Detroit News Building

by Jeff Bondono, copyright (c) 2022 by Jeff Bondono, last updated December 12, 2022

The Detroit News Building was designed by Wirt Rowland while he worked for Albert Kahn Associates. His goal was to design an aesthetically pleasing building, while maximizing the efficient production of the Detroit News, a fast-growing newspaper of the time. The building opened in 1917. The layout of the building was determined by three requirements of newspaper production of the day. First, the 200-foot-long printing presses had to be located in a large open area on the ground floor. Second, the departments of the company had to be located such that efficient flow through the company was achieved. Third, expansive windows had to be given to the appropriate departments to allow daylight into their work areas, given the poor artificial lighting of the time. As a result, the entire first floor contained the press room and shipping department from which the newspapers were loaded onto trucks for distribution. The second floor was smaller than the ground floor, allowing skylights into the first floor and more exterior windows into the second floor, and held the offices that the public might need to visit, such as advertising, circulation, editorial and business offices. The third floor held the composing room where articles were edited, print was engraved, and everything was proofread, all of which required extensive daylight, before going down to the ground level for printing.

The address of the building is 615 West Lafayette, and its front entrance is shown in the 1st photo below. The embossed words along the top of the building read

  • Mirror of the public mind, interpreter of the public intent, troubler of the public conscience
  • (statue of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of moveable type)
  • Reflector of every human interest, friend of every righteous cause, encourager of every generous act
  • (statue of William Caxton, who brought the printing press to England)
  • Bearer of intelligence, dispeller of ignorance and prejudice, a light shining into all dark places
  • (statue of Christophe Plantin, a printer during the Renaissance)
  • Promoter of civic welfare and civic pride, bond of civic unity, protector of civic rights
  • (statue of Ben Franklin, who printed Poor Richard's Almanac and was was a firm proponent of the American press)
  • Scourge of evil doers, exposer of secret iniquities, unrelenting foe of privilege and corruption
. Ornate lighting fixtures were used on the 3 street-facing sides of the building (Lafayette, 2nd Ave, Fort). The most ornate were on the Lafayette side, shown in the 2nd photo below.

Detroit News Building - Front entrance on the Lafayette Ave side
Detroit News Building - Lafayette Ave side

The 2nd Avenue side has the most numerous lighting fixtures, and they're shown in the 1st photo below. Those same simpler round lights are used on the Fort Street side, shown in the 2nd photo below. That same photo holds embossed words along the top of the building, which read

  • Voice of the lowly and opressed, advocate of the friendless, righter of public and private wrongs
  • Chronicler of facts, sifter of rumors and opinions, minister of the truth that makes men free
  • Reporter of the new, rememberancer of the old and tried, herald of what is to come
  • Defender of civil liberty, strengthener of loyalty, pillar and stay of democratic government
  • Upbuilder of the home, nourisher of the community spirit, art letters and science of the common people

Detroit News Building - 2nd Ave side
Detroit News Building - Fort St side

To the left of the Fort Street facade of the building is the shipping department, as shown in part in the 1st photo below. The Fort Street side is the back of the building, with a simpler facade than the Lafayette side, and containing the shipping bays which face the higher-volume Fort Street which better accomodated the arriving and departing trucks. A view of the entire Fort Street side, and the 2nd Avenue side of the building is shown from diagonally across the intersection in the 2nd photo below.

The Fort Street side of the Detroit News Building at 615 W Lafayette Blvd
The Detroit News Building, shot from diagonally across the intersection at Fort and 2nd Streets

The Detroit New remained in the building until 2014, though it moved its printing facilites to a much larger suburban building in 1967. In 1989, the Detroit News and its competing newspaper, the Detroit Free Press, entered into a joint operating agreement in their shrinking market, and in 1998, the Detroit Free Press moved their staff into the building. In October of 2014, though, neither needed the overhead and cost of the building any more and moved to new office space. The building was bought by Bedrock Real Estate and remodeled into a modern workspace in 2017.

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