clock menu more-arrow no yes
A long hallway with arched ceilings and walls with gold inlays. People walk around with light streaming in through the main entrance’s windows.
The main lobby of the Fisher Building.
Photo by Michelle Gerard

Detroit’s Art Deco masterpieces, mapped

Be dazzled by these 18 architectural gems

View as Map
The main lobby of the Fisher Building.
| Photo by Michelle Gerard

Thanks to an economic boom in the early 20th century, Detroit is blessed with incredible Art Deco masterpieces. From world-renowned skyscrapers like the Fisher and Guardian buildings to entertainment venues like the Vanity Ballroom and Cliff Bell’s, Detroit is rich in Art Deco design.

For this map, Curbed has compiled 18 essential stops on any Art Deco tour. Some of the buildings have gone through restorations, while others have seen better days.

Many of the same architects come up repeatedly: Albert Kahn, Wirt C. Rowland, Charles Noble, and Charles N. Agree. Their influence is noted and appreciated to this day.

And check out some other great works of art and architecture in these lists:

Note: Building are ordered from west to east.

Read More

1. Palmer Park Historic Apartments District

Copy Link

At the northern edge of Detroit, you’ll find an eclectic collection of apartment buildings around Palmer Park. Mostly built in the 1920s and 30s, the buildings display a wide range of styles, but many are fascinating Art Deco structures.

Today, some have been renovated, while others remain run-down, and a few buildings are vacant.

An exterior of a building in the Palmer Park Historic Apartments District. The facade is brown brick with multiple windows and columns. Photo by Robin Runyan

2. Michigan Bell and Western Electric Building

Copy Link
882 Oakman Blvd
Detroit, MI 48238
(313) 883-7246
Visit Website

Designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylis in 1929, this large building on the edge of Highland Park was used to store equipment and vehicles for Western Electric and Michigan Bell. The 12-story main tower has a beautiful Art Deco relief and transom in the main limestone entryway.

For several decades, it housed operations for the Yellow Pages. After a $52 million renovation in the early 2010s, the building and its long industrial wings now house staff for Neighborhood Services Organization and permanent supportive housing for the homeless population it serves.

3. Lee Plaza

Copy Link

This Charles Noble-designed 15-story building, with its gorgeous orange glazed brick first story, was opened as an opulent residential hotel in 1927. After decades of struggling, it closed in 1997. Soon after, the building was vandalized, including the 50 terra cotta lion on its exterior.

Will the Lee Plaza ever get its next chance? After a private developer couldn’t get the funding to make a redevelopment happen, the city put out RFPs to try to get the space activated again. Most recently, plexiglass windows were installed.

4. Fisher Building

Copy Link
3011 W Grand Blvd
Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 298-9630
Visit Website

“Detroit’s Largest Art Object” stands tall in New Center as one of the most beautiful Art Deco buildings in the world. Opened in 1928, the Albert Kahn-designed Fisher Building was funded by the Fisher Brothers, who made their wealth developing closed-bodied cars. The three-story arcade shows of various types of marble, mosaics, painted ceilings, and bronze details—much of the work here was done by artist Geza R. Maroti.

Like some other buildings constructed right before the Great Depression, the Fisher was supposed to be a much bigger development. The building we have now would have had a twin, with a 60-story tower in the middle.

The Fisher Building also houses the Fisher Theatre, which was originally designed with an elaborate Mayan theme that was “modernized” in 1961. The theater remains popular today, hosting many Broadway productions.

The development group The Platform bought the Fisher Building in 2015 for $12.5 million. Since acquiring it, the group has invested millions in restoring it and have brought more local businesses and art activations into the arcade.

The exterior of the Fisher Building in Detroit. The building has a tall tower with a green top. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

5. Albert Kahn Building

Copy Link
7430 2nd Ave
Detroit, MI 48202

The Fisher Brothers also funded this neighboring building. Once dubbed the New Center Building, it’s now known by its architect: Albert Kahn. This office building was built after the big 1920s building boom and depression hit.

Today, it’s planned to be redeveloped into 211 apartments.

6. Maccabees Building

Copy Link
5057 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48202

The 14-story Albert Kahn–designed structure built in 1927 was, according to Historic Detroit, originally built for the Maccabees, “a fraternal organization that provided low-cost insurance to its members.” The building held studios for radio and TV broadcasting, and has been owned by Wayne State University since 2002.

If you’re visiting, be sure to step inside to see the shimmering ceiling mosaic in the lobby.

7. S.S. Kresge World Headquarters

Copy Link
2727 2nd Ave
Detroit, MI 48201

Standing on the west side of Cass Park in the shadow of the Masonic Temple, the impressive S.S. Kresge World Headquarters was designed by Albert Kahn in 1927. It served as the headquarters to Kresge—then Kmart—until the retailer moved to a much bigger location in Troy in the early 1970s. Today, it’s known as “The Block” and houses various startups and offices.

The exterior of the S.S. Kresge World Headquarters. The facade is tan with columns. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

8. Cliff Bell's

Copy Link
2030 Park Ave
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-2543
Visit Website

Dating back to 1935, the restored Cliff Bell’s is a must-visit for jazz and architecture enthusiasts. The exterior was recently spruced up, and the interior features rich colors and textures, plus Art Deco fixtures and lighting.

The exterior of Cliff Bell’s in Detroit. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

9. Fox Theatre

Copy Link
2211 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 471-3200
Visit Website

Outside, the Fox Theatre embraces Art Deco design. Inside, you’ll find a mix of Indian, Chinese, Burmese, and Hindu motifs. The theatre—once one of Detroit’s great movie palaces—was designed by C. Howard Crane and opened in 1928. It spent decades as a successful movie, vaudeville, and concert theatre.

The Fox fell on hard times in the 1970s and 80s and was purchased by the Ilitch family in 1987. They funded an extensive and faithful renovation (the only building they’ve finished renovating), and the theater regularly hosts concerts and musicals.

The exterior of the Fox Theatre in Detroit. The facade is tan with multiple windows. Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images

10. Free Press Building

Copy Link
321 W Lafayette Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

Designed by Albert Kahn as offices for the Detroit Free Press in 1925, the building has impressive relief carvings by Ulysses Ricci of famous figures (like Benjamin Franklin) in its limestone exterior.

The building would be the paper’s home for nearly 75 years, but it left in 1998 and has sat vacant since 2001. Bedrock purchased the building in 2016 and is converting it into a mixed-use structure with a 2021 completion date.

11. Louis Kamper Apartments

Copy Link
1410 Washington Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

One of the many skyscrapers designed by Louis Kamper for the Book Brothers on Washington Boulevard in the 1920s. It originally held offices for wealthy bankers, but in the 1980s was converted into senior and low-income housing. In 2018, an $18-million renovation began—the building’s first in years. The developers also renewed the affordable tax credits for another 30 years.

The exterior of the Louis Kamper Apartments in Detroit. The facade is tan with multiple windows. Photo by Michelle Gerard

12. David Stott Building

Copy Link
1150 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

The 38-story David Stott Building opened right before the depression hit in 1929. Designed by the firm Donaldson & Meier, the building was well-known for its fast elevators that could take visitors to the top in about 30 seconds. The orange brick and structural setbacks also stands out among the skyscrapers in Detroit’s skyline.

Even though the building fell on hard times, the lobby—with work by Parducci—was kept mostly intact. Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock in 2015 for $14.9 million and recently finished renovations with many of the offices converted into apartments.

Tall, brick Art Deco skyscraper with a square base that narrows as it gets taller. A row of smaller buildings and a plaza is in the foreground. Photo by Michelle Gerard

13. Penobscot Building

Copy Link
645 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

When the Penobscot Building opened in early 1929, it was the tallest building in the U.S. outside of Chicago and New York, and remained Detroit’s tallest building until the Renaissance Center opened in 1977. A red beacon on top can be seen from 40 miles away, and the limestone tower has setbacks in its top 17 floors.

Another great work of Wirt C. Rowland, Corrado Parducci also left his mark on the building; it’s adorned with Native American motifs on the exterior. The Penobscot was named after a tribe in New England—financier Simon Murphy hailed from Maine and made his fortune in lumber.

Bought by Andreas Apostolopoulos for the bargain-basement price of $5 million in 2012, there have been recent reports of deteriorating conditions inside the building.

The exterior of the Penobscot Building in Detroit. The facade is white with a red beacon on top. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

14. Guardian Building

Copy Link
500 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

The “Cathedral of Finance” certainly has a church-like quality about it; a three-story, multicolored lobby welcomes visitors, and the main banking lobby has a ceiling matted with horsehair to absorb sound.

Opened in 1929, the Guardian Building was funded by the Union Trust Company, who commissioned Smith, Hinchman & Grylls and architect Wirt C. Rowland to design the 40-story building. Rowland used 1.8 million orange bricks, which were then called Guardian bricks. Terra Cotta and tiling make their way up to the top of the building. Sculptor Corrado Parducci designed the relief symbols flanking the entryway. Inside, more stepped arch designs continue, along with stained-glass near the elevators, and Numidian marble—yes, they opened the mines back up for it—lining the lobby.

The building’s lobby is a popular stop on downtown walking tours. Some shops and a bank are housed in the lobby. Wayne County, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and SmithGroup JJR are notable tenants.

The interior of the Guardian Building in Detroit. The ceiling and walls have an inlaid design. The ceiling is curved and there are columns. There is a mural on one wall. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

15. Water Board Building

Copy Link
735 Randolph Street
Detroit, MI 48226

Another 1920s skyscraper designed by Louis Kamper, the 23-story Water Board Building has three tiers: a five-floor base, 15-story shaft, and three-story penthouse. Since being built, it’s always had offices for the Board of Water Commissioners and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

The fifth-floor boardroom is especially opulent. According to Historic Detroit: “The room features floor-to-ceiling walnut paneling. Two huge, mahogany pillars on dark green marble bases support paneled beams, and serve to frame the conference table in the middle. Small ceiling murals help to enhance the quiet dignified aura.”

The exterior of the Water Board building in Detroit. The facade is tan with multiple windows. Photo by Michelle Gerard

16. Kean Apartments

Copy Link

The Kean Apartments, designed by Charles Noble in 1931, stands as a handsome reflection of Art Deco design along East Jefferson. The entryway has columns and orange Terra Cotta, while the top of the building has a colorful checkerboard pattern and gargoyles.

The exterior of the Kean apartments in Detroit. The facade is brown with an orange terra cotta entryway that has columns. The top of the building is patterned and has gargoyles. Photo by Robin Runyan

17. William Livingstone Lighthouse

Copy Link
100 Lakeside Dr.
Detroit, MI 48207

There aren’t many places where you can find an Art Deco lighthouse. Belle Isle’s marble-clad, 58-foot William Livingstone Lighthouse was designed by Albert Kahn. Fences surround it so visitors can’t get too close these days. A light still shines at the top, and it can be seen by ships and freighters in Lake St. Clair.

18. Vanity Ballroom

Copy Link
1024 Newport
Detroit, MI 48215

Designed by Charles N. Agree in 1929, the Vanity Ballroom once hosted a variety of seminal musicians like Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, the Stooges, and the MC5.

It’s been closed for decades. Even though some of the details remain, the interior of the building is in very rough shape. Saving this one would be a big win for the east side and the city.

The exterior of the Vanity Ballroom in Detroit. The facade is red brick and has murals. Photo by Robin Runyan

Loading comments...

1. Palmer Park Historic Apartments District

Detroit, MI
An exterior of a building in the Palmer Park Historic Apartments District. The facade is brown brick with multiple windows and columns. Photo by Robin Runyan

At the northern edge of Detroit, you’ll find an eclectic collection of apartment buildings around Palmer Park. Mostly built in the 1920s and 30s, the buildings display a wide range of styles, but many are fascinating Art Deco structures.

Today, some have been renovated, while others remain run-down, and a few buildings are vacant.

2. Michigan Bell and Western Electric Building

882 Oakman Blvd, Detroit, MI 48238

Designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylis in 1929, this large building on the edge of Highland Park was used to store equipment and vehicles for Western Electric and Michigan Bell. The 12-story main tower has a beautiful Art Deco relief and transom in the main limestone entryway.

For several decades, it housed operations for the Yellow Pages. After a $52 million renovation in the early 2010s, the building and its long industrial wings now house staff for Neighborhood Services Organization and permanent supportive housing for the homeless population it serves.

882 Oakman Blvd
Detroit, MI 48238

3. Lee Plaza

Detroit, MI 48208

This Charles Noble-designed 15-story building, with its gorgeous orange glazed brick first story, was opened as an opulent residential hotel in 1927. After decades of struggling, it closed in 1997. Soon after, the building was vandalized, including the 50 terra cotta lion on its exterior.

Will the Lee Plaza ever get its next chance? After a private developer couldn’t get the funding to make a redevelopment happen, the city put out RFPs to try to get the space activated again. Most recently, plexiglass windows were installed.

4. Fisher Building

3011 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48202
The exterior of the Fisher Building in Detroit. The building has a tall tower with a green top. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

“Detroit’s Largest Art Object” stands tall in New Center as one of the most beautiful Art Deco buildings in the world. Opened in 1928, the Albert Kahn-designed Fisher Building was funded by the Fisher Brothers, who made their wealth developing closed-bodied cars. The three-story arcade shows of various types of marble, mosaics, painted ceilings, and bronze details—much of the work here was done by artist Geza R. Maroti.

Like some other buildings constructed right before the Great Depression, the Fisher was supposed to be a much bigger development. The building we have now would have had a twin, with a 60-story tower in the middle.

The Fisher Building also houses the Fisher Theatre, which was originally designed with an elaborate Mayan theme that was “modernized” in 1961. The theater remains popular today, hosting many Broadway productions.

The development group The Platform bought the Fisher Building in 2015 for $12.5 million. Since acquiring it, the group has invested millions in restoring it and have brought more local businesses and art activations into the arcade.

3011 W Grand Blvd
Detroit, MI 48202

5. Albert Kahn Building

7430 2nd Ave, Detroit, MI 48202

The Fisher Brothers also funded this neighboring building. Once dubbed the New Center Building, it’s now known by its architect: Albert Kahn. This office building was built after the big 1920s building boom and depression hit.

Today, it’s planned to be redeveloped into 211 apartments.

7430 2nd Ave
Detroit, MI 48202

6. Maccabees Building

5057 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202

The 14-story Albert Kahn–designed structure built in 1927 was, according to Historic Detroit, originally built for the Maccabees, “a fraternal organization that provided low-cost insurance to its members.” The building held studios for radio and TV broadcasting, and has been owned by Wayne State University since 2002.

If you’re visiting, be sure to step inside to see the shimmering ceiling mosaic in the lobby.

5057 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48202

7. S.S. Kresge World Headquarters

2727 2nd Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
The exterior of the S.S. Kresge World Headquarters. The facade is tan with columns. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Standing on the west side of Cass Park in the shadow of the Masonic Temple, the impressive S.S. Kresge World Headquarters was designed by Albert Kahn in 1927. It served as the headquarters to Kresge—then Kmart—until the retailer moved to a much bigger location in Troy in the early 1970s. Today, it’s known as “The Block” and houses various startups and offices.

2727 2nd Ave
Detroit, MI 48201

8. Cliff Bell's

2030 Park Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
The exterior of Cliff Bell’s in Detroit. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Dating back to 1935, the restored Cliff Bell’s is a must-visit for jazz and architecture enthusiasts. The exterior was recently spruced up, and the interior features rich colors and textures, plus Art Deco fixtures and lighting.

2030 Park Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

9. Fox Theatre

2211 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
The exterior of the Fox Theatre in Detroit. The facade is tan with multiple windows. Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images

Outside, the Fox Theatre embraces Art Deco design. Inside, you’ll find a mix of Indian, Chinese, Burmese, and Hindu motifs. The theatre—once one of Detroit’s great movie palaces—was designed by C. Howard Crane and opened in 1928. It spent decades as a successful movie, vaudeville, and concert theatre.

The Fox fell on hard times in the 1970s and 80s and was purchased by the Ilitch family in 1987. They funded an extensive and faithful renovation (the only building they’ve finished renovating), and the theater regularly hosts concerts and musicals.

2211 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48201

10. Free Press Building

321 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226

Designed by Albert Kahn as offices for the Detroit Free Press in 1925, the building has impressive relief carvings by Ulysses Ricci of famous figures (like Benjamin Franklin) in its limestone exterior.

The building would be the paper’s home for nearly 75 years, but it left in 1998 and has sat vacant since 2001. Bedrock purchased the building in 2016 and is converting it into a mixed-use structure with a 2021 completion date.

321 W Lafayette Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

11. Louis Kamper Apartments

1410 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226
The exterior of the Louis Kamper Apartments in Detroit. The facade is tan with multiple windows. Photo by Michelle Gerard

One of the many skyscrapers designed by Louis Kamper for the Book Brothers on Washington Boulevard in the 1920s. It originally held offices for wealthy bankers, but in the 1980s was converted into senior and low-income housing. In 2018, an $18-million renovation began—the building’s first in years. The developers also renewed the affordable tax credits for another 30 years.

1410 Washington Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

12. David Stott Building

1150 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226
Tall, brick Art Deco skyscraper with a square base that narrows as it gets taller. A row of smaller buildings and a plaza is in the foreground. Photo by Michelle Gerard

The 38-story David Stott Building opened right before the depression hit in 1929. Designed by the firm Donaldson & Meier, the building was well-known for its fast elevators that could take visitors to the top in about 30 seconds. The orange brick and structural setbacks also stands out among the skyscrapers in Detroit’s skyline.

Even though the building fell on hard times, the lobby—with work by Parducci—was kept mostly intact. Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock in 2015 for $14.9 million and recently finished renovations with many of the offices converted into apartments.

1150 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

13. Penobscot Building

645 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226
The exterior of the Penobscot Building in Detroit. The facade is white with a red beacon on top. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

When the Penobscot Building opened in early 1929, it was the tallest building in the U.S. outside of Chicago and New York, and remained Detroit’s tallest building until the Renaissance Center opened in 1977. A red beacon on top can be seen from 40 miles away, and the limestone tower has setbacks in its top 17 floors.

Another great work of Wirt C. Rowland, Corrado Parducci also left his mark on the building; it’s adorned with Native American motifs on the exterior. The Penobscot was named after a tribe in New England—financier Simon Murphy hailed from Maine and made his fortune in lumber.

Bought by Andreas Apostolopoulos for the bargain-basement price of $5 million in 2012, there have been recent reports of deteriorating conditions inside the building.

645 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

14. Guardian Building

500 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226
The interior of the Guardian Building in Detroit. The ceiling and walls have an inlaid design. The ceiling is curved and there are columns. There is a mural on one wall. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

The “Cathedral of Finance” certainly has a church-like quality about it; a three-story, multicolored lobby welcomes visitors, and the main banking lobby has a ceiling matted with horsehair to absorb sound.

Opened in 1929, the Guardian Building was funded by the Union Trust Company, who commissioned Smith, Hinchman & Grylls and architect Wirt C. Rowland to design the 40-story building. Rowland used 1.8 million orange bricks, which were then called Guardian bricks. Terra Cotta and tiling make their way up to the top of the building. Sculptor Corrado Parducci designed the relief symbols flanking the entryway. Inside, more stepped arch designs continue, along with stained-glass near the elevators, and Numidian marble—yes, they opened the mines back up for it—lining the lobby.

The building’s lobby is a popular stop on downtown walking tours. Some shops and a bank are housed in the lobby. Wayne County, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and SmithGroup JJR are notable tenants.

500 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

15. Water Board Building

735 Randolph Street, Detroit, MI 48226
The exterior of the Water Board building in Detroit. The facade is tan with multiple windows. Photo by Michelle Gerard

Another 1920s skyscraper designed by Louis Kamper, the 23-story Water Board Building has three tiers: a five-floor base, 15-story shaft, and three-story penthouse. Since being built, it’s always had offices for the Board of Water Commissioners and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

The fifth-floor boardroom is especially opulent. According to Historic Detroit: “The room features floor-to-ceiling walnut paneling. Two huge, mahogany pillars on dark green marble bases support paneled beams, and serve to frame the conference table in the middle. Small ceiling murals help to enhance the quiet dignified aura.”

735 Randolph Street
Detroit, MI 48226

16. Kean Apartments

Detroit, MI
The exterior of the Kean apartments in Detroit. The facade is brown with an orange terra cotta entryway that has columns. The top of the building is patterned and has gargoyles. Photo by Robin Runyan

The Kean Apartments, designed by Charles Noble in 1931, stands as a handsome reflection of Art Deco design along East Jefferson. The entryway has columns and orange Terra Cotta, while the top of the building has a colorful checkerboard pattern and gargoyles.

17. William Livingstone Lighthouse

100 Lakeside Dr., Detroit, MI 48207

There aren’t many places where you can find an Art Deco lighthouse. Belle Isle’s marble-clad, 58-foot William Livingstone Lighthouse was designed by Albert Kahn. Fences surround it so visitors can’t get too close these days. A light still shines at the top, and it can be seen by ships and freighters in Lake St. Clair.

100 Lakeside Dr.
Detroit, MI 48207

18. Vanity Ballroom

1024 Newport, Detroit, MI 48215
The exterior of the Vanity Ballroom in Detroit. The facade is red brick and has murals. Photo by Robin Runyan

Designed by Charles N. Agree in 1929, the Vanity Ballroom once hosted a variety of seminal musicians like Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, the Stooges, and the MC5.

It’s been closed for decades. Even though some of the details remain, the interior of the building is in very rough shape. Saving this one would be a big win for the east side and the city.

1024 Newport
Detroit, MI 48215