One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

You Know You're in Detroit When...

The city's heat wave is keeping my family and I indoors – whether it is watching too much TV or making endless Lego inventions. So, today, we ended up just driving around with the AC on high.

To that end, I present to you…My favorite Detroit landmarks. Here's my top five. Please add to the list!

Oh, and one more thing I love about Detroit: Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus (Gabriel Richard).

1. The Michigan Central Depot train station. 'Nuff said.

Steve Savich

2. Spirit of Detroit: Love this epic statue by local sculptor Marshall Fredericks. The great man lived and worked here for decades. It's one of many in the area, including the Detroit Zoo fountain with the polar bears and the giant one in front of the Royal Oak library that I passed daily when I lived there. Another favorite is the Lion and the Mouse at Eastland Mall. Find me at a local watering hole, and I'll tell you the story about how the mouse disappeared – and reappeared recently.

Steve Savich

3. Belle Isle fountain: Its true name is the Scott Memorial Fountain. Its white marble, huge diameter and spectacular sprays make this island landmark a gem. It is as glorious as any you will find in Chicago or New York.

4. Joe Louis fist: My friend Jim puts it best. “Supporters laud its symbolism of Detroit's toughness, working class roots and the patriotic iron fist of a Black American Detroit-born hero who fired the first shot against Nazism - elevating his race in the process - when Joe Louis pummeled Max Schmeling in the late 1930s.”

Steve Savich

5. Kern's Clock: When my mom lived downtown back in the day, friends often planned to meet under this famous clock. Proud to say I know the guy who fixed it up (Hey, Malcolm!), and it now resides near Campus Martius and the Compuware headquarters.

Steve Savich


And I'd be remiss without adding these words from my friend, James. “Not all technically landmarks, but: That point on southbound I-75 north of 94 ramp when church's three steeples (not sure which church) appears in foreground superimposed over the RenCen--and exactly reflecting its outline. View from northbound I-75 over Rouge. Theatre Bizarre. View from the Book-Cadillac. Avalon Bakery cookies, which is kids' favorite alongside Belle Isle playground and conservatory. The Fox. Whichever room my roommate's dog is napping in at the moment. A museum district a relative stone's throw from affordable housing.”

  • Print
  • Comment
Comments (8)
Post a Comment »
  • 1

    Here's my 2c...

    The Hudson's Building... yup, we mounted an effort to save it and Coleman backed off. Could have been the world's greatest Automotive museum and Archival Center. The Skillman Library could have been a part of that effort and there were some wonderful people who worked on that effort. Kathy Wendler, Debbie Goldstein, etc.

    Archer knew best... NOT! What a waste. but I can go down there and sit on those cackamamie stub columns and remember it in full glory. Keep thinking that all those demolition dummies should have plaster busts made and plunk them on top of those columns.

    The Fisher Building... the book on skyscrapers ignored the most lavish and beautiful skyscraper in America. Absolutely Nothing in America in that period can compare. Almost can hear JP dragging in late for work.

    The Book Building. Unbelievable eclectic Beaux Arts revivalism. Bare breasted caryatids, Chateau in the sky. Really a magnificent contribution to the city and it adds so much character.

    Tiger Stadium. Yup Rick Ruffner loved that baby and was about to make some great things happen, except for some dolts in City Government and excusists in the press. Knowing Rick, it would have been great!

    The Guardian Building... has that early 20c modernism.. great setting for Metropolis.

    The Mackenzie House. I wrote to two Presidents of WSU about maintaining it properly. They both promised. The recent one had an "official" write a letter about the expenses. She knows nothing about restoration. That Restoration was magnificent and they have not properly maintained it at all which makes it an insult to Preservation Wayne who worked so hard to save and restore it. And Bill Colburn, Mariln Florek and Alan were great and it was promoted by Louis Cook the very clever editorialist who loved Detroit. It was the harbinger of the white return to the City,.

    The Calder which sits down on Michigan Avenue at the base of the Bell Telephone building. No, they did not move it up to the Art Institute. Isn't interesting how we now have sculpture messes clustered here and there.

    Joe's Fist is symbolic and great but they ought to get rid of that damned pyramidal hanging thingy. It should erupt from the earth at a jaunty angle.

    In the inverse, that hideous plunk of concrete on top of the grassy knoll down by Ford Field and I75. Get that out of there and have someone do a giant Ford wrench. Yeah, I know that you don't know what I'm talkin'bout.

    That huge circular Sculpture down on Jefferson needs to be welded together at the top, otherwise it remains a symbol of the successful effort to break the unions by the Necrotic Nazis. It jus' ain't a symbol of solidarity that way. Better yet, move it on down in front of the Union Building unless they are ashamed of it. Let the Noguchi work be untroubled and clean it up.

    You have to honor the effort to Restore the Book Cacillac... really great to see it alive again.

    And Phwew, Washington Boulevard finally got restored. Gino's red light bar was absolutely stupid and hideous. Amazing that he got work after that.

    Skidmore's reworking of Ren Cen is quite nice. I suggested to Pete Heftley that he should have hired them in the first place. Portman is so deficient.

    The Restoration work on the old County building was a bit daft with the pearlescent windows. Can't call that a restoration, fix-up? Mebbie.

    You really have to give Mr. Cullen an awful lot of Credit!
    He has effected so many greatthings... Probably should make him the head City Planner... he does get good things done. And the landscape in front of Ren Cen is magnificent.

    You have to give Charlie Blessing great things by conceiving the Detroit Medical center and the new Dingy Baby Veteran's Hospital is beautiful

    You also have to give Great Credit to the Thompson/Ross efforts and Francis Recendes for those beautiful new schools created at fair prices, not glutenous overcharges. Francis is the new Kess.

    I think that you have to give credit to an awful lot of wonderful people who have loved this city and who have sought to make it special and not demolish every damned thing.


  • 2

    Ok, should have proofed it... Pierre Heftler, the Boss of Bodman who was involved in everything from the geodesic dome over the Rotunda, to the Edsel and Eleanor Ford house, to Ren Cen. He talked Henry into it.
    He was fun too.

    Blessing should get Credit. We haven't had a fine Architect-planner like him since he retired. Everyday political types simply don't have what it takes. They ain't got vision.

    Maybe the Ford Wrench should have a highly polished stainless steel bean in it's jaws.


  • 3


    Super post ..I am in awe..Thanks!!!!

  • 4

    The Belle Isle fountain is one of my favorites. I have photographs of my parents kissing in front of that fountain on their wedding day near the end of WW II, Dad in white tie and tails, Mom in a wedding gown fit for a queen. They were both working-class children of immigrants, but they looked like they'd just stepped off a movie set.

    The Guardian building, which is spectacular on the outside, but far more so on the inside, with what I'd guess is more Pewabic tile than all the homes in Indian Village combined. My grandfather worked on the building's construction, and his name is on a commemorative plaque that was mounted on a wall in the lobby until it was removed during a renovation.

    The DIA, where you're greeted at the front entrance by The Thinker and welcomed into a billion-dollar art collection. Yes, BILLION.

  • 5

    My choices for Detroit Landmarks are:

    1. Russell Industrial Center. Noteworthy because they have recycled this once derelict complex and have turned it into a growing and vibrant center to artistic expression here in Detroit. A sign of hope and things to come. North East of the I-94 and I-75 intersection. Driving down I-75 this Albert Kahn factory complex rises up. In it's current re-born operations, it is home to a burgeoning art focused community. Artists, Glass Blowers, Sculptors, Photographers, Graphics, Architects, Stone workers and now with a weekend retail component called the Russell Bazaar.
    2. Eastern Market. This thriving commerce center continues to be a positive draw for great produce and agri-related products.
    3. Detroit's River Front Walk area. This has got to be one of Detroit's most understated gems. It may have taken forever to get this far on the development, but WOW! It's beautiful, fresh and a great place to go for a walk in the park with stunning scenic views.

    Many other good ones have already been mentioned. But to me a landmark is one that give back and helps you grow.

    • 5.1

      Since you mention the Riverfront Walk (and I'm glad you did), let's not forget the sculpture commemorating Detroit as a last stop on the underground railroad during the era of slavery. It may not be as visually striking as some of the others on this cumulative list, but its significance in history more than makes up for that.

      Which also speaks to your final comment that "a landmark is one that give back and helps you grow."

  • 6

    Thinking this over last night brought back some memories from my High School years and earlier.

    There was a classy restaurant in a building across from Hudson's on the North side... it was called the Waterfall restaurant. It had a very large Art Deco glass piece that was sculpted and frosted and back lit... it must have been 12 feet across and water poured down over it's face and it gurgled in the collecting base that I think was black marble.

    As a child being taken there by my Mother, I was in awe... white linen tablecloths and white gloves and hat with veil and all. Pretty snaz.

    As I grew into HS there was a little magic shop in the Tuller Hotel that had an entrance off of the sidewalk and a few steps down... oh the wonder of those tricks.

    Fifes Shoe store was something else... 8 or so floors of shoes. Each time the elevator door opened it was a different world.

    That's where I bought my blue suede shoes.
    Don'tcha dare!

    And There was SS Kresge and Kinsel's and Griswold Sporting Goods with tools in the basement. Tom Monahagn has a neat painting of that section of town.

    Washington Boulevard was something else... Sommerset with rain and snow.

    I think that we should include the Highland Park Library.
    That was a national Architectural Award winner. Neat building and some dufus character painted over the faux marble columns with dark green enamel.

    Needs a new hedge plus the internet. I hope no one stole the beautiful doors.

    Neat places, maybe not all monuments but great memories.

    Adler Schnee was great too.


    • 6.1

      Bill - Pierre Heftler (I think!) was my grandfather's brother. How did you come to know him so well? If we're speaking of the same person (my family was very integrated in Detroit automotive circles) could we connect on the subject?

Add Your Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.
The Detroit Blog Daily E-mail

Get e-mail updates from TIME's The Detroit Blog in your inbox and never miss a day.

More News from Our Partners

Quotes of the Day »

NICHOLAS FISHER, expert at Stony Brook University in New York who took part in a study which found that bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi were present off the coast of California just five months after the nuclear meltdown.