The Guardian Building
Completed in 1929; built by Wirt C. Rowland for Smith, Hinchman & Grylls
Of all the early-20th-century skyscrapers still standing in Detroit, the 40-story Guardian Building is the (near) universal favorite. The building itself, a National Historic Landmark also known as the "Cathedral of Finance," is all the attraction you need -- the Art Deco-meets-Mayan Revival style features orange brickwork with tile, limestone, and terra cotta on the exterior, while the interior is a multi-color mosaic of Pewabic and Rookwood tile with Native American themes that, honestly, feel a little better suited for the Southwest than the Midwest, making the Guardian all the more distinct from the other skyscrapers of its time. Stone carvings by Corrado Parducci depicting the allegorical figures of "Safety" and "Security" flank the Griswold St. entrance of the building. The three-story lobby is decked out in several different kinds of rare marbles imported from Italy, Belgium, and Africa. Designer Wirt C. Rowland, who also designed the Buhl and Penobscot Buildings, was superbly obsessive to detail, which is documented in equally superbly obsessive detail at Historic Detroit. The building is also home to one of Pure Detroit’s popular architectural tours on weekends (schedules posted here). The Rowland Café might not have the best coffee in the city, but it is certainly one of the best spaces to enjoy a cup, situated as it is beneath the arched mezzanine of the impressive building.