The Detroit Free Press Building was built in 1924 and was located at 321 West Lafayette Street between Washington Avenue and Cass Avenue, in downtown Detroit’s Fort/Cass District. The Detroit Free Press Building was the headquarters and home to the Detroit Free Press newspaper. The Detroit Free Press Building’s “E-shaped” floor plan housed the newspaper’s editorial and business offices, as well as printing facilities, a photography studio, and retail space. The Detroit Free Press Building was designed by noted-architect Albert Kahn in a Classic Art Deco style that featured a beautiful stone façade that rises up to fourteen stories in the center tower, flanked by two six story wings on each side of the tower. The Detroit Free Press Building’s exterior is one of Detroit’s most fascinating designs.
The stone main entrance features two statues of the goddesses of Commerce and Communication, with an magnificent display of sculpted owls, snakes, pelicans, and seahorses. There is also a beautiful and decorative barrel-designed arch that spans across the building’s main entrance. The Detroit Free Press Building featured many other stone sculpted bas-reliefs and carvings throughout the exterior façade. Included in the reliefs were Benjamin Franklin, for his work with the printing press; Governor and Senator Lewis Cass; Governor Austin Blair; General George Custer; former University of Michigan President James Angell; and journalists Horace Greeley, Charles Dana and George Goodale. There also are sculptures of people’s faces and methods of transportation, including a plane, a ship, a train, and a truck. The Detroit Free Press Building has some of the most elaborate and extensive work on both the exterior and the interior. The Detroit Free Press Building’s main lobby featured marble walls and a gorgeous, arched-ceiling with colorful, decorative, octagon-shaped barrels that each held an exquisite, floral-ornament as the centerpiece. At the ends of each of the ceiling, there was twin paintings of a female dancer. The main lobby of the Detroit Free Press Building also displayed a brass clock and mail chute, as well as stainless-steel elevators. The adjacent room that connected to the main lobby featured a marble stairway, oak-paneled walls, oak columns, and a decorative, wooden, square-paneled ceiling. This room also displayed historic paintings that hung on the walls throughout the interior of the room. The Detroit Free Press Building was a true diamond in the rough. The Detroit Free Press headquartered their business and operations out of the building for over 75 years.
In 1998, the Detroit Free Press announced that they planned to leave the building and that they were going to move down the street into a shared building with the other Detroit newspaper, The Detroit News. The Detroit Free Press Building moved the last of their belonging and furnishings out of the location by 2000.
In 2001, a private company purchased the building, but had done nothing with it. The company had talks of converting the historic building into residential lofts, retail space, and office space, but nothing came to fruition. The Detroit Free Press Building has continued to sit abandoned and neglected since 2001. Although the Detroit Free Press Building is well secured, the building has still deteriorated.
As of 2016, a China-based firm has purchased the Detroit Free Press and plans to renovate the building into lofts and retails space. This China-based firm also purchased the David Stott Building with the same plans, but neither plan has been started. The beautiful and historic Detroit Free Press Building continues to sit and await a rebirth.