Old City Hall’s floral clock, 1957

The Way It Was
Photograph courtesy of the Tony Spina Collection/ Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University


With all their bricks, mortar, grime, and concrete, cities can look pretty bleak, but flowers always brighten up an urban landscape, as this colorful floral clock in front of Old City Hall did. Although the building was capped by a clock tower, the ground-level timepiece was a refreshing sight during warm weather. These city workers tend to the clock, studded with intricately arranged flowers, on a late-spring day 54 years ago. In an earlier era, floral clocks were all the rage; there was one at the entrance to Water Works Park on East Jefferson as well. It became such a popular Detroit symbol that it appeared on postcards. That clock was moved to Greenfield Village in 1934 and was on view there from 1935 to 1974. Old City Hall, a stately Renaissance Revival marvel decorated with sculptures carved by Julius Melchers, was an even greater Detroit emblem. Dedicated in 1871, it stood for 90 years near what is now Kennedy Square. Despite an outcry from preservationists, it was razed in 1961.

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