The Guardian Building

The Guardian Building (Union Trust Building) in downtown Detroit at night, 1929.



The night lends a distinctly dramatic air to a city’s skyline, with massive hulks of skyscrapers, dotted with scintillating lights, chiseled against the sable sky. The bright starburst, shining like an otherworldly beacon, crowns what was then the Union Trust Building, which later became known as the Guardian Building.
Even the blazing red ball atop the Penobscot Building (right) dims in comparison. The elaborate Art Deco Union Trust edifice, designed by Wirt Rowland, earned the sobriquet “The Cathedral of Finance.” When it opened in the heart of downtown on Griswold in 1929, it was the city’s second-tallest building. The old 10-story Union Trust Building stood on the northeast corner of Griswold and Congress. The Union Trust Co. was founded in 1890 by Col. Frank Hecker, whose magnificent chateau-style home still stands today at Woodward and East Ferry. His business partners included Russell Alger, Dexter Ferry, C.H. Buhl, and Sen. James McMillan. During the booming ’20s, the Union Trust was the city’s largest bank and was known for assisting common laborers in buying homes. For security reasons — and to conserve energy — illuminations such as the Guardian’s were discouraged during World War II. The fear was that enemy planes could more easily bomb targets. Its starburst summit is long gone, but the tangerine-colored Guardian remains one of Detroit’s brightest architectural lights.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

God-Given Talent

A local choir sings its way to live television

The Sincere Storyteller

Broadway fans will soon learn, playwright Dominique Morisseau’s work is unapologetically Detroit

AFP Interview Series: Nominees Ambassador Ron and Eileen Weiser

The duo strives to improve the welfare of students and children in Michigan

Do Good

The Greater Detroit Philanthropy Awards are back with eight new recipients

The Unsung Superhero

At the drawing board with Marvel illustrator, Jim Towe
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Best Dressed 2018
    Pulling back the curtain on this year’s selection of the region’s most stylish denizens
  2. Cocktail Recipe: Casa del Cider
  3. Keeping Up with Sheefy McFly
    The multitalented visual artist and musician is ubiquitous in the Motor City
  4. Designer Taste
    A quaint Ferndale shop sells exotic cheese, chocolate, and charcuterie
  5. Excellence in Care: Beaumont Health
    Hour Detroit presented Beaumont Health with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary...
  6. Gathering Spot
    Eastern Market restaurant finds its groove after a rocky beginning
  7. The Way It Was
    Better Made Snack Foods, 1971
  8. Food Recipe: Barbecue Mac & Cheese
    Vast Kitchen and Bar executive chef, Jordan Gillis, upgrades the comfort staple
  9. Sanctuary for the Senses
    Castalia in Midtown offers a cocktail experience unlike any other
  10. Excellence in Care: St. Joseph Mercy Health
    Hour Detroit presented St. Joseph Mercy Health with an Excellence in Care Award for this...