Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Buhl Building

The Buhl brothers came to Detroit early in the 19th century. They made their money first in the fur trade and then later in the hat business. As Detroit became a leading industrial metropolis, they turned to manufacturing, retailing, and property development. They founded the Detroit Locomotive Works and then the Buhl Iron Works, which later became the Detroit Copper and Brass firm.

In 1868, they erected an office building at the corner of Griswold and Congress that became an attractive location for prosperous law firms. The original Buhl building was built directly above the Savoyard Creek upon a site which once constituted a portion of the Fort Shelby parade grounds. Quickly the Buhl Building became a cornerstone of the city’s financial district.

A third generation of Buhls decided to make more profitable use of their prime downtown land by replacing their small office building at Griswold and West Congress with the current 26-story building in the 1920s. The skilled and imaginative Wirt Rowland was selected as the architect. His most magnificent accomplishment is generally thought to be the nearby Guardian Building, but he created a beautiful structure in the Buhl Building, one that still has great appeal some eight decades after it was constructed.

Modern air conditioning for large office buildings was not available until the end of the 1920s and when Rowland designed this building, electric lighting was less effective than it is today. Thus he designed the Buhl Building in the cruciform style to capture natural light and gentle Detroit breezes. This design also had the advantage of providing eight external corner offices, instead of the traditional four, that could be rented at higher rates.

Since 1925, the current Buhl building has remained a hub of finance as well as the home of leading legal, accounting, and construction firms. Today it remains a key crossroads for Detroit commerce in a broad range of industries.



Buhl Building Postcard, 1925

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