Cover

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Title Page, Series Page, Dedication, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

Architectural Terms Illustrated

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pp. vii-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xii

“They don’t build ’em like they used to” was a comment I often heard when photographing Detroit’s Guardian or Penobscot Buildings. Implicit in the comment is the view that buildings dating from the 1920s command a certain admiration, and even fascination, in part, owing to the luxurious materials that compose the structures. But...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-10

“It can’t be quite right,” wrote Florence Davies, art critic for the Detroit News, in a 1928 article quoting a typical reaction to the orange, forty-story building rising at Griswold and Congress Streets in Detroit’s financial district. “‘Do you like it?’ is a question one hears on the street, and in the studios of Detroit artists, often with a good deal of doubt implied in...

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1. Working for “The Dean”

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pp. 11-28

Rowland arrived in Detroit in March 1901, working first for Rogers and MacFarlane, a consequential architecture firm that later designed the massive United States Tire Company (Uniroyal) plant in Detroit on East Jefferson Avenue at Grand Boulevard.1 Rowland became fast friends with the firm’s sole draftsman, H. Augustus “Gus” O’Dell (1875–1965).2 In May...

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2. Back to Schools

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pp. 29-66

Albert Kahn, after leaving the partnership with Mason in 1902, opened his own firm, hiring designer Ernest Wilby (1868–1957) the following year.1 Business grew rapidly, in large part due to the firm’s early mastery of steel reinforced concrete construction methods. The explosive growth of Detroit’s auto industry fueled the expansion of Kahn’s firm as...

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3. The City’s Top Designer

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pp. 67-96

World War I began in July 1914, and, as fighting continued unabated, many believed the United States would eventually be drawn into the conflict. The nation was woefully unprepared to intervene in Europe, or even defend itself against aggression; the US Army, with 100,000 in uniform, compared poorly with the German army’s more than 1.5 million...

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4. Columns of Stone, Columns of Words

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pp. 97-116

With the war’s end, government work in Kahn’s office was quickly wrapped up. Almost immediately, two enormous projects were begun: a headquarters for the General Motors Corporation and an office building with bank for First National Bank of Detroit. When completed in 1923, the General Motors headquarters was the second-largest building in the...

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5. New Work, New Freedoms

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pp. 117-164

1922 was a pivotal year in Wirt Rowland’s career. His designs for numerous significant buildings, including the massive General Motors headquarters, placed him among the most experienced and accomplished architects in the world. Yet as other gifted architects were developing new and less traditional building designs, the restrictions imposed in Kahn’s...

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6. A Breakthrough

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pp. 165-200

Between 1923 and 1925, Rowland made significant headway in his effort to develop a uniquely American design for the skyscraper. His ideas evolved from the Buhl Building, the design for which was completed in November 1923, to the Grand Rapids Trust Building, designed during the summer of 1925. Instead of the prominent piers and corner pylons...

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7. Two Kings of Griswold Street

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pp. 201-266

“The building shrieks color,” and the color of the Union Trust was achieved by the use of colored materials rather than by applying the color to the building’s surface (as with paint). In the lobby, for example, Rowland wished to have a band of black along the base of the wall with a deep blood red above, which he accomplished by using Belgian...

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8. End of the Round Arch

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pp. 267-312

The Union Trust and Penobscot Buildings represent Rowland’s successful development of a modern American style of architecture, and positioned him at the forefront of his field. These were profoundly innovative creations and, though differing in appearance, were derived by Rowland through application of the same fundamental design principles. The Penobscot...

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9. Aftershocks

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pp. 313-338

Rowland’s designs for the Union Trust and Penobscot were widely influential, though determining the extent of his influence presents obvious difficulties. Perhaps the greatest being that so few buildings were constructed during the 1930s, the period when Rowland’s influence would have been most visible.
In 1934, Talmage C. Hughes, an accomplished Detroit...

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10. A Great Depression

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pp. 339-364

As the decade of the 1930s began, so too did a new and markedly different phase of Rowland’s life. The frenetic pace of design work that characterized the preceding years was at an end, and with more time on his hands, Rowland threw himself into other pursuits that served as an outlet for his creative energies. Although he produced many fewer buildings, Rowland’s...

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11. Church and State

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pp. 365-404

For O’Dell and Rowland, 1934 saw a distinct increase in architectural work over prior years, with projects coming from throughout the state. The firm was hired to remodel the Blake Building in Grand Rapids, design a single-story store in Bad Axe, and prepare plans for a rustic resort. The resort building was located within the Canada Creek Ranch...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 405-406

I am deeply appreciative to many individuals who made this book possible, beginning with Thomas Holleman. While an employee of Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls, he cowrote with James Gallagher in 1978 Smith, Hinchman & Grylls: 125 Years of Architecture and Engineering, 1853–1978, the most important source of information on Rowland’s work with the firm...

Appendixes

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pp. 406-407

1. Published Works by Wirt Rowland

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pp. 407-408

2. Essential Reading

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pp. 409-410

3. Further Reading

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pp. 411-412

Tables

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pp. 412-413

1. Selected Jobs, 1912–17: Malcomson and Higginbotham

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p. 413

2. Selected Jobs, 1910–22: Albert Kahn, Architects and Engineers

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pp. 414-415

3. Selected Jobs, 1922–30: Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls

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pp. 416-420

Notes

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pp. 421-466

Bibliography

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pp. 467-478

Index

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pp. 479-498