Globe Trading Company Building
Location Name: Globe Trading Company Building (Detroit, Michigan)
Location Type: Abandoned Site (Factory, Warehouse)
Year Completed: 1892 with 1902 and 1910s additions
Architect(s): Berlin Iron Bridge Company (Original Building), and others (Additions)
The Globe Trading Company Building lies along Detroit’s riverfront just east of Downtown. The complex actually consists of six interconnected buildings; the oldest of which date back to 1892. In the nineteenth century, this portion of Detroit’s riverfront was an important shipbuilding center. While much of the evidence of this rich history has been dismantled and forgotten, the Globe building stands as a ghostly reminder of Detroit’s maritime past. The story of this site begins with the Dry Docks Engine Works (a marine engine manufacturer) and the Detroit Dry Dock Company (a shipbuilder).
The site had been in use by these companies prior to the construction of the current buildings, but no older buildings remain today. In 1892 the oldest portion of the complex, the machine shop built by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company was completed. It is a very early example (perhaps the earliest in Detroit) of an industrial building entirely supported by a steel frame. In 1899 these two companies, along with the Detroit Sheet Metal and Brass Works, combined to form the Detroit Shipbuilding Company. The DSC combined the specialties of the co-dependent companies and could more efficiently operate a shipbuilding business working together. In 1902, the DSC completed work on a foundry and industrial loft building, greatly expanding the complex. Throughout the 1910s the complex expanded again, enclosing the entire block. The resulting complex of six buildings still stands today.
During the 1920s the DSC fell on hard times, ultimately leading to its dissolution in 1929. The last two ships built here were the Greater Detroit and the Greater Buffalo, both completed in 1924. After a brief stint as a cabinet shop and stove manufacturing factory, the complex was purchased by the Detroit Edison Company in 1935. Among other uses, Edison used the complex as a conditioning and appliance shop. Eventually the building was used by the Globe Trading Company, a machinery and mill supplies dealer, and bought the building from Edison in 1981. When Globe went out of business the complex was abandoned.
Recent improvements in the area surrounding the Globe Trading Company building appear to show promise for the future of the historic industrial complex. The adjacent William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, the Detroit International Riverfront and RiverWalk and the Dequindre Cut Greenway have all transformed the city’s riverfront with new development and recreational opportunities. The complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. It has been announced that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is planning to transform the Globe complex into a 42,000 square-foot Outdoor Adventure and Discovery Center. The proposed $12.8 million facility will house numerous educational resources aimed at teaching outdoor skills such as kayaking, fishing, skeet shooting, pitching a tent and building a campfire. The work is scheduled to begin sometime in 2013. The renovation plans intend to use much of the original architecture of the historic buildings with hopes to preserve some of the building’s past. The new incarnation of the complex, along with the 1892 Dry Dock No. 2 located across Atwater Street from the Globe will serve as reminders of the city’s industrial past among modern reclaimed green spaces.
The Globe Trading Company complex was listed (as the Dry Dock Engine Works-Detroit Dry Dock Company Complex) on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.Sources