Abandoned Apartment Building in Detroit MI

Chateau Frontenac Apartments, Detroit Michigan
Date added: July 02, 2024 Categories:
North elevation and part of front facade, looking towards northwest corner (1990)

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The Chateau Frontenac was designed by Detroit architect J. Will Wilson in 1925. By the early 1920's Mr. Wilson's practice concentrated primarily on the construction of apartment buildings. Amongst his better known works in Detroit were the Parkhurst Apartments (1921) at Parker and Agnes and the Art Center Apartments (1926) in the Cultural Center. The original plans identify the building as the "Marquette Drive Apartments," as it actually fronted on Marquette Drive, but it opened as the Chateau Frontenac in 1926. Otto Misch was its contractor; Truscon Steel Company did the columns and the footings. Truscon Steel of Youngstown, Ohio grew out of the Trussed Concrete Company of Detroit, a company founded by Julius Kahn, architect Albert Kahn's brother.

Classy apartment buildings became popular as residences for middle and upper-class Detroiters in the late 1910's and 1920's. The building was advertised in the 1926-27 Detroit City Directory as "One of Detroit's finest and most exclusive apartment hotels." Among its early occupants were architect J. Will Wilson and, contractor Otto Misch, along with many other professionals like Edward E. Barber, proprietor of Barber Drug Company; F.M. Burt, vice president and manager of the bond division of the National Surety Co.; Michael and Margaret Wellman, president and vice president of "Just Furs"; Frank Wieser of Frank Wieser & Co., real estate broker, subdividers, and owners of Foresight Park, Hubert Park, and Allen Business Park subdivisions; Miles Turpin of Miles Turpin & Co., office supplies; Theodore F.A. Osius, a real estate broker; and Dr. Louis D. Stearn, a physician. Others, like Marie Cahill, a phone operator for Wesson Realty Co., and Edward Goman, a musician, also called the Chateau Frontenac home in its early years.

J. Will Wilson owned the building initially but appeared to have suffered a financial setback during its construction. Liens were filed against him by subcontractors and he was forced to sell the building in 1927. It was then transferred to the Moore & Kent Investment Co., and has had a succession of owners since.

Building Description

The Chateau Frontenac is an eight-story brick and tile apartment building fronting on Marquette Drive. Its exterior is buff brick with off-white terra cotta ornamentation and green Spanish tile roof. In style, the Chateau Frontenac is Mediterranean with some vaguely French Gothic touches. It originally contained 102 units.

The first story of the building gives the appearance of rustication due to the raised brick course every 9th or so course. The centerpiece of this ground level is the projecting pavilion that contains a terra cotta fountain with a dolphin motif flanked by a set of double doors. A Spanish tile roof shelters the portico area.

Textural interest is achieved by the use of different bonds of brick throughout the exterior. For example, the ground story is laid in American bond, English bond is utilized between the second story windows, and American bond is laid above. The penthouse at eighth story level is separated from the lower stories by header bond projecting 1/2 inch. Fanlike motifs of terra cotta occupy the blind arches above some of the second story windows of the wings of the front facade and on the north elevation.

The Chateau Frontenac is also rich in terra cotta detail. Terra cotta cartouches occupy areas between windows on the top floor of the projecting outer wings of the building. Decorative terra cotta eave brackets rest beneath the Spanish tile shallow-hipped roof.

In plan, the building is somewhat like a sideways "E" standing on its legs. A shallow courtyard is created on Marquette to the sides of the central entrance pavilion. Three-sided bay windows project into the courtyard space in plan. All windows are of the metal casement variety and contain multiple panes. The secondary facade facing Jefferson Ave. is plain in treatment, except for the bays of windows and terra cotta details, such as the fans above some of the second-story windows. Although the building is in poor repair, the original detail appears to be in good condition throughout the exterior elevations.

On the interior, the original detailing of the lobby has been totally lost. Some cornices with leaf motifs still remain in the hallways. Wooden frame moldings still remain in the hallways of the upper stories, as do some decorative floral cornices.

Chateau Frontenac Apartments, Detroit Michigan North elevation and part of front facade, looking towards northwest corner (1990)
North elevation and part of front facade, looking towards northwest corner (1990)

Chateau Frontenac Apartments, Detroit Michigan Entrance bay, front (west) facade (1990)
Entrance bay, front (west) facade (1990)

Chateau Frontenac Apartments, Detroit Michigan Second story windows, front (west) facade (1990)
Second story windows, front (west) facade (1990)

Chateau Frontenac Apartments, Detroit Michigan North elevation (1990)
North elevation (1990)

Chateau Frontenac Apartments, Detroit Michigan East (rear) elevation (1990)
East (rear) elevation (1990)