Nothing can match 2012's five-property shopping spree, but Dan Gilbert has closed the book on 2013 with another big purchase in downtown Detroit. The flag of the Gilbertine Empire now flies above 1400 Woodward, home of Eastern Wig and Hair Co. When it was built in 1915, however, the building was much more hardware than hair.
Here's a quick history: Built in 1915 as a hardware store, the building gained a boxy look when an additional level was added on during the 1930s. The abuse continued in the '50s, when several lower level windows were covered up. The final architectural travesty happened in the early 90s, when the old cornice was chopped off.
The cornice can be seen in a 1962 photo of the Thanksgiving Day Parade (left), just behind that terrifying performer. The photo on the right shows the entire block in 1973. In those days, covering all the windows was the stylish thing to do.
But the building still retains one architectural treasure: its facade. The original architects dressed the tower with a unique red tile. That tile would look 100x better if the original windows were restored. (A good washing would help as well.) With the Hudson's development finally showing signs of life next door, an all-out renovation here is almost a certainty.
That leaves us with the usual question: Will it be renovated as office space or apartments? With 60,000 square feet to play with, there might even be the option of doing both.
· Gilbert buys building at Woodward and Grand River [Crain's]
[Historic photos via Virtual Motor City]