Future Friday: The Detroit That Never Was, Part I

One need not look far to find images of Detroit as it once was. But what of the Detroit that never was? Hidden within the Detroit Historical Society’s collection of objects from our past are hints at possible futures which never came to fruition– renderings of buildings which were never built or proposals for projects which never came about. This is the first in our FUTURE FRIDAY series of entries exploring such material.

The most elaborate is probably a design for the “New Gateway of Detroit,” presented on a postcard which was mailed out to promote a slate of Democratic candidates in 1938 by delegate James P. Keenan. Keenan and another of the listed candidates were on the committee behind the plan. The plan called for a wide building to be constructed along the riverfront, south of Jefferson Avenue. Across Jefferson, the mouth of Woodward Avenue would be flanked by identical buildings on each side. The card does not explain which building is which, but does state the plan involved a convention hall, industrial and labor exposition hall, state administration building, city county building, and an underground garage. If the waterfront building was to be the convention center, it makes an interesting parallel to Cobo Center, which would be built to the west 22 years later. Likewise it is tempting to think of the twin buildings as the state and city buildings, whereas the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center now serves a similar role in the footprint of just the east tower.

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