This is an impressive and attractive reminder of industrial buildings of the Nineteenth Century and the creative recycling of such buildings into commercially successful residences for Twenty-first Century Detroiters. By the mid-1890s, Detroit became the nation's leading center for the development and manufacture of pharmaceutical drugs. Parke Davis was one leading firm. Frederick Stearns was another.
This building clearly reveals the type of structure erected for a prosperous and large manufacturing firm in the last decade of the Nineteenth Century. It is a structure that incorporates offices for the white-collar workers, production facilities, and then warehouses adjoining the railroad tracks. Today, a firm would likely construct separate buildings for each function, but that was not the case when Cleveland worked at 1600 Pennsylvania. This building was designed by William Stratton, who was to become a famous Detroit architect, and completed in the last year of the Nineteenth Century. Originally, it was a three-story structure in brick with elaborate stone trim. Stratton's façade along East Jefferson presents 134 bays with projecting pavilions in the center and at the north and south ends of the building. The Jacobean gables that add greatly to the appeal of the structure were added when a fourth floor was built. Notice the arched stone entrance with carefully constructed stone decoration and an oriel window above the second floor. There is also an attractive clock that has shown the correct time every time I have driven or walked by this building. Stratton went to the trouble and expense of framing every window along Jefferson in limestone.
From Jefferson Avenue, you will see the upper stories of a rather unattractive reinforced concrete flat-roofed addition with unappealing industrial steel windows and in dull gray. This addition was, I believe, designed by Detroit's most famous and productive architect, Albert Kahn.
In 1989, this building was converted into condominiums. It is an excellent example of the profitable reuse of a structurally sound and beautiful old industrial building.
Original date of construction of the three-story building: 1899
Original architect: William B. Stratton
Architectural style: Tudor Revival with the elaborate use of limestone trim
Architect for the major high-rise addition: Albert Kahn
State of Michigan Historical Register: P25253, Listed January 8, 1981
National Register of Historic Sites: Listed: October 14, 1980
Use in 2003: Lofts at Rivertown apartments or condominiums
Photo: Ren Farley July 2003
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