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Chancery Building

1234 Washington Boulevard

The 1920s were prosperous years for most people and organizations in Detroit, thanks to the booming vehicle industry.  The Roman Catholic archdiocese had the resources to build many new churches and schools throughout the city and in the adjoining suburbs.  They also built, I believe, two office buildings in downtown Detroit.  One was the Gabriel Richard Building at 305 Michigan at Washington Boulevard.  The other was the Chancery Building pictured above.  Both of them continue to provide office space for the archdiocese. 

The Chancery Building is an eight-story limestone structure.  You will notice classical details and much sculpted stone at the lower levels.  At the upper level, you observe a quite unusual architectural feature—an open loggia.  I wonder if it is ever used.  I have walked by this appealing structure many times but have yet to observe anyone walking on that loggia.  Maybe it was used more frequently when cigarette smoking was common.  The other downtown building with an upper level loggia is the Schwankovsky Temple of Music.  The Chancery Building also provides office space and serves as a rectory for St. Aloysius church which adjoins it.

This building was designed, I believe, by John Donaldson of the Donaldson and Meier firm.  Donaldson was born in Scotland in 1854, but his parents moved to Detroit when he was very young.  He returned to Europe for his training in architecture, studying at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and in Munich at their art academy.  He established his own firm in Detroit in 1880 and later partnered with Henry J. Meier.   One of the earliest structures that John Donaldson designed is the impressive Campbell Symington home on Second Avenue.  One of the last buildings John Donaldson designed was the adjoining St. Aloysius Church completed in 1930.  Donaldson lived in Detroit until 1941, but after the start of the Depression there were few employment opportunities for architects.

Architect: John Donaldson of the Donaldson-Meier firm
Architectural style:  Neo classical
Date of construction: 1924
Use in 2009:  Office building for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit
City of Detroit Designated Historic District:  Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Places:  The Chancery Building is within the Washington Boulevard Historic District; P25, 278
National Register of Historic Sites:  The Chancery Building is within the
    Washington Boulevard Historic District, listed July 15, 1983.
Photograph:  Ren Farley; May 2, 2009
Description prepared: May, 2009

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