The Way It Was- The Hammond Building, 1950

Detroit’s first skyscraper, which fell victim to demolition in 1956
The Hammond Building
The Hammond Building, Detroit’s first skyscraper, photograph courtesy of The Detroit Historical Society.

1950 A dusting of snow adds to the wintery atmosphere as Old City Hall — decorated with a large wreath above its entrance and a tree and nativity scene on its lawn — looms over Campus Martius in this circa-1950 image. (The Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is in the foreground.) The scene could easily serve as a Christmas card, with “Season’s Greetings from Detroit” emblazoned inside. The festive tone offers no hint that several buildings in this photo, including City Hall itself, would soon fall to the wrecker’s ball. The Hammond Building (left), was first to go. Built in 1889 and demolished in 1956, the Hammond was Detroit’s first skyscraper. The National Bank of Detroit building, now known as The Qube, rose in its place. Then, in 1961, amid protests from preservationists, Old City Hall, erected in 1871, was razed, making way for Kennedy Square and later, the One Kennedy Square Building. Another early Detroit skyscraper, the 1896 Majestic Building (right), gave up the ghost in the early 1960s. The First Federal Bank Building (now known as 1001 Woodward) claimed the vacant spot. Many years later, in 2009-10, the 14-story Lafayette Building — seen in the distance, just northwest of City Hall on a triangular plot of land bounded by Lafayette, Michigan, and Shelby — also came tumbling down. Alas, many buildings have a limited shelf life, but thanks to photographs like this one, their removal doesn’t entirely erase their history