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. (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.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. 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". 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. During World War II, the Guardian Building served as the U.S Army Command Center for war time production. 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. The Guardian Building has become a souvenir item along with other Detroit skyscrapers.
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. ISBN0-8143-3120-3.
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. ISBN0-8143-1651-4.
Savage, Rebecca Binno and Greg Kowalski (2004). Art Deco in Detroit (Images of America). Arcadia. ISBN0-7385-3228-2.