Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Buhl Building

A landmark of business in the city, the Buhl Building is an elegant fixture of Detroit’s financial district. The Buhl brothers, Frederick and Christian, were born in Pennsylvania and moved to Detroit in 1833. An industrious duo, they worked in several fields, starting in the fur trade and hat business before turning to manufacturing, retailing, and property development. They founded the Detroit Locomotive Works and the Buhl Iron Works, which later became the Detroit Copper and Brass Company.

In 1868, the Buhl brothers erected an office building at the corner of Griswold and Congress Streets that became an attractive location for prosperous law firms. The original Buhl building was built directly above the Savoyard Creek on a site which in the early 1800s had been part of Fort Shelby. The building quickly became a Detroit business cornerstone.

In the 1920s, 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. Wirt Rowland of the Smith, Hinchman and Grylls architectural firm, and designer of the Guardian Building, was selected as the architect. He created a beautiful neo-Gothic structure with Romanesque accents including ram's heads, acanthus leaves, basket weaving, and elaborate laurel and floral work as well as the magnificent carved Native American figures sculpted by Corrado Parducci.

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, which could be rented at higher rates.

Since 1925, the Buhl building has remained a hub of finance as well as the home of leading legal, accounting, and construction firms. The Buhl Building is listed as a contributing property in the Detroit Financial District, a United States historic district in downtown Detroit that was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on December 14, 2009. In December 2017, the Buhl Building was purchased by businessman Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock LLC, with plans to upgrade several of the building’s features.



Buhl Building Postcard, 1925

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