Friday, January 28, 2005

The Wayne County Building

Wayne County Building, also called the Wayne County Couthouse

Although scaffolding covers up its tower, the lavish Wayne County Building at the eastern end of Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit is hard to miss.

Designed by Englishman John Scott during the last few years of the 19th century, Scott's vision of an extravagent structure came to life in 1902 and, at the time, was considered the most splendid building in the state.

Sticking with the Italian Renaissance theme of architects immediately preceding him, Scott had rusticated granite used for the building's ground and first floors and ohio sandstone for its three upper levels. A variety of granite flanks its interior. According to W. Hawkin Ferry's book, The Buildings of Detroit: A History, the four bronze figures that adorn the tower colonnade parapet represent Law, Commerce, Agriculture and Mechanics.

Side View

With the creation of the City-County Building in the 1950s, most of the governmental offices occupying the Wayne County Building were relocated to the new structure on Woodward Avenue. As a result, Scott's baroque masterpiece was left empty and began to decay.

Talk of razing the building surfaced in the 1980s but, fortunately, ceased when - in 1987 - private organizations teamed up with historical preservationists to restore the building to its grandeur of earlier years. The building was deemed a State Historic structure in 1974 and was placed on the National Historic list in 1975.

Today the Wayne County Building stands in its original spot, on Randolph between Fort and Congress. It is home to the offices of the Wayne County Commissioners, as well as other county and private organizations.