Saturday, March 25, 2017

Midwest Buildings

I love the look of old buildings, and being a midwestern boy myself (born just outside of Chicago), I am especially fond of the midwest. Today I have two vintage slides featuring some nice old structures.

First up is this slide (undated, but almost certainly from the 1950's) looking across the city of Detroit, with Hudson's department store in the foreground. Hudson's was a chain of department stores, and this 25-story building was its flagship store, and it was the tallest department store in the world (" of 1961" says Wikipedia). This flagship store closed in 1983; Hudson's was bought out by the company that owns the Macy's chain of stores. The building was imploded in 1998.

The flat landscape is kind of impressive in its vastness; I am unsure as to which building this photo would have been taken from; one guess is the David Stott Building (a lovely art deco edifice, 38 stories tall). 

Next comes this fairly spectacular slide, helpfully hand-labeled "View from KC courthouse". I just love all of those old brick high-rises! And the view all the way to the horizon is pretty sweet. I wish I could find a contemporary shot looking in the same direction.

At first I was quite baffled by the gothic building in front of us; I looked and looked at recent photos of buildings near the Kansas City courthouse, and nothing resembled this at all.

Finally I happened upon this nice shot (courtesy of LIFE) that told me it was the Bell Telephone Building - now known as the Oak Tower. 28 stories high, completed in 1920 after many delays due to WWI. It was originally only 14 stories tall, but Bell needed more space, so they doubled the height in 1929.

So, here's a current photo of Kansas City's courthouse - a suitably solid and impressive-looking structure. But where is the nearby gothic building seen in the previous image? 

It turns out that the rather plain white tower to the left is the very same high-rise! Apparently the building was sold in 1974, and all of the elaborate ornamentation was either removed or covered with stucco. Even the window arrangement is different at the top, so much remodeling must have been done.

Here's how it looks today! I like the way it looked with all of the filigree. Not that anybody asked me.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the Midwest!


walterworld said...

I liked the 'Oak Tower' the way that Ma Bell had it :)

Thanks Major

Nanook said...


When I saw all those microwave repeaters sitting atop the 'mystery' building, I was thinking there's gotta be some connection to the Bell System. Apparently so. Too bad about the rather severe extraction of all those filigrees. That style may not be everyone's cup 'o tea, but the current, stripped-down version is nothing short of an abomination.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

What an interesting and unusual transformation of a high-rise. I don't think I've seen anything quite like this. Definitely at its most beautiful during the 1920's. I too love the midwestern cities and any city with a river running through it. Thanks for sharing these awesome shots, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Wow! They really do ruin everything, don't they? What a shame about both buildings!

Scott Lane said...

That's the trouble with the world today - not enough filigree or cowbell, imo.

Major Pepperidge said...

walterworld, yeah, the Oak Tower looks like one of those Post Modern buildings that Eisner loved so much.

Nanook, it seems hard to believe that anyone thought that the “plain” version of the building was an improvement in any way.

K. Martinez, I agree, I am not aware of any other skyscrapers/high rises that were completely revamped like that. And I love the view with the river in the distance!

TokyoMagic!, you don’t think Disney had anything to do with it, do you? ;-)

Scott Lane, I put my pants on one leg at a time like any other guy, but once my pants are on, I make gold records.

Dean Finder said...

I blame disco music and leisure suits.

Nanook said...

@ Dean Finder-

If only-!

Irene said...

Great detective work on that Bell building. I agree with everyone that it's a shame what they did to it! But speaking of Disney, I have to laugh because the new ToT, the Marvel something or another, is going the opposite way and putting up lots and lots of bells and whistles it seems. And color, lots and lots of color!

Chuck said...

Hudson's! I am told that I went to the downtown Detroit store as a toddler. My wife bought her wedding dress at the Toledo location, and I still have a suit hanging in my closet that my grandmother gave me as a college graduation gift with the "Hudson's' logo prominently displayed on the garment bag. It fits me every few years as I get serious about fitness and diet.

It's currently on hiatus.

Anonymous said...

It's awful to see that remodeling of the gothic tower.

But it's hard to believe that a new owner would undertake such expensive work purely for cosmetic reasons. Those original ornaments are almost certainly glazed terra cotta pieces, held on with wire ties. These are subject to wind and frost damage and might have been removed for those reasons.

I'm hoping that the work was motivated by repair and not simple bad taste.

Thanks for the fine pictures, Major.