Cadillac Tower/Barlum Tower

Cadillac Tower/Barlum Tower

65 Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit


This is one of the most recognized buildings in downtown Detroit, but not because of its architectural features. In recent years, this building has been known and identified by the huge murals or advertisements that have been painted on the side where the elevators are located.  From 1994 to 2000, the painting showed the Detroit Lions’ most accomplished recent player, Barry Sanders.  And then, for several years, Steve Yzerman—the Detroit Red Wings’ star—peered at us from this building.  Perhaps, the owners got a more lucrative agreement with General Motors than the one they had with Nike.  When that firm introduced their flashy new sportscar—the Pontiac Solstice—it was shown on this structure.  More recently, the building displays the Australian-built and favorably reviewed Pontiac G-8.  There is more to this building than just advertisements. When the builders completed this structure in 1927, it was the only 40-story structure in the United States located outside of New York and Chicago.  It served as an office building and continues to do so.  The major tenants in 2009, I believe, were the City of Detroit’s Department of Planning and Development and the Recreation Department.  In 2008, the owners of this building announced their intentions to spend $150 million to erect a new 24-story glass sky scraper attached to the Cadillac Tower an a component of the ongoing efforts to revitalize Cadillac Square.  The modernistic new structure will include both residential and commercial space. The designers of this building, Harrie W. Bonnah and W. C. Chaffee, could be termed the major architects of modern Cadillac Square.  In the 1920s when Detroit was booming in terms of economic and population growth, at least three impressive new building were constructed at Cadillac Square—buildings that stand today and still illustrate the accomplishments of these two men.  These are the Cadillac Square Apartment at 111 Cadillac Square (originally the Barlum Hotel) and the Lawyers’ Building at 137 Cadillac Square.  In my view, the Lawyers’ Building is the most architecturally attractive of the three buildings that were designed almost simultaneously.  The Bonnah and Chaffee firm also designed the Farwell Building at Capitol Park and the Indian Village Manor Apartments on East Jefferson. The tower you see pictured above and the nearby apartment building on Cadillac Square originally bore the name of John J. Barlum.  He was the principal in the Cadillac Square Improvement Association in the 1920s, the group that also erected the Lawyers’ Building.  Barlum was born in Detroit in 1866, educated in the city's public schools and then went on to invest in and develop downtown Detroit in the 1920s.  However, he lost his investments in the 1930s so the Barlum name has pretty much disappeared from Cadillac Square.

Architects:  Harrie W. Bonnah and W. C. Chaffee
Architectural Style: Beaux Arts
Date of Completion:  1927
Use in 2009:  Office Building
City of Detroit Designated Historic District:  Not listed
State of Michigan Register of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places:  Listed July 27, 2005
Photograph:  Ren Farley; May 2, 2009
Description prepared: May, 2009                                              

Return to Commercial Buildings

Return to Homepage