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Desenberg Block

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1885–1887, Adler and Sullivan. 251 E. Michigan Ave.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

The Desenberg Block is one of the few extant Adler and Sullivan buildings outside of Chicago. It contains much of the organic and geometric ornamentation from a critical stage in the development of Louis Sullivan's mature style. By 1882, the firm had built the Academy of Music in Kalamazoo, an acoustically and visually successful building that has been demolished. The academy preceded the construction of one of the firm's best-known buildings, the Auditorium Theater and Hotel (1885–1887) in Chicago. Thus, Adler and Sullivan's reputation was solidly established when Bernhard Desenberg approached them to build offices for his wholesale grocery business on the main commercial street of Kalamazoo. The ornament of the three-story block echoes Byzantine and Russian ornament. The cornice, the slender piers terminating in turretlike pinnacles, and the decorative bands between the third-floor windows are reminiscent, too, of Burnham and Root's Rookery Building, erected in Chicago in 1886, and the ornaments resemble those in Sullivan's other buildings of the early and mid-1880s. The impact of Sullivan and the Chicago School was felt in this small midwestern city.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Desenberg Block", [Kalamazoo, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 217-217.

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