Tuesday, March 12, 2013

HIDDEN TREASURES...ON DETROIT'S GOLD COAST...







This is the story of my visit to the newly restored ALDEN TOWERS APARTMENTS on Jefferson in Detroit. There are four towers and about 382 apartments. Only the first tower has been restored and is now renting. There is still some work being done on the other amenities these buildings have to offer such as laundry facilities and the work-out room! The rest of the towers will be undergoing the transformations that the first tower underwent. The developers have asked me not to show the ongoing demo, and only to focus on the improvements. Suffice it to say, if you ever get the opportunity, you should stop by and ask for a tour of this place. It will amaze you! My company, The Loft Warehouse, is a cooperating broker in the leasing of these apartments. Please contact me if you would like additional information on this wonderful new project.

The monolithic structure known today as Alden Towers was once considered one of the most important buildings in the history of Detroit. It's beauty beyond compare, Alden Towers consisted of four eight-story buildings that originally contained 352 apartments and are excellent examples of the Tudor Revival style of architecture. The Alden Towers were built in 1922 and were originally known as the Berman Apartments. They were built on the south side of Jefferson Avenue to take advantage of the natural beauty of the Detroit River. Once known as The Gold Coast where millionaires and industrialists such as Edsel Ford built palatial homes, Jefferson Avenue and the Indian Villages featured buildings and mansions in a time when craftsmanship was one of the most important considerations of construction. This amazing multiple dwelling structure spared no expense to detail, but as befalls many of the grande dames of Detroit, the years were unkind to the Alden Towers and eventually it fell into ruin and despair. Virtually abandoned, the quiet elegance of Alden Towers struggled to retain its integrity. Though shabby and rundown, it could not forever hide the grandeur that once was.






During the World War II era, C. C. Williams, a real estate developer from the Phildadelphia area, had  built similar structures in three other major cities. His architect, Edwin Rorke, was the principal designer.
Alden Towers was listed on The State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Listed # P25017 and on the National Register of Historic Sites on November 9, 1985.

The following photos are of details in the building that give credence to why this structure is of such importance.



Hex tiles (hexagonal in shape), with colored tiles forming a floral motif, can be found in almost every bit of flooring throughout the building. Each tile may have been individually placed and grouted and has survived beautifully over the years.



 Hidden under years of accumulated dirt and debris, the treasure of original poured terrazzo flooring, as indicated in the lower photo, was revealed. Terrazzo is a composite material, poured in place or precast, which is used for floor and wall treatments. It consists of  marble, quartz, granite and glass or other suitable chips, and poured with a binder such as cement. Terrazzo is cured and then ground and polished to a smooth surface or otherwise finished to produce a uniformly textured surface. To reveal a layer of terrazzo flooring that is intact is close to being miraculous! 



The newly remodeled lobby of Alden Towers shows  preserved original terra cotta and colored stone tiles (possibly Pewabic). The fact that all of this hand-laid tile flooring has lasted for decades is a testament to the work of artisans of days gone by. Elsewhere in Alden Towers, original wood flooring has been preserved when possible.


When I ventured into this Alden Towers hallway my heart nearly stopped. I was breathless and speechless as I gazed upon an entire wall of original 1920's era Pewabic tile. The rough clay which is the signature of Pewabic Tile was all laid by hand and still perfect. Different sizes and shapes, cut and placed. The most amazing part of this hall of tiles are the classic motif tiles with art sculpted in the tile work, randomly placed. I was so moved by this room as I imagined the craftsmen doing their work with love a pride. I could hardly bring myself to leave, but there was so much more for me to discover and explore.




The center tile is of an Native American and a teepee. I would not want to venture the value of such an early part of Detroit history all collected in one place. I wonder if Pewabic even knows of its existence?







 Original stained and leaded glass still remains in the emblem style
using primary colors.


Original wet plaster ceiling medallion needed to be fully restored and it was decided that oil based paint was needed to help keep it preserved.


Old wooden doors still hang proud in Alden Towers.. Each door in the mechanical areas and the directionals boast hand painted and hand lettered signage. Even when using a "stencil", great effort was used. An artist was never out of work and was probably handsomely paid.











American Pickers would have a field day in here, but none of the artifacts are for sale. Great effort is being made to keep everything original, and that is part of the charm.


Beautiful wood doors on elevators.
Up and Down  call buttons.
Original enamel emblem on elevator (Alden Park Manor)
Original 1920's brass door knocker


Original fireplace in main lobby.
Huge all solid wood door with original leaded glass.


Over 100 years old and still intact. On the Detroit River.

This completes my personal assessment of the vintage remnants in this historical property. When I think about it, I  begin to wonder what other remains could be unearthed from ALL of the abandoned buildings in Detroit. Tragically, architectural scavengers roam the interiors of these buildings, wrongfully taking out leaded and stained glass windows and ornamental light fixtures and more. Scavengers with no regard to the antiquities rip out copper wiring and old cast iron heating registers to salvage to scrappers for a measly few bucks. When you stumble upon a place like Alden Towers, you find a whole new respect to our Detroit past.

 I have enclosed a link to the all new freshly rehabbed and renovated Alden Towers. I invite you to look at the wonderful photo gallery they have here on their website. If you should want to consider living here at Alden Towers, as I wrote early in this blog, my real estate company, The Loft Warehouse, has entered into a broker relationship with the complex and I would be happy to show you some of the available units! 
































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