Those of us that live here know that Detroit has beautiful buildings. Many of them were built in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, and a lot of them still retain their interesting decorative trim elements. Looking at the many vintage buildings, it’s easy to spot colorful glazed tile, three-dimensional sconces, and ornamental cement castings centered above doors and windows. Other ornate trim pieces can be found along the rooflines, especially on two-story brick buildings. A number of them spell out the building benefactor or company name.
In addition to the fascinating trim elements, plenty of the buildings have interesting brickwork incorporated into the design. The unique masonry craftsmanship is especially noticeable on the buildings that were put up during the art deco period of the 1920’s and 30’s. Dated corner stones, typically mounted on the building at street level, are also found throughout the city.
Some of the most ornate wall sconces and intriguing inlays are made of marble or limestone. The elegant pieces are used as highlights on some of Detroit’s finest buildings such as the Guardian in downtown, or the Fisher Building in the city’s new center area. Many look like something found on a gothic cathedral built hundreds of years ago.
There’s one inlay in particular I spotted that is quite interesting. It is on a single-story, nondescript building in the historic Milwaukee Junction section of the city, near East Milwaukee and Brush Streets. It’s a modestly designed piece that includes what appears to be a 1930s era two-door panel truck with an open drafting compass spanning the width of the vehicle.
Looking at this cool trim piece, I’m thinking the building was once a design center for one of the car companies during the height of the city’s automotive boom.