David Whitney Building

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David Whitney Building
General information
Architectural styleNeo-Renaissance
Location1 Park Avenue
Detroit, Michigan
Coordinates42°20′8.5″N 83°3′1.5″W / 42.335694°N 83.050417°W / 42.335694; -83.050417Coordinates: 42°20′8.5″N 83°3′1.5″W / 42.335694°N 83.050417°W / 42.335694; -83.050417
Renovated1959, 2014
Roof272 ft (83 m)
Technical details
Floor count19
Design and construction
Architecture firmGraham, Burnham & Co.
Renovating team
Renovating firmRoxbury Group, Trans Inn Management, Starwood Hotels
David Whitney Building
Part ofGrand Circus Park Historic District (#83000894)
Designated CPFebruary 28, 1983

The David Whitney Building is a historic class-A skyscraper located at 1 Park Avenue (1550 Woodward Avenue from 1921 to 2014), on the northern edge of Downtown Detroit, Michigan, within the Grand Circus Park Historic District. The building stands on a wedge-shaped site at the junction of Park Avenue, Woodward Avenue, and Washington Boulevard. Construction on the 19-floor structure began in 1914.

History and description[edit]

The building is named for David Whitney Jr., a wealthy Detroiter who earned millions of dollars as a lumber baron dealing in white pine; his father was said to be the employer of Paul Bunyan. The structure was designed by Graham, Burnham & Co., the successor firm to the D.H. Burnham Company. It may be said that the building was designed in the "Daniel Burnham style", or perhaps, "inspired by Daniel Burnham". The first assertion that Daniel Burnham himself designed the building was made in a 1950s press article about the building's modernization, probably a misreading (or embellishment). Burnham died in 1912, two years before the project was announced, and no contemporary record gives any indication that he was involved with the design of the building prior to his death.

Whitney Building prior to modernization (left) and Statler Hotel, c. 1915

The exterior was originally styled with clean lines in a Neo-Renaissance style faced with terra cotta and glazed brick. The original façade was altered in 1959, when decorative cornices were replaced with a 'modern' top. The first four stories of this building contain a large retail atrium. It was one of Detroit's first major mixed-use projects and was a popular location for many medical offices. The Metro Times, an early alternative weekly, was once published from offices in the highrise. There are 19 floors housing office and retail space with a two-story mechanical penthouse at the rear of the building. The Detroit People Mover's Grand Circus Park station is located at the first and second floors of this building.

The Whitney Building in 2007, before restoration of its facade

The David Whitney Building stands across Woodward Avenue from the David Broderick Tower. The building is visible from the Detroit People Mover, as well as Comerica Park. Together with the adjacent Broderick Tower, it forms a "gateway" of sorts to downtown Detroit when viewed from the north.


In January 2011, the Detroit Downtown Development Authority approved a $1 million loan to help Whitney Partners LLC purchase and renovate the building. Their plan included creating a mixed-use building and restoring the decorative exterior elements that were removed in 1959 and the four-story lobby.[2] The purchase was completed in March and the new owners sought additional funding and tax credits to finance their plans for a boutique hotel, apartments and retail.[3] In December 2011, plans moved another step when the partnership announced it signed an agreement with the Aloft division of Starwood Hotels to operate the 136-room hotel. The hotel occupies floors three through nine of the building with 105 high-end apartment units on floors ten and above.[4] The $92 million renovation began in March 2013 and was completed in December 2014.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "David Whitney Building". SkyscraperPage.
  2. ^ Dan Austin. "David Whitney Building". Historic Detroit. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  3. ^ Jonathan Oosting (31 August 2011). "Reviving Woodward: David Whitney Building may house boutique hotel, residential units in Detroit". Mlive Media Group. Mlive. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  4. ^ Jonathan Oosting (12 December 2011). "Aloft Detroit: Boutique hotel brand signs on for David Whitney Building redevelopment". Mlive Media Group. Mlive. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  5. ^ Burns, Gus (14 December 2014). "Detroit's restored historic David Whitney Building returns to service this week". MLive.com. Retrieved 16 December 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hill, Eric J.; John Gallagher (2002). AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3120-3.
  • Meyer, Katherine Mattingly and Martin C.P. McElroy with Introduction by W. Hawkins Ferry, Hon A.I.A. (1980). Detroit Architecture A.I.A. Guide Revised Edition. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1651-4.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Moore, Charles (1921). Daniel H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities, Volume 2. Houghton Mifflin.
  • Sharoff, Robert (2005). American City: Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3270-6.
  • Sobocinski, Melanie Grunow (2005). Detroit and Rome: building on the past. Regents of the University of Michigan. ISBN 0-933691-09-2.

External links[edit]