DETROIT: Bank On It

30 Mar

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By the 1890’s Detroit was becoming an important industrial and manufacturing city producing consumer goods such as shoes, bicycles, beer, packaged seeds and pharmaceuticals. The city manufactured railroad cars, ships and stoves; in 1890 Detroit was the nations 14th largest city with a population of 205,876, all of those people needed to put their money somewhere…The Financial District was born. In 1899 22 of 23 banks in Detroit’s financial district were on Griswold, the economic boom of the auto industry brought new banks that swallowed up the old, mergers and closures. Of the 36 buildings within the historically designated Financial District, 33 are historic buildings, 18 of these originally housed banks or financial institutions. Today we are visiting Chrysler House f.k.a the Dime Savings Bank Building.

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The Neoclassical building designed by Daniel Burnham opened in 1912, the steel-framed structure is covered in white glazed brick with white terra-cotta trim. Built and paid for by the Dime Savings Bank of Detroit, you could open an account there for as little as 10 cents. The banks vaults and tellers were on the first floor, offices were above that. In 2002 $40 million was spent on upgrades and renovations making it into Class A office space. Bedrock Detroit purchased the building in 2011, in 2012 Chrysler Group LLC leased 33,000 sq ft; after nearly 100 years the name was changed to Chrysler House. The light-filled lobby is striking; stylish seating areas, large potted plants, polished marble floors and elegant columns surround the central light court. 

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The ground floor houses restaurants and retail shops, passing through the lobby, lanyard-laden employees come and go during the lunch hour, we walk towards the bank of elevators, make a left and find ourselves in a short corridor. Drought, founded by four James sisters from Plymouth MI, produces organic cold-pressed raw juice. They operate 6 locations in Metro Detroit including the small retail space in Chrysler House, selling glass bottles of juice, cold-brew coffee and candles. The stark white space overlooks Fort St, foot traffic is heavy today, now and again pedestrians pause to look in the windows. A single 3-door cooler holds bottles of colorful juices, customers come in, grab a bottle or two, pay at the counter and they’re off.

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Across the hall Bon Bon Bon has opened a second location. It’s Good Friday, with Easter only a couple of days away, the demand for chocolate is high, there is no shortage of variety or quantity today. I count at least 25 flavors from Bunny Butt and Hazel-What? to Cherry Lux and Boston Cooler, wait, does that one say Bacon & Eggs…..yup. The shop is cheery with bright orange walls, sunlight spills in from large windows, a steady stream of chocoholics make their way to the front of the line. When our turn comes I choose Bunny Butt, chocolate cake cream in a dark chocolate shell with a squirt of buttercream. Kris goes with the Swimming Turtle, toasted pecan and sea salt in a pool of caramel, it’s as good as your thinking it is right now.

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Now that we’ve had dessert I guess we should have some lunch! Dime Store opened on the ground floor facing Griswold in 2014. Funky vintage lights hang above the counters, an over-sized mercury head from dimes minted between 1916-1945 is painted on the far wall, old kitchen items rest on shelves. They call themselves an American Brunch Bar specializing in breakfast, lunch and booze; they do all of it well. It’s nearly 3 pm and the only available space is two counter seats, we make ourselves comfy as we read over the menu. Once we place our order we’re mesmerized by all of the activity in the open kitchen, staff members hustle among a sea of stainless steel preparing french toast, omelettes, benny’s, hash, salads and sandwiches.  

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Our server delivers a bowl of classic Mac & Cheese, topped with bread crumbs and chives the sauce is thick and smooth, the noodles are the perfect texture. Todays special is the Hercules Omelette, 2 eggs packed with house-made chorizo, roasted eggplant, spinach and smoked Gouda topped with tzatziki sauce and pickled onions. Filling out the plate is a side of breakfast potatoes and toast, every bite is delicious. 

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Now that we’ve eaten we take a little time to explore the building further. White walls are accented with embossed plaster panels painted in red, teal and gold, elevator doors wear decorative trim and elegant wreaths. The second floor is the mezzanine level, here we get an up-close look at the Corinthian capitols, plaster rosettes and designs. The old fireplace from the bank presidents office has been moved to create a cozy seating area, workers sit at small tables overlooking the lobby while on their break. Looking up through the skylight I notice the building becomes a U-shape on the upper floors, what a cool view of the building and sky. At 104 years old the Dime building, errrr…I mean Chrysler House is still looking good!

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A short walk away we stop in at Cornerstone Barrel House on Woodward for Happy Hour. Open for about a year now in the old Oslo space, the decor features reclaimed wood and exposed brick walls lending a rustic feel to the space. We pull up a seat at the bar, scan the menu along with the collection of bottles behind the counter and make our decision. I sip on a Left Hand Brewing Co. Nitro Milk Stout, Kris enjoys a Crown on the rocks. The vibe is mellow, patrons represent city and suburbs, visitors and locals in all age ranges. The restaurant serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, the lower level, called The Whiskey Disco, hosts international and local electronic music artists Wednesday through Saturday.

 

 

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