Lew Tuller, born in Jonesville, Michigan in 1869, completed elementary school there and attended secondary school. His father was an architect and builder from New York who constructed many buildings in Jonesville. Lew Tuller left Jonesville for Detroit where he learned the building trades, became a contractor and then a real estate developer. By the end of the 1890s, he had constructed three apartment buildings: the Wetherell, the Valencia and the Saragosa.
Around 1900, he bought property facing Grand Circus Park with the hope of reselling it at a profit. He found no purchasers, so in 1905, he decided to build a large hotel, the Tuller Hotel. Apparently, many of his competitors expected him to fail since Grand Circus Park was far removed for the city’s major business district and rail stations. But Tuller built at the opportune moment since motor vehicles were about to boost Detroit’s economy and population. Tuller had to expand his hotel at Grand Circus Park four times between its 1906 opening and the Depression.
In the early 1920s, Lew Tuller decided to expand his operations as one of Detroit’s leading hoteliers. He contracted with the distinguished Louis Kemper to design three new thirteen-story hotels: the Eddystone, shown in the picture above, the Park Avenue Hotel just across the street from the Eddystone and the Royal Palm Hotel nearby at 2305 Park. Presumably these hotels—and Lew Tuller—prospered in the 1920s as business people came to Detroit to serve the needs of the automotive industry and the city’s financial institutions.
The elegant Book Cadillac displays the peak of Louis Kemper’s architectural skills in hotel design. Presumably, Lew Tuller had fewer dollars to invest in his three new hotels than did the Book brothers. However, if you look at the entry portion of the Eddystone, you see that Kemper designed and impressive structure here.
The Depression forced many Detroit institutions into bankruptcy. Lew Tuller, I believe, lost control of his four hotels and sold some or all of them to a hotel chain, the Albert Pick Hotels. I do not know what happened to Lew Tuller after the financial crisis forced him out of the hotel business.
Only one of the four Tuller hotels continues in operation—the Royal Palm. To add to the confusion, the Royal Palm was renamed Hotel Park Avenue for a period after the Park Avenue Hotel closed. The Royal Palm still has a large sign on its west wall with its former name: Hotel Park Avenue. Three of the Tuller hotels fell into
decline and then were abandoned well after World War II. The most impressive,
the Tuller Hotel on Grand Circus Park, closed in 1976. Several plans were described
for remodeling it, but at that time, there was little demand for downtown condominiums.
The Park Avenue Hotel stands empty just across the street from the Eddystone. For years, it was a service center for clients of the Salvation Army, the organization that still owns that empty building. After closing as a hotel, the Eddystone was a shelter for the homeless.
On July 15, 2005, Michigan Governor Jennifer Grandholm announced that a developer had purchased the Eddystone and would convert it into 60 upscale condos with retail stores on the ground floor, using the name, The Carlton. The developer intended to put up about 6.4 million dollars, obtain about $641,000 in brownfield tax credits and another $400,000 or so in city and state tax credits or abatements. The governor’s announcement called for a spring, 2006 opening of the remodeled Eddystone. This would be a valuable addition to the reviving Cass Corridor and would add to the growing population of prosperous people who live near downtown of Midtown Detroit.
So far as I can tell, the developer, as of autumn 2009, had yet to begin the redevelopment endeavor. It is possible that private funding for converting the Eddystone into condos is no longer available. There has also been speculation that at some point in the future, Michael Illitch and his collaborators will build a new arena for his successful Detroit Red Wings hockey team. Illitch and his collaborators own much property in this area, including the vacant land between the Eddystone and Woodward, lots that are now used when the Detroit Tigers draw large crowds. Reminiscent of Lew Tuller’s purchase of land at Grand Circus Park around 1900, it is possible that the developers of the Eddystone are waiting to see if there property could be sold for a substantial amount.
I do not know why this hotel is called the Eddystone. The name is a bit unusual. It has great significance for rail fans. Eddystone, Pennsylvania—an industrial suburb south of Philadelphia—was the home of the Baldwin Locomotive Works. In the 1920s, this firm was highly esteemed for their tremendous innovations in the building of powerful and efficient steam engines.
Architect: Louis Kemper
Date of Construction: 1924
Architectural Style: Italian Renaissance
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not Listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Places: Not Listed
National Register of Historic Sites: Listed July 12, 2006
Use in 2009: Plans were announced in 2005 to convert the Hotel Eddystone building into sixty condominiums with retail shops on the ground level. I believe these plans are now dormant pending a possible decision about a new hockey arena.
Photograph: Ren Farley, September 11, 2008
Description updated: September, 2009
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