Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Please Note: The Detroit Historical Museum is closed due to flooding.

Spirit of Detroit, The

The Spirit of Detroit is a large, bronze monument that represents the city of Detroit, featuring a large seated human figure holding a family and golden orb aloft in its hands. In 1955, Marshall Fredericks was commissioned by the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority to create a sculpture for the city to represent hope, progress, and the “spirit of man.” The bronze was cast in Oslo, Norway, and covered with acid to oxidize the metal, giving it a green hue. When work was complete, the statue was wrapped in protective fabric, surrounded by a supportive framework and loaded face down onto a German freighter for its journey from Oslo to Detroit.

The Spirit of Detroit was dedicated in 1958, and carried a final cost of $58,000. The work immediately became an iconic statue representing the city. Located at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on Woodward Avenue, at the time it was built the 26-foot sculpture was reportedly the largest cast bronze statue since the Renaissance. The statue’s left hand grips a gilded sphere emanating rays that symbolizes divinity, while its right hand holds a family, which symbolizes all human relationships. Fredericks sought a consensus from representatives of several different religious groups when designing the divine aspect of the work. On the wall behind the sculpture the inscription from 2 Corinthians 3:17 reads: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” along with the seals of both the City of Detroit and Wayne County. The inscribed plaque in front of the statue reads: “The artist expresses the concept that God, through the spirit of man, is manifested in the family, the noblest human relationship.”

When the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1997, The Spirit of Detroit donned the team jersey in celebration. Since then, the statue was periodically dressed for special occasions, and has worn multiple sports team jerseys, t-shirts, and a tuxedo. However, due to concern over damage to the statue, it will only wear a jersey if the team wins a national championship, and $25,000 is donated to the maintenance and preservation of the statue.

The Spirit of Detroit has become a symbol of the City of Detroit, appearing on logos for many city government departments.

 


RELATED ITEMS IN THE COLLECTION

The Spirit of Detroit, 1960 - 2012.032.034

The Spirit of Detroit, 1968 - 2009.019.307

View all items related to The Spirit of Detroit