Forgotten Detroit


In 1898 William W. Hannan purchased property at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Madison Avenue, a two-way thoroughfare with wide building setbacks. Located north of Harmonie Park, this location was an elegant setting for the hotel he proposed to build in 1900.


Completed in 1901, the Madison Hotel was a high-class residential and semi-transient hotel. It was advertised as a high-class apartment building with features including an elevator man, cafe, and variety of suites. Designed by A.C. Varney, the building was red brick with arched entries, quoins at the corners and a rusticated base.

The Lenox was added in 1904 along with a restaurant situated between the two towers. The Lenox shared massing and some stylistic features with the earlier Madison but was more elaborate with an ornate carved stone entry. The two buildings were connected and operated as the Hotels Madison-Lenox.

Like its competition, the Madison-Lenox was renovated in 1955 with a sleek modern look. The interior was given a white, black, red, and gold color scheme featuring limed oak pillars. The entrances were treated with smooth marble with aluminum doors. Despite the effort the building attracted low income tenants throughout the 1960s and gradually the building declined. The hotel closed for good in 1993.

Vandals descended on the hotel and over time much of the scrap metal and windows were removed. The building deteriorated rapidly and by 2003 the city was prepared to provide its owner, Mike Ilitch with a $700,000 loan to replace it with a landscaped parking lot.

Preservationists rallied to the hotel's cause. Groups like the Friends of the Book-Cadillac and Preservation Wayne were able to successfully ward off demolition for several years. In 2004 the hotel was included in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 11 Most Endangered list.

Determined to be rid of the building prior to the 2005 All Star Game and unable to properly obtain a demolition permit, city demolition crews arrived at the hotel on the morning of May 18th, 2005 and started to tear holes into both towers and completely level the central restaurant. The City claimed that the building was due to collapse at any moment, despite the lack of such evidence being a key reason they were not able to previously get the OK for the Historic District Commission. Unfortunately the damage had been done and within a week all that remained of one of the downtown area's oldest commercial buildings was a heap of rubble.

Copyright 1999 - 2005, David Kohrman

Last updated on September 8, 2005