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Washington Boulevard

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1805–1807, 1915–present. Four blocks of Washington Blvd. between Michigan Ave. and Grand Circus Park

Inspired by the City Beautiful movement and the 1915 plan for Detroit made by Edward H. Bennett of Chicago after he and Daniel H. Burnham visited the city, Washington Boulevard (originally laid out in the Woodward plan, 1805–1807) was transformed between 1916 and 1930 from a deteriorating residential street to an exclusive shopping district. It is equal to the world's loveliest thoroughfares. It was realized by the dreams, plans, and actions of J. Burgess Book Jr. and his brothers Herbert and Frank Book, real estate speculators, who eventually held 60 percent of the property. Their architect, Louis Kamper (1861–1953), a German-born and -trained Detroit practitioner, had worked in the office of McKim, Mead and White. Kamper designed five of the buildings on Washington Boulevard. Initiating the project was the limestone-faced Book Building (1917; 1249 Washington Boulevard). Kamper intended its rather eccentric version of Academic Classicism and handsome, open, three-story lobby with fancy elevator cabs “to attract tenants in a high-class shopping and office district.” The thirty-six-story Book Tower (1926; 1265 Washington Boulevard) addition to the Book Building, also by Kamper, conforms in design and decoration with the original building. Along the boulevard to the north, the vista terminates with the neo-Gothic Fyfe Shoe Store building (1919, Smith, Hinchman and Grylls) and the spired Gothic Revival Central Methodist Episcopal Church (1866–1867, Gordon W. Lloyd); to the south the vista focuses on the Detroit Free Press Building (1923, Albert Kahn). The environmental sculpture (1976–1977) by Gino Rossetti, installed as the boulevard was being converted, in part, to a pedestrian mall, has been removed and the boulevard restored to its early-twentieth-century state.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Washington Boulevard", [Detroit, 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, 66-67.

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