The Guardian Building: Cathedral of Finance
The years between World War I and the economic collapse of 1929 witnessed Detroit’s greatest building boom. Perhaps the most recognizable and innovative structure erected during that era was the Union Trust Building, now known as the Guardian Building. Designed by Wirt Rowland—of the firm Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls—the Guardian’s expressive Gothic-inspired elements, bright orange brick facade, and brightly colored ceramic accents immediately set it apart from the surrounding buildings of Detroit’s financial district. The interior is similarly extravagant, with a lobby ceiling made entirely of multicolored tiles, walls and floors accented by exotic marbles, and platinum-colored Monel metal elevator doors, gates, and handrails.
In The Guardian Building James W. Tottis tells the story of the opulent block-long tower, the influential company that commissioned it, and the under-appreciated architect responsible for its design. In full-color historic and contemporary photos, Tottis details everything from the china designed by the architect for use in the Guardian dining room to the building’s rarely seen upper banking room. Tottis also investigates the sources of design and materials for the Guardian, finding that it brought together the finest artisans, craftsmen, and firms of the time, including Rookwood Pottery, Pewabic Pottery, Moline Furniture Works, architectural sculptor Joe Parducci, and muralist Ezra Winter.
The thorough history and visual tour of The Guardian Building proves that even among the many significant Depression-era buildings of Detroit, the Guardian is unique. Architecture buffs as well as those interested in Detroit history and culture will enjoy this elegant and informative volume.