the Palms got the best of both worlds.

Before the building was chopped up during the Great Depression, this is was the typical floor plan (click it to see a non-blurry version). Two small apartments (outlined) in front, and two luxury apartments on either side. The kitchens had access to a rear service porch, with a dumb waiter for trash removal. Fancy!
There was a restaurant on the east side of the ground floor. It still has the original bottle glass windows looking out onto Rivard.