The Spirit of Detroit

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The Spirit of Detroit
The (old) Detroit City-County Building (Not sure what it's called now) - panoramio.jpg
ArtistMarshall Fredericks
Dimensions790 cm (312 in)
Weight9 tons
LocationDetroit, Michigan, U.S.
CoordinatesCoordinates: 42°19′45.47″N 83°2′40.66″W / 42.3292972°N 83.0446278°W / 42.3292972; -83.0446278
OwnerDetroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority (DWJBA)

The Spirit of Detroit is a monument with a large bronze statue created by Marshall Fredericks and located at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan.


The Spirit of Detroit is a monument with a large bronze statue created by Marshall Fredericks and located at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. Cast in Oslo, Norway, the 26-foot (7.9 m), 9-ton sculpture sits on a 60-ton marble base and it was the largest cast bronze statue since the Renaissance.[1][2][3][4]

In its left hand, the large seated figure holds a gilt bronze sphere emanating rays to symbolize God.[2] The people in the figure's right hand are a family group symbolizing all human relationships.[2]

Fredericks did not originally name the sculpture and the name came from the citizens of Detroit[3] based on an inscription from 2 Corinthians (3:17) on the marble wall behind it:[2]

               II CORINTHIANS 3:17

The 36 x 45 foot semicircular wall includes the seals of the City of Detroit and Wayne County.[5][6] A plaque in front of the sculpture bears the following inscription: "The artist expresses the concept that God, through the spirit of man, is manifested in the family, the noblest human relationship."[7]


1959 documentary about the statue from its inception in 1955 to its inauguration in 1958.

The sculpture was commissioned on August 2, 1955 for a cost of $58,000 (equivalent to $415,000 in 2020).[8] Fredericks considered the statue to be part of his civic responsibility and waived the commissioning cost.[3] As part of the design of the divine elements of the sculpture, Fredericks met with several religious groups.[7] Fredericks shipped a scale model from the United States to Oslo, Norway for casting.[8] After casting, the sculpture underwent acidic treatments for several weeks to oxidize the bronze and to create the warm, aged green color.[9][10] The thickness of the bronze is 3/8 inches up to 1.5 inches.[11] Steel framework was constructed to protect the sculpture during transport.[8] Additional protection for the sculpture was provided using wooden beams, wooden platforms, and burlap covering, for a total shipping weight of 12 tons.[8] For shipping, the sculpture was placed facedown onto a wooden platform.[8] The sculpture was transported by the Fjell Line, who chartered the German freighter Thomas Schulte.[8] After the 4,800 mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean and through the Saint Lawrence Seaway, the freighter arrived at the Port of Detroit on September 20, 1958.[8][9] The Thomas Schulte was the only freighter with sufficient below deck storage space to accommodate the sculpture while still being able to navigate the Saint Lawrence Seaway.[8] As part of the shipment, four miniature scale models of the sculpture were included to aid with customs clearance.[8] The sculpture was delivered to the Detroit City-County Building and installed onto the marble base for the September 23, 1958 dedication ceremony.[8][9]

The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum has the original plaster head for The Spirit of Detroit, as well as a quarter-scale plaster model.[12][13][14][15]

The sculpture has regular maintenance, as well as restorations. Once a year, the sculpture is cleaned with non-ionic, biogradable detergents and customized petroleum-based waxes are used for protection.[11] The annual maintenance also includes applying heat to the bronze surface and cupric nitrate in order to preserve the green color and patina.[11] In 1984, the sculpture was covered in plastic while the marble panels behind the statue were replaced.[5] The statue underwent a restoration in 2006, funded by foundations and other private donations.[6] For the sculpture's 50th anniversary, funds from operational savings and energy conservation totalling $170,000 were used for restoration improvements.[6] In 2018, the sculpture had routine maintenance completed which involved touching up the green patina, as well as the gold figures and sphere.[16] On September 21, 2018, the City of Detroit had a ceremony to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the sculpture.[17]

In 2017, Spirit Plaza was initially constructed and subsequent upgrades completed in 2019 and paid for by $800,000 in bond funds have yielded a 20,000 square-foot plaza with a playground, stationary musical instruments, tables, chairs, vehicle charging stations, and drinking fountains.[18]

In 2013 art dealer and art historian Eric Ian Hornak Spoutz was quoted in The Detroit News stating that the value of the statue is in excess of $1 million.[19] In 2017, the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority said that based on the most recent appraisal of the sculpture, it would cost $6 million to repair significant damage.[20]

Uses as a community symbol[edit]

The Spirit of Detroit was featured on the Detroit Police Department's insignia in the 1990s and 1980s
The statue wearing a Detroit Red Wings sweater during the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs

As one of Detroit's most easily identifiable landmarks, a sketch or depiction of the statue appears as the central element of most of the logos of Detroit's city departments and services.[6] During the 1980s, a facsimile of the statue was featured on the Detroit Police Department's insignia and on the sides of its police cars.[21] An image of the statue appears on the "Spirit of Detroit Award" certificate, which is issued by the Detroit City Council to a person, event, or organization deemed to have performed an outstanding achievement or service to the citizens of Detroit.[22][23] The sculpture is the main image on Detroit Community Scrip.[24]

The Spirit of Detroit represents local sports teams, such as when it is dressed in sports jerseys to celebrate local professional teams competing in the playoffs.[7] As the number of sports and non-sports requests for the sculpture to wear jerseys increased, there began to be concerns about damage to the sculpture and starting in 2017, the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority began new rules for having a jersey displayed on the statue, including winning a championship and paying $25,000.[20] The payment was intended to cover the restoration costs after a jersey is removed, including cleaning, reapplying the patina, and reapplying the wax.[20] Another example of local sports team representation is the use of an image of the sculpture as part of the crest of the Detroit City Football Club.[25]

The sculpture has also been involved with arts events, such as being dressed in a tuxedo in 1999 during a visit by the Three Tenors.[26][27] The ceremonial naming of the section of the John C. Lodge Freeway running from Livernois to I-94 in honor of Aretha Franklin was held in front of the sculpture in 2019.[28][29] Spirit Plaza was the site of a floral tribute, which included 3,000 roses, that commemorated Big Sean's Detroit 2 album release on September 4, 2020.[30]

The Spirit of Detroit represents Detroit in media and video games, such as the 2011 Chrysler 200 Super Bowl commercial, "Born of Fire", which featured Eminem along with Detroit landmarks and the 2018 video game Detroit: Become Human.[31][32]

In 2020, The Spirit of Detroit wore a blue-green shirt and a white ribbon to commemorate medical and "essential" workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.[33] Two people installed the 420 square foot polyester poplin shirt and three foot ribbon.[33][34]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baulch, Vivian (August 4, 1998). "Marshall Fredericks -- the Spirit of Detroit". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on July 11, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Smithsonian American Art Museum (1993). "The Spirit of Detroit (Sculpture)". Art Inventories Catalog. Smithsonian Institution. Control Number 87840002. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Spirit of Detroit". Historic Detroit. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  4. ^ Tuesday, Lucy Ament |; April 22; 2008. "Venus Bronze Works Restores Detroit, One Sculpture at a Time". Model D. Retrieved December 19, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b Zacharias, Pat (September 5, 1999). "The Monuments of Detroit". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on December 8, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Coleman A. Young Municipal Center Tenant Portal. "Spirit of Detroit 60th Anniversary Overview". Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Spirit of Detroit, The | Detroit Historical Society". Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority (1959). "The Spirit of Detroit".
  9. ^ a b c Hunter, Branden (September 23, 2018). "Spirit of Detroit statue celebrates 60 years". The Michigan Chronicle. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  10. ^ Pedraja, Sierra (February 6, 2017). "History of Detroit's iconic 'Spirit of Detroit' statue". WDIV. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c City of Detroit (September 21, 2018). "History of the "Spirit of Detroit" Statue - YouTube". Retrieved December 20, 2020 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ "'Spirit of Detroit' sculptor to be celebrated at fundraiser". Crain's Detroit Business. April 1, 2018. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  13. ^ Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum (February 15, 2007), The Spirit of Detroit, retrieved December 24, 2020
  14. ^ Midland Daily News (April 5, 2018). "Detroit, Marshall Fredericks museum to toast Spirit of Detroit sculpture". Midland Daily News. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  15. ^ "Spirit of Detroit, Plaster quarter-scale - Marshall M. Fredericks". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  16. ^ Dickson, James David. "Spirit of Detroit undergoes routine maintenance". The Detroit News. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  17. ^ "Region celebrates 60th anniversary of the Spirit of Detroit". Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  18. ^ Guillen, Joe (August 28, 2019). "Spirit Plaza in Detroit about to get a major update: What's coming". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  19. ^ Hodges, Michael (October 24, 2013). "Could Cash-Strapped Detroit's Other Assets Be Sold?". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on October 26, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  20. ^ a b c Ikonomova, Violet. "Under new rules, the Spirit of Detroit will be showing a lot less team spirit". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  21. ^ Flickr - rwcar4 (February 22, 2020), Detroit MI Police - 1980's Dodge Diplomat (1), retrieved December 21, 2020
  22. ^ "Spirit of Detroit Award". June 15, 2006. Archived from the original on June 15, 2006.
  23. ^ "Council Awards and Resolutions". City of Detroit. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  24. ^ "Detroit Community Scrip". May 11, 2009. Archived from the original on May 11, 2009. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  25. ^ "History". Detroit City FC. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  26. ^ "History". Michigan Opera Theatre. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  27. ^ Fournier, Holly (December 21, 2015). "'Spirit of Detroit' catches Spartan fever, gets jersey". The Detroit News. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  28. ^ Ramirez, Charles E. (July 22, 2019). "Ceremony memorializes Aretha Franklin with Lodge Freeway designation". The Detroit News. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  29. ^ "Portion of the Lodge Freeway now named 'Aretha Franklin Memorial Highway' | Digital Daily". The Michigan Chronicle. July 22, 2019. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  30. ^ "A floral tribute to 'Detroit 2' at Spirit Plaza". Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  31. ^ Chrysler Top Super Bowl Commercial, Imported From Detroit Featuring Eminem, retrieved December 20, 2020
  32. ^ "PS4's 'Detroit' doesn't take place in the Motor City I know". Engadget. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  33. ^ a b "The Spirit of Detroit wears white ribbon to support health care, essential workers". mlive. May 5, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  34. ^ "White Ribbon Meets Downtown Detroit Icon". Retrieved December 23, 2020.

External links[edit]