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walker

321 W. Lafayette

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I don't know if anyone reads the Detroit forum anymore, I'm still waiting for ZachariahDaMan to post the pictures from his UP trip last year. But if someone is out there I thought I'd mention this new plan to rehab the long empty old Free Press building:

321 Lafayette

This is one of my favorite Albert Kahn buildings. It's not a favorite because it is his most important building but rather because I used to work in it. If you count up to the tenth floor and look at the middle window on the left, you'd be looking in the window that I would look out.

Even if Detroit had any kind of robust downtown real estate market, this property would be problematic. The Fisher and old GM buildings not withstanding, Kahn was most known for building factories and the old Free Press building despite its appearance as an office building, is mostly designed to be a factory for printing newspapers. Once you get past the small lobby and elevators, the first floor and the basement and sub-basement were the home to the large rotary presses and Linotype machinery where the paper was printed. Other than as indoor parking, as they propose, this space isn't very practical unless you are going to publish a nineteen-thirties technology newspaper.

Here's a story; when I worked there decades ago there were a few people who used to feed the pigeons by throwing scraps of food out the back windows. These weren't bird lovers, nobody much cared for the pigeons. The reason they fed them was because a handful of the most important executives had parking spaces behind the building and by feeding the pigeons, the pigeons would congregate and leave their calling cards on the cars below. Sort of the classic Detroit management/labor guerrilla war.

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I meant to post this, the Free Press Building is a beauty.

I regularly check the forum and go to take pictures in Detroit. I took so many pictures in the UP I didn't get to posting them but I will try to soon.

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I don't know if anyone reads the Detroit forum anymore, I'm still waiting for ZachariahDaMan to post the pictures from his UP trip last year. But if someone is out there I thought I'd mention this new plan to rehab the long empty old Free Press building:

321 Lafayette

This is one of my favorite Albert Kahn buildings. It's not a favorite because it is his most important building but rather because I used to work in it. If you count up to the tenth floor and look at the middle window on the left, you'd be looking in the window that I would look out.

Even if Detroit had any kind of robust downtown real estate market, this property would be problematic. The Fisher and old GM buildings not withstanding, Kahn was most known for building factories and the old Free Press building despite its appearance as an office building, is mostly designed to be a factory for printing newspapers. Once you get past the small lobby and elevators, the first floor and the basement and sub-basement were the home to the large rotary presses and Linotype machinery where the paper was printed. Other than as indoor parking, as they propose, this space isn't very practical unless you are going to publish a nineteen-thirties technology newspaper.

Here's a story; when I worked there decades ago there were a few people who used to feed the pigeons by throwing scraps of food out the back windows. These weren't bird lovers, nobody much cared for the pigeons. The reason they fed them was because a handful of the most important executives had parking spaces behind the building and by feeding the pigeons, the pigeons would congregate and leave their calling cards on the cars below. Sort of the classic Detroit management/labor guerrilla war.

Boy, your post sure brought back memories. When I was a cub reporter at the Michigan Daily, sometimes we would go to Detroit to see an alumnus at the Freep. It was going to the big leagues -- the smell of ink in the pressroom, the clatter of a hundred typewriters going full-speed, the feel of a major metropolitan daily.

Alas, all gone.

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I meant to post this, the Free Press Building is a beauty.

I regularly check the forum and go to take pictures in Detroit. I took so many pictures in the UP I didn't get to posting them but I will try to soon.

Didn't mean to make you feel guilty so don't feel compelled to post them if you are busy (or just don't want to.) Mostly because I've enjoyed your other pictures and because I have ties to the Houghton-Hancock area, I was curious as to what photographically you found interesting.

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Boy, your post sure brought back memories. When I was a cub reporter at the Michigan Daily, sometimes we would go to Detroit to see an alumnus at the Freep. It was going to the big leagues -- the smell of ink in the pressroom, the clatter of a hundred typewriters going full-speed, the feel of a major metropolitan daily.

Alas, all gone.

Although I worked for the Free Press on the business side, I too had been a college journalist. In college we considered the Free Press during the reign of Kurt Luedtke (another Grand Rapidian) to be one of the greatest of American newspapers. A writer's paper it was called. So to work there a few years later, even if it wasn't on the news side, was like dying and going to heaven.

The kind of shabby Art Deco building made the whole experience something like what used to be pictured in grainy nineteen-thirties newspaper movies. By the time I worked there though the stereotypical rough reporters that you'd see in those movies, who had started as fifteen year-old copyboys and had worked there way up, were almost all gone and instead the newsroom was populated by mostly middle-class people with journalism degrees from good schools. Instead the crusty Runyonesque characters were all over on the business side with me.

Kurt Luedtke left for Hollywood. Eventually the Art Deco interior on my floor was gutted and replaced with fake wood-grain cubicles from Hayworth, and the old rotary presses were stilled when a new highly automated offset printing plant was put into operation down by the river. The riverside plant which never operated as well as expected has since been torn down.

Eventually I moved on too. But for awhile it was a good ride.

Edited by walker

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Although I worked for the Free Press on the business side, I too had been a college journalist. In college we considered the Free Press during the reign of Kurt Luedtke (another Grand Rapidian) to be one of the greatest of American newspapers. A writer's paper it was called. So to work there a few years later, even if it wasn't on the news side, was like dying and going to heaven.

The kind of shabby Art Deco building made the whole experience something like what used to be pictured in grainy nineteen-thirties newspaper movies. By the time I worked there though the stereotypical rough reporters that you'd see in those movies, who had started as fifteen year-old copyboys and had worked there way up, were almost all gone and instead the newsroom was populated by mostly middle-class people with journalism degrees from good schools. Instead the crusty Runyonesque characters were all over on the business side with me.

Kurt Luedtke left for Hollywood. Eventually the Art Deco interior on my floor was gutted and replaced with fake wood-grain cubicles from Hayworth, and the old rotary presses were stilled when a new highly automated offset printing plant was put into operation down by the river. The riverside plant which never operated as well as expected has since been torn down.

Eventually I moved on too. But for awhile it was a good ride.

Wonderful writing, Walker. Sure you weren't on the other side of the building?

Yes, the Freep in those days was a great paper, with some of the best young writers in the US (IMHO) on its staff. I still remember reading one wonderful piece in the Sunday Freep about a few of the younger staff members driving to Cass County to find some "Cass County Red." (Readers of a certain age will know what I am talking about.) I still remember one of the lines in the piece, about having to move the dial from CKLW to WLS to find Top 40 tunes on the radio. In the 1970s, that was how you knew you had moved from East to West Michigan.

It was an absolute dream to even get an Ann Arbor stringer position with the Freep. I was fortunate enough to get one with the News, which while not as "cool" as the Free Press, had a much larger circulation. Great people worked at the "grey lady" as well. I miss those days terribly.

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Well the deal I wrote about three years ago fell through obviously.  But yesterday the old Free Press Building sold at auction for around four million.  Someone must think they can do something with it.  It wasn't me.

 

http://www.freep.com/article/20130911/BUSINESS04/309110118/Old-Free-Press-building-sells-just-over-4-million-auction 

 

It's in pretty bad shape.  It was a little worn when I worked there but nothing as bad as these videos show:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvfS6XARo0Q

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VCU_Of-anc

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