Project Description

The Brodhead Naval Armory was built in 1930 at 7600 East Jefferson, on the Detroit River, near the entrance of the Belle Isle Bridge, in Detroit, Michigan. The Brodhead Naval Armory was a naval training academy and a site used for civic events. The Detroit Naval Armory is three-story, limestone structure with a gymnasium, drill hall, office space, conference halls, commander-quarters, penthouses, and even a shooting range. The Brodhead Naval Armory was designed by William Buck Stratton, of Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery fame, in a architectural style that crossed Art Deco with a splash of Art Moderne.

The Brodhead Naval Armory used to contain Michigan’s largest display of Depression-era, Works Progress Administration (WPA) art by artists, such as Detroit’s own Edgar Yaeger, all with nautical-based themes. Some of the work included depicted naval scenes, both hand-painted and carved, on some of the walls throughout the Brodhead Armory. There was also intricate, hand-carved, wooden detail throughout the building’s stairwells, as well as around many of the entrances inside the building. The Brodhead Naval Armory’s exterior was decorated in naval themes, using Stratton’s Pewabic Pottery tiles. The Brodhead Naval Armory is named after Captain Richard Thornton Brodhead, who was as lieutenant-commander of the Michigan naval force.

The Brodhead Naval Armory hosted two historic events, both in 1932. The first event was when Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his Presidential-nomination speech to Detroiters, during his first run for the White House. The second event was when a young, upcoming Detroit-boxer, by the name of Joe Louis, fought his first ever career-bout in the Brodhead Naval Armory’s gymnasium.

The Brodhead Naval Armory went through several different phases through the years, but the focus was always military and armed forces related. During World War II, the armory was where more than 1,000 sailors were housed and trained in special war-time operations. In the later years, the Brodhead Naval Armory was used for training both the navy and the marine corps.

The Brodhead Naval Armory closed in 2003. That winter, all the pipes had burst and the building suffered major water damage. The City of Detroit had trouble securing the 107,00 square-foot building. The Brodhead Naval Armory was located on the Detroit River and scrappers were easily able to gain access, as there were no neighbors to help keep an eye on the historic structure. By 2011, mostly all of the Federal Art Project and WPA work was stolen and scrapped. The only thing that remains is some of the original nautical murals that adorned some the walls.

As of 2015, there are rumors that Quicken Loans owner, Dan Gilbert, has purchased the Brodhead Naval Armory. Although there are no confirmations of this purchase, some recent activity at the former armory is making people wonder.

 

The Brodhead Armory in 2009:

 

The Brodhead Armory in 2010: