Guardian Building

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For the building in Cleveland, U.S.A., see Guardian Bank Building.
Guardian Building
Location 500 Griswold Street
Detroit, Michigan
Coordinates 42°19′47″N 83°2′45″W / 42.32972°N 83.04583°W / 42.32972; -83.04583Coordinates: 42°19′47″N 83°2′45″W / 42.32972°N 83.04583°W / 42.32972; -83.04583
Built 1928
Architect Wirt Rowland; Smith, Hinchman & Grylls
Architectural style Mayan Revival, Art Deco
Part of Detroit Financial District (#09001067)
NRHP Reference # 89001165
Significant dates
Added to NRHP June 29, 1989[1]
Designated NHL June 29, 1989[2]

The Guardian Building is a landmark skyscraper in the United States, located at 500 Griswold Street in Downtown Detroit, Michigan, within the Financial District. The Guardian is a class-A office building owned by Wayne County, Michigan and serves as its headquarters. Built in 1928 and finished in 1929, the building was originally called the Union Trust Building and is a bold example of Art Deco architecture, including art moderne designs.[3] At the top of the Guardian Building's spire is a large American Flag, complementing the four smaller flags atop nearby 150 West Jefferson. The building has undergone recent award-winning renovations. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on June 29, 1989,[1] and the associated Detroit Financial District is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Guardian building includes retail and a tourist gift shop.


The Guardian Building is nicknamed the Cathedral of Finance

The main frame of the skyscraper rises 36 stories, capped by two asymmetric spires, one extending for four additional stories. The roof height of the building is 496 ft (151 m), the top floor is 489 feet (149 m), and the spire reaches 632 ft (192.6 m). The exterior blends brickwork with tile, limestone, and terra cotta. The building's interior is lavishly decorated with mosaic and Pewabic and Rookwood tile. The semi-circular exterior domes are filled with Pewabic Pottery; Mary Chase Perry Stratton worked closely with the architect in the design of the symbolic decorations.[4] (See Savage, infra.) Its nickname, Cathedral of Finance, alludes both to the building's resemblance to a cathedral, with its tower over the main entrance and octagonal apse at the opposite end and to New York City's Woolworth Building, which had earlier been dubbed the Cathedral of Commerce.[3] Native American themes are common inside and outside the building. Wirt C. Rowland, of the Smith, Hinchman & Grylls firm, was the building's architect while Corrado Parducci created the two sculptures flanking the Griswold Street entrance. The building includes works by muralist Ezra Winter.[5] Rowland's attention to detail was meticulous. He supervised the creation of the colored brick cladding to achieve the desired color for the exterior. Afterward, the brick was marketed by the manufacturer as "Union Trust Brick".[6] Rowland designed furniture for the bank's offices and his attention went as far as designing tableware, linens and waitress uniforms for a restaurant in the building.


The skyscraper was built by the Union Trust Company, founded in Detroit in 1890 by Senator James McMillan, and Dexter M. Ferry, along with investments from Russell A. Alger, Col. Frank J. Hecker, and Christian H. Buhl.[7] During World War II, the Guardian Building served as the U.S Army Command Center for war time production.[3] The Guardian served various tenants as an office building in downtown Detroit. In 1982 it became the headquarters of Michigan Consolidated Gas Company ("MichCon") subsequent to the divestiture of MichCon by ANR Company in 1981. Under the leadership of President and COO Stephen E. Ewing, MichCon restored the lobby and vaulted ceilings on the first floor in 1986. It later was headquarters for MCN Energy Group, Inc, the parent company of MichCon until the merger of MCN with DTE Energy in 2001. It was sold by DTE to a local real estate developer in 2002.

On July 18, 2007, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced it has entered into an agreement with current owners to purchase the Guardian Building to relocate its offices from the Wayne County Building. The deal is reportedly part of a larger deal worth $33.5 million in real estate purchases in downtown Detroit.[8] The Guardian Building has become a souvenir item along with other Detroit skyscrapers.[9]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Staff (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Guardian Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved June 27, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c Zacharias, Pat (March 10, 2001).Guardian Building has long been the crown jewel in the Detroit skyline. Michigan History, Detroit News. Retrieved on July 28, 2008. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Guardian" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ Nolan, Jenny (February 13, 2000).Pewabic tile, Detroit's art treasure. Michigan History, The Detroit News. Retrieved on June 6, 2008.
  5. ^ Tottis, James W. (2008). The Guardian Building: Cathedral of Finance. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8143-3385-3. 
  6. ^ The Guardian Building: Cathedral of Finance James W. Tottis; Wayne State University Press, 2008 page 136 " retailed originally as Union Trust brick, and, after 1939, as Guardian brick"
  7. ^ Pat Zacharias (March 10, 2001). ". All of these personages were involved in a financial scandal after the depression. Edsel Ford was also involved with this group. The Guardian Building has long been the crown jewel in the Detroit skyline". Detroit News ( 
  8. ^ Detroit Development News (July 31 2007).Model D Media. Retrieved on July 29, 2008.
  9. ^ InFocusTech skyscrapers. Retrieved on July 16, 2009.
  10. ^ "SmithGroupJJR - Contact Corporate". Retrieved December 1, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ferry, W. Hawkins (1968). The Buildings of Detroit: A History. Wayne State University Press.
  • 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. 
  • Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, Shadowing Parducci, unpublished manuscript, Detroit.
  • 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. 
  • Savage, Rebecca Binno and Greg Kowalski (2004). Art Deco in Detroit (Images of America). Arcadia. ISBN 0-7385-3228-2. 
  • Sharoff, Robert (2005). American City: Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3270-6. 
  • Sobocinski, Melanie Grunow (2005). Detroit and Rome: building on the past. Regents of the University of Michigan. ISBN 0-933691-09-2. 
  • Tottis, James W. (2008). The Guardian Building: Cathedral of Finance. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8143-3385-3. 
  • Tutag, Nola Huse with Lucy Hamilton (1988). Discovering Stained Glass in Detroit. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1875-4. 
  • Lacy, Robert, Ford, The Men and the Machine, Little Brown & Co., 1986, pgs. 328-334

External links[edit]