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Book-Cadillac Hotel

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Book-Cadillac Hotel

the Second Ever MEGA THREAD

By somestyle & Future Architect


When E.M. Statler opened his new hotel at the foot of Washington Blvd. in 1915 the Book brothers J.B., Herbert, and Frank were no doubt both pleased and jealous. They had a vision for Washington Blvd. that it would become the "5th Avenue of the West." The Books planned to accomplish this feat with the construction of a series of new buildings along the thoroughfare filled with fine offices and shops. The crown jewel would be a grand hotel to compete with the Statler.

In 1917 the Book's purchased the old Cadillac Hotel at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Blvd. However, the First World War made materials for new construction hard to obtain. Thus the Books had their architect, Alvin E. Harley, renovate the old Cadillac for $60,000. It was a temporary fix. By 1923 the old hotel was gone and work had begun on the Book-Cadillac.

(old Cadillac Hotel)


For the new project the Books hired their favorite architect Louis Kamper. Though an established architect, Kamper had little experience designing hotels. To gain a knowledge of hotel layout he studied the Statler Hotels in Detroit and New York among others. He had plenty of knowledge for decoration and choose an elaborate Venetian style of the Italian Renaissance. He gave the lower five floors of the exterior a facing of stone. The ground floor which was given over entirely to shops had ornate metal storefronts. Above these were tall arched windows set between massive pilasters. The upper floors created a 'shaft' of simple brick occasionally relieved by a band of stone. Above a ornate cornice rose three copper terraces. These terraces gave the hotel a unique profile. This was a common practice for the time as architects sought ways to make their buildings stand out. Not matter which angle you saw it from, the Book-Cadillac was a dramatic addition to the city's skyline.

(new Book-Cadillac Hotel)


The interiors were equally impressive. The Book-Cadillac featured five floors of grand public rooms and shops. Among the amenities were large lounges, three dining rooms, a coffee shop, three unique and functional ballrooms, and a tea room. They were the most richly decorated interiors found in any Detroit hotel.

(lobby of Book-Cadillac Hotel)


All told, the Book-Cadillac was a massive construction project which required 2 years of planning. At 33 floors it was both the tallest building in Detroit and the tallest hotel in the world. This no doubt being the reason that the top floor had a radio station, WCX. The hotel had a total of 1136 guest rooms There were 1035 bedrooms, 54 sitting rooms, 8 alcove rooms, and 38 sample rooms. The silver service contained 50,000 pieces. Three basement levels contained the most modern boilers and laundry facilities of the time. The total cost of construction exceeded $14,000,000.

The Book-Cadillac enjoyed success for 6 years. However, with the onset of the Great Depression the situation began to sour for the hotel. The great ambitions of the Book brothers were cut short, a massive 81 story Book Tower would never be built. By 1931 the hotel was forced into receivership and ultimately changed hands twice in only twenty years. For a time it was controlled by Ralph Hitz's hotel organization. A chain renowned for the attentiveness of its service.To remain competitive in these lean times much of the public room decor was redone in the late 1930's.

In 1951 the hotel was purchased by the Sheraton Corporation for $6 million. Sheraton went about modernizing their newly acquired hotel. The grand staircase on Washington Blvd. was replaced by a duel escalator setup and the lobby was converted to a "ketchup and mustard horror." Only the ballrooms and Italian Garden were left untouched. The renovations did the trick and during the 50's and 60's the hotel was a top money maker for the company.

In 1975 the hotel was sold to experienced hotel operator Herbert Weissberg. Weissberg announced major renovations that would attempt to bring back some historic character to the building, which he renamed the Detroit-Cadillac. Despite economic successes Weissberg lost control of the hotel when the banks foreclosed. The Radisson Corporation was called in to supervise another $6 million worth or renovations and then operate the hotel afterwards. It was now the Radisson-Cadillac and the renovations were extensive. .

The old lobby was redone with new marble, wood, and maroon wallpaper. Hanging from its ceiling were chandeliers from the Cadillac's old rival, the Detroit Heritage(Statler). It now served as a restaurant connected to the cafe which became the Palm Room. The new lobby also received maroon wallpaper and wood paneling. While the overall appearance was an improvement, it failed to fully capture the atmosphere of the hotel's glory days. The hotel's fortunes did not improve and it changed hands several times in 5 years. However, part of its old self did reemerge in this time, it was once again the Book-Cadillac Hotel.

Operating losses skyrocketed in the late 70's and by 1979 it was announced that the hotel would close. Not wanting to see another hotel close, have the city lose needed hotel rooms, and lose face in the coming Republican National Convention, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation rescued the hotel. Now operated by a partnership called Book-Cadillac Properties the hotel was on a limited reprieve.

In 1983 it was decided a way had to be found to make the building self-supporting and, gasp, profitable. Thus was born the Book-Cadillac Plaza. That it did in late 1984. The shops on the arcade remained open as did a few offices but the bulk of the building was now unused. Soon developers dropped out. One after another they signed on then abandoned the project citing economic conditions. Adding to the trouble were skyrocketing cost of renovation. 15 months passed and still the hotel sat empty.

Finally in 1986 the building was liquidated. Furniture, fixtures, china, silver service, it was all sold off. With the hotel portion now truly empty the Book-Cadillac Plaza scheme was scuttled. The last businesses left their arcade home. Boards went up. The Book-Cadillac joined the list of abandoned buildings.

In 1993 Coleman Young attempted to get money to demolish the building(as a follow up of the 1992 Tuller Hotel demolition?) Clearly this never materialized. In early 1999 the hotel once again became the subject of the city's attention. This time in an effort by the city to gain control of the facility. As of 2003 the Book-Cadillac was under renovation.

(here are some photo's of the Book-Cadillac Hotel as of today)








some writing done by Furture Architect photo's by somestyle

The information we found on the Book-Cadillac Hotel

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The renovtation work on the hotel was stopped last month because of a budget shortfall. However, I have heard that the buget issues are close to being resolved, and that construction will resume on January 5th :)

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Actually most of Detroit's Grand Old Hotels are still standing....they all just need to be fixed up a LOT. They're all sitting there rotting & decaying to nothing, or awaiting restoration.

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Thanks for the great thread. A very nice building with an interesting history. Sheraton hotels (now part of candelwood I think) is based in Boston. So that's where the decision for the putrid color scheme likely came from. I hope they can get this renovated and I hope Detroit can make a real comeback. It's amazing how the US has let its grand cities decay. I hate to think what Atlanta and Dallas might look like in 100 years if people keep abandoning places for cheaper land and labor.

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I hate to think what Atlanta and Dallas might look like in 100 years if people keep abandoning places for cheaper land and labor.

Just as long as they don't continue to sprawl at their current rates. Avoid Sprawl, Build Up!!

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