Celebrating 75 Years

Wayne State University Press

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American City

Detroit Architecture, 1845-2005

Text by Robert Sharoff
Photographs by William Zbaren

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Architecture, Bestsellers, Detroit, Photography

Painted Turtle

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Hardback
Published: October 2005
ISBN: 9780814332702
Pages: 144 Size: 9x13.25
Illustrations: 90
Book Images
Review

American City is a visual tribute to the best of Detroit's architectural gems.

— John Gallagher

Detroit’s architecture reflects Detroit’s role in the early years of the twentieth century as the country’s leading industrial center, the place where, with the rise of the automobile industry, the future was happening. The metropolitan Detroit area was also home to some of the largest private fortunes assembled in the modern age. All of this is visible in the cutting-edge structures built to serve the needs of the modern business community that was committed to innovation and new processes. Detroit’s public buildings—its museums, libraries, schools, and monuments—are second to none in terms of their overall scale, materials, and detailing. Hotels, stores, theaters, and other commercial venues display a breezy cosmopolitanism consistent with the city’s position as both a technology hub and a crossroads of immigration. Yet despite this remarkable legacy, many of downtown Detroit’s architecturally significant buildings are under threat of demolition and have been placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2005 list of America’s most endangered landmarks.

American City: Detroit Architecture, 1845–2005 is intended to showcase a Detroit that might surprise many readers and bring long-overdue attention to the city’s heritage of fine design. In 90 stunning full-color photographs, the book documents the innovative features of fifty of Detroit’s most impressive buildings. An introductory essay offers an overview of the city’s architectural history and outlines the social forces and the personalities that helped shape the city’s built environment. The heart of American City, however, is the photography, which brings Detroit’s architecture to life in gorgeous detail. Accompanying text identifies each building and provides basic information such as date, location, and architect, pointing out features that make the building of particular interest and importance.

Buildings photographed: Fort Wayne; Lighthouse Supply Depot; R. N. Traver Building; Wright-Kay Building; R. Hirt Jr. Company Building; Chauncey Hurlbut Memorial Gate; Detroit Cornice and Slate Company; Wayne County Building; Savoyard Center; Belle Isle Conservatory; Harmonie Centre; Dime Building; L. B. King and Company Building; Michigan Central Railroad Station; R. H. Fyfe’s Shoe Store Building; Orchestra Hall; Detroit Public Library, Main Branch; Cadillac Place; Women’s City Club; Banker’s Trust Company Building; James Scott Fountain; Buhl Building; Detroit Institute of Arts; Fox Theater; Penobscot Building; Park Place Apartments; Guardian Building; David Stott Building; Fisher Building; Horace H. Rackham Building; Coleman A. Young Municipal Center; Turkel House; McGregor Memorial Conference Center; Lafayette Park; Cobo Hall and Convention Center; One Woodward; First Federal Bank Building; Frank Murphy Hall of Justice; Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls Building; Kresge-Ford Building, College for Creative Studies; SBC Building; Renaissance Center; Horace E. Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain; Detroit Receiving Hospital; Coleman A. Young Community Center; One Detroit Center; John B. Dingell VA Hospital and Medical Center; Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; Compuware Building; and Cass Technical High School

Published by: Painted Turtle

William Zbaren’s photographs have appeared in the New York Times and other national publications. His work has also been featured in several gallery exhibitions. As a designer, he has worked on numerous national advertising and corporate image campaigns.

Robert Sharoff writes about architecture and real estate for the New York Times, Chicago Magazine, and other publications.

American City is a visual tribute to the best of Detroit's architectural gems. Sometimes it takes outsiders like Sharoff and Zbaren to see the glory where Detroiters themselves see only decline."

– John Gallagher, architecture critic, Detroit Free Press, and co-author of AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture

The product of monumental wealth and artistic accomplishment, Detroit's architectural heritage is handsomely recorded in this book about an American city's promise."

– Hugh Hardy, FAIA, founder of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

Sometimes it takes an outsider - or an expatriate - to illuminate the beauty locals forget. With its breathtaking photographs, American City compromises what [author Robert Sharoff and photographer William Zbaren] both men feel are the best examples of Detroit architecture over the years, and it gives a new view of the buildings around us."

– The Detroit News

Author Robert Sharoff and photographer William Zbaren have created a first-ever large-format book that celebrates fifty of Detroit's functioning commercial and civic buildings and monuments spanning the period 1845 to 2005. The book presents both the glory of Detroit and its decline, in a format that will appeal to a broad audience. The book will inspire in everyone who picks it up an appreciation of Detroit's architecture and a call to action to save it. William Zbaren's clear and meticulously composed color photographs do a superior job of illustrating the book."

– H-Net Reviews

Sometimes it takes outsiders to make Detroiters appreciate what's in their own backyard. In the splashy new book American City: Detroit Architecture, 1845–2005, Chicagoans Robert Sharoff and William Zbaren should compel many Detroiters to take a fresh look at the city's architecture. Writer Sharoff and photographer Zbaren have assembled a handsome collection of 50 buildings-all within the city limits-ranging from the 1845 barracks at Fort Wayne to the 2005 Cass Tech High School."

– Hour Detroit

Detroit's builders gave the city a legacy of great architecture, but decades of neglect have put much of that legacy at risk. It is my hope that Zbaren's breathtaking photos and Sharoff's superb documentation will move people to protect the history of this remarkable city.

– Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

A major addition to the record of architectural history in the United States, American City is an elegant and persuasive reminder that a city noted principally for its role in the development of the automobile has been the site of a multitude of first-class buildings as well."

– Franz Schulze, Hollender Professor of Art, emeritus, Lake Forest College, author of Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography and Philip Johnson: Life and Work

Detroit has a wealth of architecture treasures hidden in its everyday fabric. American City: Detroit Architecture, 1845–2005 brings them to light for our pleasure."

– Cesar Pelli, architect and educator

Covering 160 years of Detroit architecture, the lovingly detailed photographs by William Zbaren, with text by writer Robert Sharoff, capture everything from Historic Ft. Wayne in southwest Detroit to the shimmering Dodge Fountain, newly restored on Hart Plaza."

– Detroit Free Press

The sheer diversity of American City-and the suburb quality of its photographs-are eye-opening reminders of the architectural marvels that are waiting to be discovered, or re-appreciated, in America's great industrial centers."

– The Plain Dealer

  • 2005 ForeWord Book of the Year Award - Result: Silver in the category of Architecture (1 of 3)
  • 2005 ForeWord Book of the Year Award - Result: Silver in the category of Architecture (1 of 3)