Michigan Bell Royal Oak Central Office
The Michigan Bell Royal Oak Central Office, at 205 E 5th Street in Royal Oak (at Williams St.) was designed as a two-story building in 1925 by Wirt Rowland, the designer of all Michigan Bell structures from 1922 through 1930, and became operational in November 1927. Rowland worked for Smith, Hinchman & Grylls when he designed this building.
Michigan Bell grew tremendously during the 1920s, sparked by the tremendous growth of the automotive industry, the employees it brought to the area, and the needs of the growing population. The heavy and bulky switching equipment needed to support the explosion in the number of telephones and the miles of wire to connect them required large, open-spaced buildings called central offices, with strong floors capable of supporting double the weight of a standard building, and ceilings 11 to 14 feet in height rather than the standard 10 to 11 foot height. They had to be designed with the ability to grow taller with more floors as the expected need arose in the future. And since they were located within residential or neighborhood business areas, they had to look pleasing and fit in with surrounding architecture to gain public acceptance.
The building is clad in neutral-colored terra-cotta and features Florentine arches above the ground floor windows and doors and shouldered arches above the second floor windows. The building was originally a 2-story square building. The right-most part of the 1st photo below was an addition to the original building. A subsequent third- and fourth-floor addition to Rowland's initial architectural plans added Florentine arches above the fourth-floor windows.