History William Reid and Company Building (Buckland-Van Wald Building), Detroit Michigan
After a decade of slow growth in the 1870s, Detroit's population doubled in the 1880s, from 116,000 in 1880 to nearly 206,000 by 1890, reflecting its expanding industrial base. The commercial districts of Detroit were concentrated along Woodward Avenue, the major south to north thoroughfare during the past two centuries. The streets running perpendicular to Woodward, particularly near the Detroit River, underwent substantial development beginning in the early 1880s. The area of West Larned Street where this building is situated, four blocks from Woodward Avenue, became a prime commercial location in the 1880s. The surviving real estate and fire insurance atlases show a largely undeveloped area in the late 1870s, with a few frame buildings, including barns, and many vacant lots. By the mid-1890s, this area was almost entirely filled with substantial four and five-story brick commercial and industrial buildings.
The development of West Larned was reflected in the real estate values of the two lots where the building stands. In the late 1860s, one lot sold (in two parcels) for $4,600, but when David Whitney, Jr. bought the same lot in 1883, he paid $12,000. Whitney, a millionaire lumberman who became a major Detroit landowner and developer, acquired the second lot from William Reid in January 1890, at a cost of 514,000.2 Gordon W. Lloyd, a prominent Detroit architect, took out a building permit on 10 May 1890 "to erect a 5-story, brick manufactory store at 118-26 W. Larned, valuation of $38,000."
Gordon W. Lloyd dominated Detroit's architectural scene from the early 1860s to the early 1890s. He designed churches, residences, and commercial buildings for some of Detroit's wealthiest and most prestigious families. Born in Cambridge, England, in 1832, Lloyd began his career working in the office of his uncle, a major builder and restorer of churches. Between 1861 and 1875, Lloyd completed a dozen major Gothic-style churches for various Protestant denominations in Detroit and outstate Michigan, along with an equal number of impressive private residences. He designed several cast-iron facade commercial buildings from the mid-1870s through the mid-1880s, then a series of Queen Anne-style residences in the early and mid-1880s, before concluding his career with a series of Romanesque Revival residential and commercial buildings in the late 1880s and early 1890s.
Lloyd's Romanesque Revival commercial architecture was far more modest than that practiced by Henry Hobson Richardson, who had pioneered the use of this style in large commercial buildings. Lloyd used the Romanesque when he designed a large seed warehouse in 1887 for the D.H. Ferry Company of Detroit, His use of that style on the Ferry warehouse, and on the William Reid Building in 1890, were important steps in the evolution of Detroit architecture. The historian W. Hawkins Ferry noted that the Reid building was "one of Lloyd's last buildings and shows how far he had gone from the (Second Empire style) Newberry Building of only ten years earlier." A symbol of the transition to the modern commercial structure, the Reid building was constructed in the same year as Detroit's first skyscraper, the ten-story Hammond Building at Fort and Griswold. Detroit's first all-steel skeleton buildings date from 1894. From his Gothic church spires of the mid-century to the skyscrapers of the 1890s, Gordon W. Lloyd's contributions were etched on Detroit's skyline.
William Reid was one of many Canadians who emigrated to Detroit in the nineteenth century and developed successful businesses. Born in 1842 in Mersea, Essex County, Ontario Province, he came to Detroit in 1856, went back to Canada, but then returned to Detroit permanently in 1865. Reid started off in the business of wholesaling plate glass and building materials. He worked as a bookkeeper for William Wright & Co. beginning in 1867, became a partner in the firm of Raid & Hills in 1871, and finally, on 1 January 1879, he established the firm of William Reid. He quickly became the leading importer and jobber of plate glass and other glass products in Detroit and by the 1890s, was one of the largest glass wholesalers in the midwest. His inventory in 1880 included "French and American window glass and plate glass, ribbed and rough plates for sky-lights, cut and enameled glass, silver plated sash bars, French and German looking-glass plates, lead and oil, colors, putty points, glaziers' diamonds, etc. Reid's glass sales totaled roughly $150,000 in 1880, but by 1891, had increased fivefold. His firm occupied a four-story warehouse at 73-75 West Larned in 1882-1889, immediately before it moved into the building at 124-128 West Larned. Reid maintained a retail outlet on East Congress Street by the late 1880s and also established a branch in Grand Rapids by 1891.
From the start, Reid's glass business used only the western half of this building, while the Detroit Confectionery and Fruit Tablet Company occupied the eastern half through 1897. According to one early description, the building had an electric elevator and "an apparatus for moving heavy glass on and off the wagons." Reid had a total of forty employees, including clerks, salesmen, mechanics, and a porter.
On 3 March 1892, after only about of a year of use, a fire destroyed the western half, occupied by Reid, with an estimated total loss of about $150,000 of inventory. Reid carried on $15,000 of insurance, primarily for his half of the building. The way the fire evolved, along with the firewall separating the two building segments, combined to minimize loss to the confectionery company to a mere $2,000 of smoke damage. Engine Company No. 12 responded to the fire, which started at 10:15 A.M. Four firemen were on the fourth floor when burning floor joists on the floors below collapsed, the rear wall fell inward, and they found themselves on the ground floor covered with bricks and burning timbers. Their fellow firemen removed the debris and, miraculously, three of the four had only minor injuries. Unfortunately, the fourth firemen was killed. The collapse of the western half of the building put the fire out and probably saved the eastern half as well. The rebuilding of the western half accounts for the noticeable differences in appearance. Gordon Lloyd probably prepared the plans for the reconstruction, but there is no evidence that the City of Detroit issued a new building permit.
From 1890 through 1906, William Reid occupied the western half of the building, known as 124-128 West Larned through 1920, then as 430 West Larned. Reid purchased the west half of the building from David Whitney, Jr., in November 1896, but ten years later, the building changed hands again, as the result of the bankruptcy of Reid's firm. A group of Detroit-based trustees, acting on behalf of the Scottish Union & National Insurance Company, took control of the property. This part of the building had a series of tenants, mainly dry goods warehousing operators, until Van Wald, Inc. a furniture dealer, acquired it in 1965. The eastern half of the building, known as 118-122 West Larned through 1920, then as 426 West Larned, was the home of the Detroit Confectionery and Fruit Tablet Company through 1897, was vacant in 1898-99, and served as a warehouse for C. Elliot and Co., wholesale grocers through 1908. A wholesale paper distributor, Welt and Sons Paper Company, occupied the eastern half of the building from 1909 through 1972, when Van Wald, Inc. acquired it. The later firm became Buckland-Van Wald, Inc., the last owners of this property prior to purchase by the City of Detroit.