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Time And Detroit …

March 2023
1min read

The photograph above, of a Detroit street scene in 1910, became an immediate favorite of ours when we turned it up for an article about banking in the April 1984 issue. Later, a staff member who grew up in Detroit glanced at the picture and recognized the location and the bank building itself. Built in 1900, the People’s State Bank of Detroit was the first and, as it turned out, only example of the work of McKim, Mead, and White in the city, occupying a prime location at the corner of Shelby and Fort. Here, in the central business district, on the site of eighteenth-century Detroit, archeologists recently uncovered timbers of the British-built Fort Lernoult. Upon discovering that the bank building still stood, we started wondering how this same spot might appear today. A photographer was dispatched to the scene, and the results appear at right.

There have been some changes; whereas in 1910 the building occupied an area of 100 by 158 feet, a cleverly matching extension completed five years later doubled the space, creating one of the largest banking offices in the country. Another office building has sprouted behind the bank. And the handsome Hiram Walker residence, its porch just visible across the street in the 1910 view, was razed in 1926 to make room for a Federal Reserve Bank branch. Another federal building, not seen in this picture, has risen on the opposite corner; its exceptionally high first-floor window provided a good vantage for our photographer as he went about duplicating the scene.

Today the People’s Bank building serves as world headquarters for an office supply company. Although it was entered on the National Historic Register in 1982, lately there has been talk of erecting a twenty-five-story addition above it. Fortunately, for those of us who like to find some evidence of “then” in a “then and now” feature, that plan seems to have gone aglimmering.

Built in 1900, the People’s Bank later gained a cleverly matching extension that doubled the space.

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