Location Name: Lee Plaza (Detroit, Michigan)
Location Type: Abandoned Site (Hotel, Apartment Building)
Year Completed: 1929
Architect(s): Charles Noble
Lee Plaza began as the dream of Detroit real estate developer Ralph T. Lee. Lee envisioned an upscale residential apartment building that also provided hotel services. It was to be a Detroit version of New York's Fifth Avenue apartment houses. Ground was broken on 01 May 1927 for an ornate high rise that would bear Lee's name on West Grand Boulevard.
Designed by architect Charles Noble, Lee Plaza's steel and reinforced concrete structure rose 15 stories in height. The first two floors were faced with stone and the remainder of the tower was covered with orange glazed brick. Originally the building was topped with a chateau-esque Spanish tile roof but it was later replaced with copper. The building was also adorned with large urns and ornately carved lion heads.
Completed in 1929, the residential hotel boasted 220 luxury apartments, ranging from one to four rooms apiece. Every unit was equipped with a servidor. The basement of the building housed a beauty parlor, a game room, a playroom for children, a meat market and a grocer. Also within the building was a small library, a flower shop and a cigar stand. Much of the interior was designed by Corrado Parducci. Of special note was the 88-foot corridor that ran from the front lobby to the rear of the building. Known as Peacock Alley, it featured a hand-painted barreled ceiling and mirrored walls.
Shortly after the opening of Lee Plaza the building fell on hard times. In the 1940s residential hotels fell out of favor and the Lee began to rent out rooms to transient guests to stay afloat. The building went through several owners before being sold to the city in January 1969. Once under the control of the Detroit Housing Commission the building was used to house low income seniors. Lee Plaza eventually closed its doors for good in 1997.
Lee Plaza made news in the early 2000s when more than fifty of the terra cotta lion heads were stolen from the exterior of the building. Six of the heads turned up in a new development in Chicago. After some litigation 24 of the lion heads were recovered in 2002. In another architectural tragedy the copper roof was stripped in 2005. Today the building still sits vacant and has been plundered by scrappers. The effects of weather getting into the building has been equally destructive. Without any plans for redevelopment, Lee Plaza's future is looking grim.
Lee Plaza was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.Sources