Lee Plaza Hotel
The LP in photos



By the time I came to know most of Detroit's ruins most had already been pillaged and mined of architectural decoration and scrap metals. The vandals had savagely destroyed just as effectively as their ancient namesakes.

Lee Plaza was the exception. For five years a solid fortification of cinderblock held off the thieves and protected the 1920's elegance inside. However, as the mighty walls of Rome failed, so did the Lee Plaza's fortifications. By the fall of 2000 countless exterior terra-cotta pieces as well as interior plasterwork were gone. Gradually the aluminum framed windows disappeared and only gapping holes remained.

Lion in ChicagoThe most well known pieces removed were large terra-cotta lion heads that decorated the cornice. The vandals scattered these lions far from their Detroit home. Six such lions made their way unto a Chicago condo project that disgustingly was given a preservation award. Pieces of Detroit's architectural heritage now decorate modern buildings lacking any context and looking quite silly.

However, these six lions could be seen as martyrs. Their fate drew the attention and outrage of Detroit preservationists and law enforcement who pursued to the best of their ability the thieves. Ultimately about half of the lions and other terra-cotta pieces were returned to Detroit. Now they await their building's fate.

"one day at a time"Unfortunately the damage has been done. The pieces not recovered will add to the cost of renovation. More importantly and damaging is the lose of the windows, a significant part of the exterior envelope. For three years the building has been open to the elements and as evident in the photographs, deteriorating rapidly.

The Lee Plaza is a truly unique jewel that MUST be saved. There is nothing else in Detroit quite like it, or in the country for that matter. The hotel's location is a mark against it. It is far from the downtown revitalization that is restoring Book-Cadillac and Kales. But its proximity to the Grand Boulevard-Grand River intersection and the freeways would still make its location attractive in my eyes. Hopefully the revitalization of the central business district will spread into the neighborhoods and Lee Plaza will still be standing. Until then it should be top priority for preservationists to see the hotel sealed and protected form the elements.


Copyright 1999 - 2004, David Kohrman
Last updated on April 29, 2004