Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2007 David Whitney Building Previous Next
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Milwaukee
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Username: Milwaukee

Post Number: 669
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 10:30 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

What is the history of the David Whitney Building? I know when it was built, but who built it, and why? Was the facade remodeled? It looks very modern for a building that was built in 1916.

Are there any serious proposals for renovation or God forbid, demolition?
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Scs100
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Username: Scs100

Post Number: 378
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 10:34 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

No proposals as far as I know. There was a picture up not too long ago on this forum that showed the current state of the inside of the building. Not in bad shape (at least in the lobby), considering some of the other buildings around town.
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Spiritofdetroit
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Username: Spiritofdetroit

Post Number: 193
Registered: 11-2006
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 10:37 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I do know that George Jackson of the DEGC is working on some sort of deal where development would be possible. Who knows how far off that is though
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Milwaukee
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Username: Milwaukee

Post Number: 670
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 10:38 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I just found a site with some photos of the lobby on it. You're right, the lobby seems untouched. When was the building abandoned, recently?

http://forgottenmichigan.com/g allery/v/abandonments/Whitney/
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Spiritofdetroit
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Username: Spiritofdetroit

Post Number: 194
Registered: 11-2006
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 10:39 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

That lobby is so beautiful, even in its wretched state. Gosh, I wish I had a millions to renovate it :-)
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Scs100
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Username: Scs100

Post Number: 379
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 10:40 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

This wasn't the exact site, but it does give a good perspective as to what the building looks like.
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Detroitplanner
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Username: Detroitplanner

Post Number: 876
Registered: 04-2006
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 11:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

History?

Back in 1970 I used to take the bus to it to visit my dentist. I attended one of the first Jazz festival's concert in its lobby. The acoustics sucked.

David Whitney was a lumber baron. The architect was Daniel Burnham; who is known for creating the White City for the Chicago Expo; and doing the first comprehensive City Plan; a work that gave Chicago its current lakefront as well as neighborhood parks.

It was primirally a building for medical professionals in the 1970's. I'm not sure if it was built for that though. It had a vey busy pharmacy on the first floor; as well as a Capper and Capper fine men's store.

In the 80's it became home to many small businesses; and was an incubator for many black businesses. In the 90's it was home to art galleries and the first Pure Detroit store.

(Message edited by Detroitplanner on January 29, 2007)
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Hysteria
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Username: Hysteria

Post Number: 2318
Registered: 02-2006
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 11:35 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

quote:

The architect was Daniel Burnham; who is known for creating the White City for the Chicago Expo



Hey Planner, have you read 'Devil in the White City"? If not, pick it up - the author is Erik Larson. It's a great read.

http://www.randomhouse.com/cro wn/devilinthewhitecity/home.ht ml
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Andylinn
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Username: Andylinn

Post Number: 306
Registered: 04-2006
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 11:37 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

the first couple of floors still have power. there are some bums living there, with tv sets and space heaters. quote the bums "the cheapest loft living in the city"
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Everydayislikesunday
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Username: Everydayislikesunday

Post Number: 296
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 11:58 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

i was told that one of the reasons this building is in such "good" shape (for a building that has been abandoned for x amount of years) is that it has been climate controlled over the years; especially in the winter to prevent pipes busting, water leaks, etc.
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Southen
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Username: Southen

Post Number: 91
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 12:36 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Its not in that great of shape anymore. Since the summer its been open and scrappers and vandals have been able to enter almost at will.
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Lmichigan
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Username: Lmichigan

Post Number: 5069
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 1:22 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Since no one has said much of the history, I believe it was built as a speculative office building, and for David Charles Whitney, who was the son of David Whitney, who I think was a lumber barren in the late 1800's in Detroit.

The cornice was removed in 1959, and the building was largely vacant by the 70's, I think. Otherwise, the building does look newer than its birthdate: 1916. It must have look very modern, and even slightly futuristic, at the time.

It's currently owned by Becker Ventures (http://www.becker-ventures.com /) of Troy, Michigan who don't seem very active (as of late, anyway) in trying to get the building up and running again.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 3520
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 1:39 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The David Whitney Building, along with the Michigan Mutual Building across the park from it, as well as the United Artists Building were all modernized in the mid 20th Century. Not sure about the date.

Michigan Mutual had a real fancy wedding cake top with 4 corner pavilions, similar to the Book Cadillac, but thinner.

The David Whitney Building (as I'm looking at the W. Hawkins Ferry Book) had that "ruffled" top reminiscent of the Lafayette Building. And in the middle of the GCP facade there was a large medallion on a raised pedistal at the top. There were also Grecian Urn type decorations 4 stories below that. And a fancy cornce above the 5th floor.

All these items were long ago stripped from the building giving it a much more modern look than what Daniel Burnham designed in 1915.
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Royce
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Username: Royce

Post Number: 2028
Registered: 07-2004
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 1:40 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

This building should be the next building that the city saves after the BC. Could you imagine what that corner would look like if this building was torn down?
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Lmichigan
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Username: Lmichigan

Post Number: 5072
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 1:54 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gistok, read my post; the cornice, at least, was taken down in 1959.

The building is still in far to great of shape to even warrant talk of demolition, even with it being opened, as of late.
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Bob
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Username: Bob

Post Number: 1319
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 8:57 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I thought there was a security guard that lived in the David Whitney.
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Spiritofdetroit
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Username: Spiritofdetroit

Post Number: 199
Registered: 11-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 12:39 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

There is.
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Wash_man
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Username: Wash_man

Post Number: 314
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 12:58 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

lmichigan is correct that the building is owned by Becker Ventures. They are heavily invested in Hard Rock Hotels. I attached one article about their involvement. Many others can be found via google. Could that be the future use of the building?
http://www.hotel-online.com/Ne ws/PR2004_3rd/Jul04_ParamountN YC.html
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Southen
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Username: Southen

Post Number: 92
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 1:14 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I was under the impression the security guard was let go beginning of summer. If there is one hes doing a lousy job, I walked in there without a problem.
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Burnsie
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Username: Burnsie

Post Number: 840
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 1:35 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The David Whitney had extensive amounts of ornament stripped from many parts of the facade, beyond even what Gistok detailed. I don't have a photo on hand at the moment, but a search of eBay should turn up various postcard views of how it used to look.
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Kathleen
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Username: Kathleen

Post Number: 1890
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 1:38 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I remember going to the David Whitney Building in 1974 to go to the Craine Studio offices to place the order for my senior class photos. And, through 1978 or '79, went to my dentist there. Wish I had been into taking photos back then!!

More recently, Pure Detroit had their first store in the David Whitney Building...how many years ago was that?
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Spiritofdetroit
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Username: Spiritofdetroit

Post Number: 201
Registered: 11-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 1:40 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Southen, you could be right, although I do know that he was there throughout much of the summer at least.
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Detroitplanner
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Username: Detroitplanner

Post Number: 884
Registered: 04-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 2:19 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Kathleen see my post and smile!
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Bob
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Username: Bob

Post Number: 1321
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 2:20 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I know sometime in the near future they are supposed to rebuild the DPM station so it is no longer attached to the Whitney Building and ADA compliant.
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Southen
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Username: Southen

Post Number: 93
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 3:09 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I think the fact that its attached to the buildings fantastic lobby would be an asset for redevelopment. Retail in the building would have a better chance of succeeding with direct PM access, especially during the winter months. Plus, since I believe its only possible use is residential, it could be a selling point for people looking for downtown living.
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Lmichigan
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Username: Lmichigan

Post Number: 5073
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 8:02 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I really don't see it as residential, at least not residential on its own. It would make a perfect office building, again, if the office market ever came back up. But, outside of that, it would make a great hotel, especially considering the atrium. The best use would be mixed use, but residential alone doesn't seem like it would work, at all.
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Spiritofdetroit
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Username: Spiritofdetroit

Post Number: 205
Registered: 11-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 9:20 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

People Mover work was originally to begin September....2006....oops
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Opus
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Username: Opus

Post Number: 31
Registered: 08-2005
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 9:51 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Here is a fairly detailed post about the Whitney.
http://www.detroitblog.org/?p= 213
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Southen
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Username: Southen

Post Number: 94
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 10:54 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Well I see the first three floors which make up the lobby being a combination of retail and offices. Retail likely on the ground floor and offices on 2-3. Much like what they decided to do with the Broderick. I just dont see much appeal in terms of office space. With the light court I dont see it drawing a lot of tenants. i do think that it could be good for residential with the halls surrounding the light court. Just my opinion though.
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Milwaukee
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Username: Milwaukee

Post Number: 679
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 11:15 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hotel possibility or is it just not set up for that kind of use?
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Southen
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Username: Southen

Post Number: 96
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Monday, January 29, 2007 - 11:22 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

It definitely could be used for that but downtown is going to see an influx of rooms very soon. There was a proposal awhile back for a hotel I believe. Or at least I saw some sort of rendering.
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Mcwalbucksnfitch
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Username: Mcwalbucksnfitch

Post Number: 38
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 1:42 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I can confirm that the security guard was certainly not there in July or August

As for the design, I am particularly a fan of the A-Shape. I wrote a feasibility schedule for a course a while back on the efficiency of it, if used correctly.e

The A-Shape design supports Hotel/Residential the best in my opinion, followed by office. With the Light court, you have more egress, which helps lift the codes on the freedom you have with interior design a bit. It also cuts down on unused/unneeded space that is required to be climate controlled, lit, and have water service. Personally, I think that for all intents and purposes, the David Whitney could be resurrected best as Mid-Scale lofts from floors 5-18, with offices on 2-4 and ground floor retail...in accordance with what Southen said.

The selling appeal of the DW is extremely great, with natural amenities such as living on the park, direct transportation access, and within walking distance to the stadia and Campus Martius.
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Citylover
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Username: Citylover

Post Number: 2079
Registered: 07-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 7:30 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

If we are to believe Lowell and Sport and a few others Detroit is going thru this great transformation.So where are the developers of the Whitney? A grand bldg in the middle of it all and it sits empty and available to any old person that wanders in......... Some transformation!
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Southen
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Username: Southen

Post Number: 98
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 8:22 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Cant do anything if the owner doesnt want to. They havent shown an interest at this point but in the future downtown development will reach a point where they will HAVE to do something with it.
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Kathleen
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Username: Kathleen

Post Number: 1891
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 8:41 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hey Detroitplanner! I did see your post with the David Whitney background, and mentions of the your dentist and Pure Detroit!

Did we share a dentist? Mine was Dr. Jerome Rochon, who also had offices on the east side on Harper between Morang and Moross. I started seeing him when I was in grade school and later became good friends with one of his daughters when we attended Bishop Gallagher H.S.

(Message edited by Kathleen on January 30, 2007)
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E_hemingway
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Username: E_hemingway

Post Number: 1048
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 8:45 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I have also heard the stories of owner apathy in regards to redevelopment from a couple of different, yet informed sources. The city really can't do anything because the management company keeps it heated and attempts to keep it secure.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 3536
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 11:39 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Kathleen, talk about a blast from the past. I too had Dr. Rochon at the Chester Clinic back in the early 1960's. I was in his dental chair when I found out President Kennedy was assassinated.

I found him to be the most child unfriendly dentist I have ever known. He was responsible for instilling my fear of dentists! Hated him!!
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Kathleen
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Username: Kathleen

Post Number: 1893
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 12:57 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Interesting, Gistok!! I never had a problem with Dr. Rochon. I thought he was a pretty nice guy. In fact, he filled many, many cavities in my mouth (yes, I chewed gum all the time...and back then, sugarless gum wasn't an option) and he did it without the use of novocaine or gas. To this day, I don't use any painkillers for fillings; only when they are pulling a tooth or doing a crown or root canal.
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Detroitplanner
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Username: Detroitplanner

Post Number: 890
Registered: 04-2006
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 1:01 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Sorry my dentist's name was Hawthorne.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 3540
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 2:24 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Kathleen, maybe that was it.... no novocaine, no gas.... now I know why I disliked him... THE PAIN!!!! :-(

"Gas me up, Scotty!"

(Message edited by Gistok on January 30, 2007)
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Cambrian
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Username: Cambrian

Post Number: 542
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 2:25 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

My dad had his law office there. He moved the practice to Sfld in 1984. He was having too hard a time getting clients come to see him in Detroit. The neighborhood is lots better now then it was then. I park there all the time and use the people mover frequently. Back in the early 80s there were lots more bums milling about. My folks had their car windows smashed a few times. I recalled going to work with dad on Saturdays and when we pulled up to park near the trolley station the whinos would be checking the car doors on the parked vehicles to see if one was unlocked. I recall the Adams theater always had the good B horror movies, and the hobby shop in that recently demo'd building was still open, sorry can't recall the name. I think he was on the 12th floor, facing Woodward. Watching the Thanksgiving parade from his office was the best!
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 3541
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 2:28 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

It's interesting to see that both the Broderick Tower and the Whitney Building were full of professionals... doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants.
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Milwaukee
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Username: Milwaukee

Post Number: 685
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 2:48 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I bet there is a great view from the upper floors facing downtown. I love how the building looks when you look up Woodward. If I could find a job in Detroit and the Whitney building was being made into lofts, I'd try to get one of those looking down Woodward.
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Dialh4hipster
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Username: Dialh4hipster

Post Number: 1910
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Thursday, February 01, 2007 - 6:07 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Kales Building was also full of professionals, lots of doctors. My grandfather had his practice on two floors there.
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Andysrc
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Username: Andysrc

Post Number: 154
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Thursday, February 01, 2007 - 8:14 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Count my dad as another whose dentist was in the Whitney building when he was a kid. This was probably in 1955 or so. He mentions it when he's in town and we pass the building heading to a Tigers game.

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