Fisher Building

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This article is about a building in Detroit. For the Fisher Building in Chicago, see Fisher Building (Chicago).
Fisher Building
Fisher Building Detroit crop.jpg
Location 3011 West Grand Boulevard
Detroit, Michigan
Coordinates 42°22′9.5″N 83°4′37″W / 42.369306°N 83.07694°W / 42.369306; -83.07694Coordinates: 42°22′9.5″N 83°4′37″W / 42.369306°N 83.07694°W / 42.369306; -83.07694
Area 486,991 square feet (45,242.9 m2)
Architect Albert Kahn Associates with Joseph Nathaniel French as chief architect
Architectural style Art Deco
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 07000847
Significant dates
Added to NRHP 14 October 1980[1]
Designated NHL 29 June 1989[2]

The Fisher Building (1928) is a landmark skyscraper located at 3011 West Grand Boulevard in the heart of the New Center area of Detroit, Michigan. The ornate building is designed in an Art Deco style, constructed of limestone, granite, and several types of marble. The Fisher family financed the building with proceeds from the sale of Fisher Body to General Motors. It was designed to house office and retail space.[3]

The building, which contains the elaborate 2,089 seat Fisher Theatre,[4][5] was designated a National Historic Landmark 29 June 1989. It also houses the headquarters for the Detroit Public Schools.


Façade detail

Initially, architect Joseph Nathaniel French of Albert Kahn Associates planned for a complex of three buildings, with two 30-story structures flanking a 60-story tower. However, the Great Depression kept the project at one tower.[6]

The Fisher brothers located the building across from the General Motors Building, now Cadillac Place, as General Motors recently purchased the Fisher Body Company. The two massive buildings spurred the development of a New Center for the city, a business district north of its downtown area.

The building's golden tower was originally covered with gilded tiles, which were removed during World War II due to fears they could become a beacon for enemy bombers.[3] They were painted with green epoxy which, since the 1980s, have been illuminated at night with colored lights to give them a gold appearance. On St. Patrick's Day, the lights are changed to green and, in recent years, to celebrate the NHL playoffs, the tower is illuminated with red lights in honor of the Detroit Red Wings.

In 1974, Tri-Star Development purchased the Fisher Building and adjoining New Center Building for approximately $20 million.[7]


The Fisher Building rises 30-stories with a roof height of 428 feet (130 m), a top floor height of 339 feet (103 m), and the spire reaching 444 feet (135 m). The building has 21 elevators. Albert Kahn and Associates designed the building with Joseph Nathaniel French serving as chief architect.[8] French took inspiration from Eliel Saarinen's Tribune Tower design of 1922, seen in the emphasis on verticality and the stepped-back upper stories. The building is unlike any other Albert Kahn production.[9] It has been called "Detroit's largest art object".[3]

In 1929, the Architectural League of New York honored the Fisher Building with a silver medal in architecture.[10] The opulent three-story barrel vaulted lobby is constructed with forty different kinds of marble, decorated by Hungarian artist Géza Maróti, and is highly regarded by architects.[4][5] The sculpture on the exterior of the building was supplied by several sculptors including Maróti, Corrado Parducci, Anthony De Lorenzo and Ulysses Ricci.[citation needed]


Designs called for two flagpoles atop the gilt roof. While they were installed, they were essentially unusable as a radio antenna was installed when one of the building's oldest tenants, radio station WJR, leased space in December 1928. On-air hosts often mention that broadcasts originate "from the golden tower of the Fisher Building." This was a requirement of the station's original lease in exchange for a nominal rent.[11] Two other radio stations, WDVD-FM and WDRQ-FM, also have broadcast studios in the building.

In 1970, building employees discovered a storage room sealed with tape. None of the staff knew what the room contained or why it was sealed. When they located the key, they found the flags of 75 nations that apparently were created in 1928 and intended to be flown for foreign visitors.[3]

Fisher Theatre[edit]

The building also is home to the Fisher Theatre, one of Detroit's oldest live theatre venues. The theatre originally featured a lavish Aztec-themed interior in the Mayan Revival style,[3] and once had Mexican-Indian art, banana trees, and live macaws that its patrons could feed. After the Depression, the theatre operated primarily as a movie house until 1961. Originally containing 3,500 seats, the interior was renovated into a 2,089-seat playhouse that allowed for more spacious seating and lobbies for patrons at a cost of $3,500,000. The decor was changed to a simple mid-century design (which some feel is now far more "dated" in appearance than the grandiose art deco foyer).[who?] The New Fisher Theatre opened October 2, 1961[12] and is owned and operated by the Nederlander Organization. It primarily features traveling productions of Broadway shows and hosted numerous out of town tryouts.

Pre-Broadway Engagements at the Fisher: 1961: The Gay Life, 1962: No Strings, Oliver!, 1963: Here's Love, Jennie, Hello, Dolly!, 1964: Foxy, Fiddler on the Roof, Golden Boy, I Had a Ball, 1965: Pleasures and Palaces, Pickwick, Sweet Charity, 1966: Pousse-Café, Walking Happy, 1967: Illya Darling, Henry, Sweet Henry, 1968: I'm Solomon, Maggie Flynn, 1969: La Strada, 1970: Applause, The Rothschilds, 1973: Seesaw, Gigi, 1996: Big, [13][14]


Befitting to the Fisher Building's history in association with art, three nationally recognized Fine Art Galleries have occupied space in the structure including the Gertrude Kasle Gallery and London Fine Arts Group.


Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan — 5th floor[16]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  2. ^ "Fisher Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Houston, Kay; Culpepper, Linda (20 March 2001). "Michigan History: The most beautiful building in the world". The Detroit News ( Retrieved 2010-04-07. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b Mazzei, Rebecca (30 November 2005). "Still Standing". Metro Times ( Retrieved 2010-04-07. 
  5. ^ a b AIA Detroit Urban Priorities Committee (10 January 2006). "Top 10 Detroit Interiors". Model D Media. Retrieved 2010-04-07. 
  6. ^ John Gallagher and Dick Rochan (27 October 1991). "Unbuilt Detroit". Detroit Free Press Magazine ( Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  7. ^ "Tri-Star Purchases 2 Detroit Buildings". The New York Times ( 4 January 1974. Retrieved 2011-05-26. 
  8. ^ "Joseph N. French, Fairlane Architect". Detroit Free Press. 2 March 1975. p. C16. Retrieved 2011-03-21. In the meantime he had served as chief architect for the Fisher Building... 
  9. ^ Hitchcock, Henry Russell (1977). Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Pelican History of Art 215 (4 ed.). Yale University Press. pp. 483–484. ISBN 0300053207. 
  10. ^ "The Broad Sweep of American Architecture". The New York Times. April 21, 1929. p. 139. Retrieved 2014-05-08. (subscription required (help)). 
  11. ^ "The Story of WJR". News/Talk WJR. Retrieved 2011-05-26. [dead link]
  12. ^ Stetson, Damon (2 October 1961). "Detroit Theatre Will Open Today". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-26. 
  13. ^ "Fisher Theatre". Broadway in Detroit. Retrieved 2011-05-26. 
  14. ^ "Fisher Theatre". Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  15. ^ "Rutherford Elementary Operator". Detroit Public Schools. 1 March 2012. Retrieved 2014-05-08. Fisher Building – 14th Floor; 3011 W. Grand Boulevard; Detroit, MI 48202-2710 
  16. ^ "GSSEM Service Centers & Council Shops". Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  • Fogelman, Randall (2004). Detroit's New Center. Arcadia. ISBN 0-7385-3271-1. 
  • Hill, Eric J. and John Gallagher (2002). AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3120-3. 
  • Meyer, Katherine Mattingly and Martin C.P. McElroy with Introduction by W. Hawkins Ferry, Hon A.I.A. (1980). Detroit Architecture A.I.A. Guide Revised Edition. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1651-4. 
  • Sharoff, Robert (2005). American City: Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3270-6. 
  • Savage, Rebecca Binno and Greg Kowalski (2004). Art Deco in Detroit (Images of America). Arcadia. ISBN 0-7385-3228-2. 

External links[edit]