Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Hammond Building

Built as the office building for Detroit’s wealthy meat-packer, George H. Hammond, the Hammond Building was both Detroit’s and Michigan’s first skyscraper.  Architect Harry W.J. Edbrooke of Chicago heard of Hammond’s plans for the building, went to Detroit, served up the lowest bid and landed the job.  Hammond died in 1886, at the age of 48, just as work was getting started on his new office building, putting a crimp in the plans.  However, Hammond’s widow, Ellen, took it upon herself to finish the work as a landmark and memorial to her late husband.

The Hammond building was one of the largest masonry buildings ever built in the United States.  Made of red brick and stone, the building borrowed heavily from the school of Richardsonian Romanesque, which was also seen in many buildings in the city, including the Grand Army of the Republic Building.  The building held 246 offices and stores on the ground floor.

The opening date of the Hammond building is ambiguous.  Many tenants moved in before the interior work was done.  On Nov. 3, 1889, the Free Press wrote that the building was “rapidly approaching completion,” then an Aug. 31, 1890 article said that the building was expected to be “entirely completed in about a month.”  Eight months later the structure was said to be finished but that work on exterior ornamental detail was still in process.  However, when the building was open entirely, Detroit was roused with excitement; many people came from all over Michigan just to see their first skyscraper.

Begun on Aug. 17, 1956, Arrow Wrecking Company began tearing down the old Hammond building which was to be built into the twelve million dollar headquarters for the National Bank of Detroit.  The bank’s new 14-story building marked the first major commercial construction in downtown Detroit in 25 years. Today, it is called the Chase Tower.  In 1995, NBD merged with the First National Bank of Chicago, which in turn merged three years later with Bank One, which in turn was bought by JP Morgan Chase & Co. in 2004.

Written by Stacy Newman



Hammond Building postcard, 1915

Postcard showing the Hammond Building across from City Hall, 1915

View all items related to the Hammond Building