The Way It Was


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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE BURTON HISTORICAL COLLECTION, DETROIT PUBLIC LIBARARY

1927 There aren’t too many skyscrapers that can lay claim to two names, but the Metropolitan Building in downtown Detroit is one of them. The Metropolitan also became known casually as the “Jeweler’s Building,” and for good reason; many jewelers and gem designers set up shop in the 1925 Gothic building at 33 John R St. In this photo, the lovely edifice is seen from a prospect looking down Farmer Street to John R, shortly after opening. On the right, there’s a sign for the now-vanished Hotel Dixieland, while advertisements for cleaners, dyers, and tailors adorn businesses on the left. As time went on, the “Jeweler’s Building” lost its luster, and the Metropolitan closed its doors in the late 1970s, joining an ever-growing cluster of faded architectural beauties: empty downtown edifices awaiting their demise. But as it turned out, fate was kind to the Metropolitan. After sitting vacant for decades, the outlook of the Metropolitan, seemingly doomed, took on a bright turn. Developers are re-creating the building as the site of an extended-stay hotel, with retail planned for the lower levels. It’s projected to open in the summer of 2018 and will be called the Element Detroit at the Metropolitan Building, proving that with a little polish, a tarnished jewel can gleam again after decades of neglect.

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