New Center Building/Albert Kahn Building

7430 Second Avenue in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood


The Fisher brothers moved to Detroit from Norwalk, Ohio at the dawn of the auto age.  In Ohio they and their father had been building wagons and coaches to be drawn by horses.  In 1908, they formed the Fisher Closed Body company to capitalize upon their talents as wainwrights and produce bodies for a variety of car companies.  Their engineering skills and innovations led them to assemble durable bodies and their firm became a leader in the field.  At this time, most auto firms lacked capital so they purchased most component parts.  Soon the Fishers' firm produced bodies for most General Motors' vehicles.  In 1919, General Motors purchased 60 percent of the Fisher firm for 28 million dollars—about 378 million 2013 dollars. GM also agreed to purchase all of their bodies from Fisher at a price of cost plus 17.6%.  This appeared to many as a very unusual contract—favorable to the Fisher brothers and extremely disadvantageous to GM.  There is an extensive literature about this deal. And then, in 1926, General Motors purchased the remaining 40 percent of fisher Body for 208 million—about 2.7 billion 2013 dollars, making the Fisher brothers extremely wealthy.  In the late 1920s, it appeared that the automobile industry and Detroit would continue to grow very rapidly into the future.  The Fisher brothers decided to take some of their immense wealth and invest it in the development of a huge office complex near the General Motors Building in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood.  The seventy-story Fisher Tower was intended to be the first of four such buildings.  Alas, the Depression began in the same year the Fisher tower was completed and Fishers’ plans for a huge and magnificent office complex—one that would exceed Rockefeller Center in elegance—came to an end.

The brothers—Alfred, Charles, Edward, Frederick, Lawrence and William—commissioned Albert Kahn to design the building you see pictured here.  This is a ten-story Art Deco structure that was intended to have retail space on the ground floor and offices on the upper levels.  It is connected to the Fisher Tower by a tunnel.  At present, it is used exclusively for office space, including offices of the architectural firm, Albert Kahn Associates.  It was renamed to honor Albert Kahn in 1988.

This building should not be confused with the New Center One Building, located nearby at 3031 West Grand Boulevard.  That one was designed by Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and completed in 1982.


 Architect: Albert Kahn
Date of Completion: 1930
Architectural style:  Art Deco
Use in 2014: Office building
City of Detroit Local Historic District: Not Listed
State of Michigan Register of Historic Sites: P82.  The New Center Building shares
  a listing on the Michigan State Register with the Fisher Tower.
National Register of Historic Places: #80001922; Listed October, 1980
Photograph: Ren Farley; September 19, 2004
Description prepared: January, 2014

 

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