Abandoned hotel in Detroit now demolished

Park Avenue Hotel, Detroit Michigan
Date added: August 09, 2022 Categories: Michigan Hotel
East and north facades (2005)

The Park Avenue Hotel is one of three Italian Renaissance-inspired hotels constructed along Park Avenue for Detroit hotel man Lew W. Tuller during the 1920s, a boom period in Detroit's history that saw the construction of a number of luxurious hotels to accommodate the rapidly rising number of visitors to and transient and permanent residents in the city. The Park Avenue was part of a grand plan on the part of Tuller and other Detroit developers to emulate the urban character of New York's Fifth Avenue. The Park Avenue was planned by Detroit architect Louis Kamper, designer of many of the city's leading hotel buildings and downtown landmarks in the 1920s.

The Park Avenue Hotel was the most lavish of three hotels built along Detroit's Park Avenue by well known local real estate developer Lew W. Tuller. Tuller (1869-1957) came to Detroit at the age of seventeen from Jonesville, Michigan, where he began work with his father, who was an architect and builder. Five years later, with capital furnished by Senator Thomas W. Palmer, he started his own company as a building contractor. He was one of the first to build apartment buildings on Woodward Avenue north of Grand Boulevard, where he constructed the Saragossa Apartments at the corner of Lothrop and Woodward and the Valencia Apartments next door.

Detroit's tremendous growth as an industrial center in the early 1900s resulted in a rapidly escalating demand for hotel accommodations. In 1907 Tuller erected the Tuller Hotel west of Grand Circus Park at the foot of Park Avenue, at what was then the edge of downtown Detroit, initially enduring skepticism that the hotel was "too far uptown" from the central business district. The Tuller proved to be such a success that he eventually added five stories to the original building and a few years later built a matching fourteen story annex making a total of eight hundred rooms. The hotel quickly became a local landmark and fashionable destination for both travelers and residents.

With the rise of the automobile industry, the population of Detroit rose 113 percent from 1910 to 1920, according to the United States Census figures, from 465,766 to 993,739. The tremendous expansion in population and business activity was reflected in the booming market not only for homes and apartment buildings but also for hotels for visitors and residential hotels for more permanent guests. In 1924-25 twenty hotels were constructed in or near downtown Detroit, adding 5,441 rooms. The neighborhood north of Grand Circus Park became a prime location for new hotel and residential development due to its proximity to downtown and nearby transportation routes.

The south end of Park Avenue near Grand Circus Park had already become a fashionable residential district in the early 1900s with the construction of the Tuller Hotel and other buildings like the Varney Apartments (1892), the Hotel Charlevoix (1905), and the Blenheim (1909). During the 1920s a construction boom hit the south end of Park Avenue as the street evolved into more of a business and shopping district.

In 1923 property owners formed the Park Avenue Association. Their vision was for Park to take on a character similar to that of New York's Fifth Avenue. The association envisioned the south end of Park Avenue lined with high-class office buildings, shops and clubs, and hotels and other residential development at the north end. Buildings constructed during this period in the south end included the Women's City Club (1923), the Iodent Building (1923), the Park Avenue Building (1923) and the Colony Club (1928).

The overwhelming success of the Tuller Hotel together with the economic boom of the early 1920s inspired Tuller to create his own hotel empire. In the mid-1920s Tuller built three more hotels, the Eddystone Hotel, the Park Avenue Hotel and the Royal Palm Hotel, all along Park Avenue north of Grand Circus Park. The Royal Palm Hotel is located in the south end of Park Avenue just four blocks south of the Park Avenue. Estimates of Tuller's financial investment ranged between six and twelve million dollars. His hotels offered accommodations for both transient guests and permanent residents in the "hotel district" of downtown Detroit. They advertised easy accessibility to transportation with locations just one block from two important traffic avenues, Woodward and Cass. The hotels were within walking distance of downtown Detroit and also located in close proximity to the theater district surrounding Grand Circus Park and the shopping district along Woodward Avenue.

The Park Avenue, built on the southwest corner of Park and Sproat in 1924, was designed by Louis Kamper (1861-1953), one of Detroit's most prominent architects who was at the height of his career in the 1920s. Kamper had come to Detroit from the offices of McKim, Mead and White in New York and established his own office here in 1888. He was a devotee of Italian Renaissance styling, using it as a starting point for much of the ornament on the Detroit buildings for which he is best remembered.

In 1916 he became involved with J. Burgess Book, Jr., who had just become administrator of his father's large estate. Book had visions of developing Washington Boulevard, not far from the Tuller Hotel in downtown Detroit, into another prestigious commercial thoroughfare. Together with his brothers Herbert and Frank he was able to acquire control of sixty percent of the property along the boulevard. The Books chose Louis Kamper as their, and he was responsible for the design of the Book Building and Tower, the Washington Boulevard Building, the Industrial Bank Building and the Book-Cadillac Hotel, all built along the boulevard in the 1917-28 period. Kamper designed all three of Tuller's hotels along Park Avenue in the early 1920s. He was also responsible for the design of other residential hotels constructed nearby including the 1923 Carlton Plaza on John R and the 1926 Savoy Hotel (now demolished) on Woodward Avenue.

The thirteen-story, 252-room Park Avenue Hotel reflected the latest in hotel design with disappearing wall beds, built-in chests of drawers, and luxurious furniture. The lobby of the hotel was designed in the Tudor style with imitation stone walls, luxurious furniture and decorative wall hangings. At the rear of the lobby was a lounge room with wood paneling, chandeliers, and English style furniture. Beyond the lounge was the main dining room and two adjoining private dining rooms. The main floor had ten stores that included a barbershop, tobacco shop, drug store and cleaners.

Tuller apparently overbuilt in Detroit's hotel market. He lost the three Park Avenue hotels in 1928 in foreclosure and was forced into receivership by the Security Trust Company. The surrounding South Cass Corridor neighborhood began to lose its population during the period following World War II. As suburban development grew, the area lost its middle class occupants who were replaced by lower income residents and the impoverished. As the population density of the area decreased, many of its apartment buildings and hotels were abandoned and later demolished. The Park Avenue Hotel continued to operate as a residential hotel until 1957 when the building was acquired by the Salvation Army, converted into a home for the aged and renamed the Eventide Residence. At that time the popular trend in planning senior citizen residences was to locate facilities near a downtown area allowing seniors accessibility to downtown shops, services and entertainment. By the 1980s the neighborhood had deteriorated and the Salvation Army began to use the building to house emergency family services. Known as the Harbor Light Center, it remained in operation until 2003, when the building was closed and secured.

In 2015, Olympia Entertainment, the real estate segment of the Marian Ilitch-owned Ilitch Holdings, began construction on the Little Caesars Arena near the Eddystone. As part of the development, the Park Avenue Hotel was demolished.