The Fabulous Fisher Building

23 Nov

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In August 1927, ground was broken for a new building that would be home to the offices of Fisher and Company. Having purchased seven acres, and employing architect extraordinaire Albert Kahn, the Fisher brothers spent $9 million dollars to create The Fisher Building. A little background here; the seven Fisher brothers developed the closed body for auto manufacturing, you may remember GM cars had “Body by Fisher” at one time, these are the men responsible for that. They amassed fortunes, so money was no object in creating what they wanted to be the world’s most beautiful office building. Often referred to as “Detroit’s largest art object”, it is one of those places you have to see to believe.

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Enter the building from from Grand Blvd or Lothrop for the most impressive view. The main arcade is 30 feet wide 44 feet high and 600 feet long, this place is incredible! It’s difficult to decide what to focus on, my eyes are usually drawn to the towering art deco chandeliers first; ranging from 5 to 8 feet tall they hang from the center arcade and softly illuminate this work of art. Everywhere you look there is something beautiful; 3 original mosaics enhance the grand arcade, solid bronze medallions are laid into the floor, 40 different varieties of marble from all over the world, brass and bronze decorate the interior. The elevator doors are incredibly detailed and vary from floor to floor. Geza Maroti was brought from Hungary to Detroit by Eliel Saarinen to work on Cranbrook, while he was here Kahn hired him to work on the Fisher. Maroti hand painted the frescoes, he also created the lunettes, plaques and mosaics.

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Take the stairway to the second floor; here you can get an up close view of the magnificent chandeliers. From this level you can really appreciate the intricate floor patterns, notice the same architectural design is repeated throughout the building. Walk up to the third floor, now you are in the thick of things. Find yourself surrounded by hand painted decor; there are 60 nude figures painted on the ceiling of the arcade, no two are alike, dozens of eagles, hemlock, and oranges fill up the space. 40 % of the ceiling is gold leaf, and from here it is stunning. Standing in the archway at the end of the hall you are completely surrounded by decoration, it’s tempting to reach out and touch the walls, but don’t! When you have had your fill of sightseeing on the third and second floor return to the main floor for a snack and a little shopping.

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Start at Stella International Cafe for a beverage and a snack, carry it over to the lobby that is across from the Fisher Theatre. Have a seat at one of the tables, make yourself comfortable and just sit there and take in the surroundings. This is my favorite little area, the ornamentation here is insanely gorgeous. The blending of marble and bronze, exotic sconces and more chandeliers, wow! While you are sitting there think about this; this was built as an office building, seriously. Since the 20’s  regular people like you and I would come here to shop, have a bite to eat, maybe see their dentist or accountant. Men would smoke their pipes, couples would dress up to attend a show at the renowned Fisher Theatre.  Looking to do a little shopping? Stop in the Detroit Gallery of Contemporary Crafts, if you are looking for something unique, you can find it here. From glassware, pottery and jewelry to clothing and art objects their selection is first class. While inside note the amazing Pewabic Pottery flooring. If you’re looking for something Detroit, then by all means stop in at Pure Detroit. T-shirts, music, Sanders, Faygo, Pewabic Pottery, and a great book selection; chances are if it’s a Detroit thing they have it here.

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You may not know this but the Fisher building connects to the Albert Kahn building and the old GM building through a series of underground corridors, how cool is that? You have to check it out; from the lower level of the Fisher building follow the the tiled corridors from building to building, they even made these pretty. I love the mailboxes that are built into the walls and the drinking fountains that can be found here and there. This is a great convenience on those cold winter days. We usually come up through the Kahn building, another fine example of beautiful design. Once outdoors take the time to really look at the Fisher building, the main tower is 28 stories, it was originally covered with gold-leaf tiles, but has since been replaced with tiles made of green terracotta. If you listen to WJR you have heard them say they are coming to you “from the Golden Tower of the Fisher Building”, now you know why. Since 1928 this golden tower has  brightened the Detroit skyline, that same year Albert Kahn received the Architectural Leagues Silver Medal, designating this as the most beautiful structure of the year. In 1989 the building was designated a National Historic Landmark.  I invite you to come and experience it for yourself, it is a must-see Detroit landmark!

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Time to eat! We drove a few blocks over to Baltimore to Northern Lights Lounge, you can park in their lot or right on the street. The sign out front is indicative of what you will find inside, that cool 50’s lounge style. They do a nice job with it, great retro furniture and lighting, and shuffleboard too. There’s a roomy sitting area in the front, seating is laid out in a way that makes it easy for small groups to converse. The dining area is large and offers regular or high top tables and booth seating. All the old standards were represented on the lunch menu, we had the cobb salad with their spicy homemade ranch dressing. The salad was huge, thick strips of ham, turkey and swiss cheese were placed on top alongside halved hard boiled eggs; the dressing was good, I liked the kick of spice it added. The sandwich decision was little harder, the Baltimore Burger caught our eye, so we gave it a try. Similar to a Big Boy the burger was topped with cheese, onions, and thousand island dressing, it was served with a pile of seasoned fries that were crisp and tasty. Our waitress couldn’t have been nicer and the service was quick. It’s a good place to keep in mind when you are in this section of the city.

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