Hot Houses Revisited

The architects and Detroit enthusiasts of AIA-Detroit's Urban Priorities Committee came up with a list of Detroit's 10 most significant neighborhoods for architecture — given in no specific order.

The group, whose members include prominent architects, planners, educators, designers, construction managers, and journalists, is a forum to review, critique and generate urban ideas and projects for metro Detroit. Past lists for Model D have included their favorite interiors, downtown buildings, and public spaces.

Spring is the ideal time to revisit the organization's favorite neighborhoods around the city, using the “AIA Guide to Detroit Architecture” as a reference.

Sherwood Forest

Established between 1916 and 1926, Sherwood Forest was originally marketed as an "exclusive residential park", close to the esteemed Palmer Woods subdivision, Detroit Golf Club and Palmer Park. This neighborhood attracted many of Detroit's most prominent citizens, including physicians, attorneys, judges and corporate executives. Common to many subdivisions, residents were expected to adhere to strict building restrictions and conditions. For example, flat roofs were banned, and exteriors required brick, stone or concrete over tile or metal lath. Today Sherwood Forest is a thriving and increasingly affluent neighborhood. Residents enjoy winding oak-lined streets with large handsome houses, sitting on expansive landscaped lots.

Possibly the most stable and intact East Side middle-class neighborhood, Morningside is a neighborhood of approximately 4,900 homes that contains an eclectic collection of housing styles that range from Tudors, colonials, and ranches to duplexes and small apartment buildings. The area is bounded by the Ford Freeway to the north, Mack Ave. to the south, Alter Road to the east and E. Outer Drive to the west. Most of the structures on the northeastern are more moderate masonry structures while the majority of the homes on the southern side are more modest frame structures.

Lafayette Park

Lafayette Park, one of Detroit's most significant architectural neighborhoods, sits immediately east of the central business district in the area formerly known as "Black Bottom." Encompassing 46 acres, the self-contained residential complex – master-planned, designed, and landscaped by the team of Ludwig Hilberseimer, Mies van der Rohe, and Alfred Caldwell – marks one of the few examples of 1960s-era urban renewal that actually succeeded in creating a sustainable community. More than 1,000 residents call Lafayette Park home, many of them living in the uniquely Western European townhouses lining the edges of a 19-acre landscaped park. Above these townhouses rise five apartment towers, including the twin "Lafayette Towers" that embody the clean proportions, simple lines, tinted-glass and aluminum cladding of van der Rohe's International Style. The community's architectural menu is rounded out by a retail pavilion and an elementary school, both of which serve residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. Although the complex is decidedly modernist in character, van der Rohe softened his buildings' corners and edges just enough to create an effect more sublime than stark, blending in with the surrounding neighborhoods while still catching the eye. In addition to its enduring residential appeal – denoted by a racially and economically diverse resident base with remarkably low turnover – Lafayette Park continues to draw architectural students and devotees from around the globe to marvel at the largest single-site collection of van der Rohe buildings in the world.


Corktown is Detroit's oldest neighborhood, established in 1834. An influx of Irish immigrants, prompted by the Potato Famine in Ireland in the mid-1840s, moved into the near West Side. Since many of these came from County Cork, their neighborhood came to be known as "Corktown." Corktown offers a full spectrum of housing and commercial structures representing the second half of the nineteenth century. The neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a City of Detroit Historic District.

Hubbard Farms

Hubbard Farms is great example of a flourishing urban mixed-use community located in Southwest Detroit. The neighborhood is nestled between West Grand Boulevard and Clark Park with Vernor Highway representing as its main street. The neighborhood has a variety of architectural styles with some significant residential structures spanning from 1870 to 1930. The neighborhood was designated a local historic district in 1993.

Rosedale Park

The Rosedale Park neighborhood was first platted in 1916 by the Rosedale Park Development Company and currently has over 1,500 homes. Houses were designed in diverse architectural styles such as Tudor Revival, Craftsman Bungalow, Colonial Revival, Prairie Style, Moderne and Modern International Style. This neighborhood was one of the first to have a side driveway and a rear garage accommodating the automobile. Continued construction of homes in Rosedale Park lasted after World War II until the late 1940's. A few scattered lots have been filled with the last residence being built in 1955.

Brush Park

The Brush Park neighborhood — located between Midtown's cultural center and downtown —was established in the 1870s with homes, or mansions, built for Detroit's elite. The lumber industry was predominant in the late 1800s, and many significant lumber Barons built lavish homes in Detroit's first real platted subdivision. The area was predominantly made from the ribbon farm of Elijah Brush, and therefore named the streets after his wife Adelaide, and children Alfred, Eliot, Erskine, Edmund, and Watson. With Detroit's burst of population in the early part of the 20th century, many of the homes, side yards, and other front yard spaces, were turned into apartment houses and small commercial storefronts. By the late 1930s and into the 1940s Brush Park began to decline. Urban renewal was proposed in the late 1960s and the I-75 freeway was cut through the neighborhood, dividing the area from downtown. The next 30 years saw mainly decline and demolition of the once grand homes. Today, new condominium townhouses, and loft condominiums have transformed the Carola, Carlton and Lamar Buildings. Many of theremaining homes have been saved and are now being turned into multiple condominiums, bed and breakfasts or specialty offices. The entire area is planned with either single, townhouse, or apartment buildings, with commercial uses on many corners. The City of Detroit is redoing all infrastructure elements in the neighborhood.

Indian Village

Indian Village is a small community that is comprised of three street; Seminole, Iroquois and Burns, and is located three miles east of downtown Detroit between Jefferson and Mack. This unique neighborhood was placed on the national register of historic places in 1972 because of its rich history and exquisite architecture. Indian Village has 350 homes and, as a whole, 17 different types of architecture can be identified, including Arts and Crafts, Colonial Revival, English Tudor, Georgian, Mediterranean, Romanesque, and Victorian. Most of these homes were built between 1895 and the late 1920s and consequently the fine craftsmanship of the era is apparent in its own distinctive style. The homes have elaborate carved wood moldings, Pewabic tile, onyx fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, elevators, third-floor ballrooms, servants' quarters and carriage houses. Many homes were designed by Detroit's most renowned architects of the time, including Albert Kahn, Louis Kamper and William Stratton.

New Center

New Center is considered a well-balanced community, composed of both a high-density living sector, along with a variety of retail establishments. Located west of Woodward, this community also includes a well-developed business district, clustered around the Fisher Building, which is considered an Art Deco masterpiece. The name "New Center" first came from the New Center News, which was an automotive-focused free newspaper, started in 1933. In 1978 General Motors helped maintain or in some cases bring back the rich historic feel of this neighborhood by renovating what is now known as New Center Commons by re-routing streets, creating pedestrian malls, and rehabilitating buildings.

Boston Edison

Composed of over 900 single-family homes built between 1903 and 1940, Boston Edison is the largest residential historic district in the country and is listed on the City, State and National Registers of Historic Places. It is located along the four streets of West Boston Boulevard, Chicago Boulevard, Longfellow, and Edison, between Woodward and Linwood. The Historic Boston Edison Association, founded in 1921, is dedicated to the protection and preservation of its family oriented residential neighborhoods. Early residents of the neighborhood included Henry Ford, four of the seven Fisher brothers, S.S. Kresge, B. Siegel, Horace Rackham, Ira Grinnell, James Couzens, Rabbi Leo Franklin, Clarence Burton, and Maestro Ossip Gabrilowitsch.


Henry Ford Home in Boston Edison

Frank Lloyd Wright House in Sherwood Forest

Audobon Street in Morningside

Mies Van De Roe Townhomes in Lafayette Park

a Worker's Cottage Corktown

Hubbard Farms

Rosedale Park

The Inn on Winder, Brush Park

Indian Village

New Center

Boston Edison

All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger

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