Over the past 10+ years, one big passion of mine, as you all know, has been exploring abandoned buildings. The thrill of seeing what once existed in the shell of a building, and imagining the people who walked through those halls, the parties that took place there, and the memories that were built day after day- all of this is what fuels me to continue doing what I do. Detroit has had a lot of abandoned buildings in its past; however, it has also made a remarkable comeback and turned the tables of time back around! As an explorer and lover of beautiful architecture, I am also thrilled when these amazing buildings get restored. The Farwell Building in Downtown Detroit is one of these buildings that had new life breathed back into it by Richard Karp of Lansing, with his partners Richard Hosey and Kevin Prater, along with Kraemer Design Group, Buildtech, and Ciot Detroit who made sure to keep all of its original historic charm! Come take a look at the great work they have accomplished!
Below: The entrance into The Farwell Building.
The Farwell Building opened in 1915 in the Capital Park area of Detroit, and was named after Jessee Farwell, a man known for his shipping and real estate work. The building was used for various office spaces, for dentists and other businesses, and also housed many great attorneys. The building was designed by Rogers and Bonnah and the interior was done entirely by Louis Comfort Tiffany Co, also featuring intricate works of iron from Russel Wheel and Foundry of Detroit, while the brass and marble elevators stood out against all other places in the city. After a fire in the mid 70s, the main Tiffany chandelier was stolen.
The ceiling dome was laid with thousands of Tiffany glass pieces, also known as Favrile, that were individually cut and polished, while the backing of gold leaf on the ceiling cast a spectacular sheen. In 1974 it was added to the State Register of Historic Sites and in 1976 the National Register of Historic Places. The building is eight stories high and 107,000 square feet and has a view from the top of the roof that is absolutely breathtaking!
Take a look some amazing historic photos, courtesy of HistoricDetroit.Org
(Photo slider, arrow on right side)
Below: A closeup of the elevator.
Below: A closeup artwork of the original elevator door.
Below: Intricate details of the iron railings. These are the exact height that they were when originally opened. They have special permission to keep them like this
for historical accuracy since they are not to today's code.
Below: A view of the north side of the building, lower level.
Notice all the amazing marble work and height of the railing.
The beauty within the decay
In 1984 the Farwell Building became abandoned after having trouble attracting and keeping tenants. During this time, the building suffered major loss, mainly due to scrappers who took the wrought-iron railings, as well as the brass elevator doors and chandeliers. Unfortunately, weather and vandals were too much for this historic building to withstand, and a fire also caused damage to the restaurant in 2009. Later that year, the building was sold to State of Michigan's Land Bank Fast Track Authority for 3.3 million dollars! I was not able to explore The Farwell when it was abandoned but below are some pictures of how it looked during that time. (Courtesy of HistoricDetroit.Org and detroiturbex.com) Fun fact: This building was used as a set of the movie Transformers: The Last Knight.
Below: Click to enlarge image and arrow to next
Restoring it to its original beauty
When you see what The Farwell Building looks like today, it is an amazing reminder that there are so many great people in the area that love Detroit and everything it has to offer, including its history! The detailed work that was done to bring this place back to life was unbelievable. The restoration began in 2016 and was completed in 2019 and included 82 residential apartments on the upper floors and storefronts on the lower level.
"The Farwell Building is one of those iconic structures and has the only commercial lobby in Detroit designed by Louis Tiffany (of Tiffany Glass fame)," says Richard Karp, a partner of Capitol Park Partnership with Richard Hosey and Kevin Prater, during a tour on Thursday. "It’s been vacant since the early 1970s, so it needs a lot of work. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime project."
Luckily, during the time the building was abandoned, a lot of original materials remained, including iron and wood railings, marble floors and wall panels, ceiling treatments, and the terrazzo flooring of the upper level. Part of the restoration efforts brought beautiful details back to the lobby area of Tiffany ceiling fixtures and glass tiles. There were several walk-in safes that were removed to add more room, and the elevators were replaced with more modern moving parts. The original skylight and beam were also kept, allowing the same natural light into the atrium area, and providing a view from the upper roof that is absolutely amazing.
“It’s like stepping back in time,” says Hosey. “There’s so much history about Detroit and Michigan in the Capitol Park district, and we know after completely leasing the Detroit Savings Bank building that people are looking to live and work in authentic spaces. It’s all here".
The architectural firm that did this wonderful renovation was Kraemer Design, which has done a number of other buildings in the area, and the contractor was Buildtech Ltd. All of the natural stone and marble was supplied by Ciot Detroit, who also did the recreation of the domes that were all fabricated with the new glass mosaics on the ceiling. The attention to detail that they put into their work is unlike anything I have seen before. One of the other amazing parts of the restoration is the atrium. Looking at the place from the outside, you would not think something so unique was behind the walls. It is a building that not many people have known about, but I hope this helps the people of Metro Detroit realize just how much amazing history this city has to offer.
Below: Stepping off the elevator, this is the atrium area that graces the building.
The details put into the railings were so perfectly done
that you cannot tell what was original and what was replaced.
Below: Looing up from the lower level of residential apartments.
Below: Looking down from the top floor! Look at the
amazing geometric shape of the atrium!
Below: The view from the roof! Overlooking Griswold Street below.
Thank you so much to RJ over at Buildtech for showing me this amazing building and giving me the rundown on the history behind the walls. It is because of companies like this that places with such history can be saved so the new generations can appreciate what took place.
Recent images, Copyright Ryan Jakubowski, J&C Photography 2022