Hotel Statler: 1000 rooms, 1000 baths
Statler in photos
The Post E.M. Era: 1929-1958

The Statler in the thirties.These are depressing years for the Statler. In addition to the demoralizing effect of the popular E.M. Statler's death, the hotel must combat the Great Depression. Fewer people are traveling these days. Construction run wild in the twenties is coming back to haunt the hotel industry. Three of every four hotels go bankrupt, including the nearby Book-Cadillac and Fort Shelby. Capable management guides the Statlers through without such financial problems.

Despite the financial stability, the hotels seem worn out and tired. The great innovations that defined the teens and twenties are not repeated in the early thirties. It seems the Statler company is out of ideas.

September 25, 1934

The first major alteration to the hotel's public rooms takes place. On the 5th floor a group of guest rooms is removed and replaced with two large meeting rooms. They are the Empire Room and Auguste Brevoort Woodward Room. The Woodward room is paneled in pine and features a portrait of Judge Woodward.


1937 marks the year the Statler company makes its comeback. Plans for two new hotels are made. The operating lease for the William Penn in Pittsburgh is secured and planning begins on a new hotel in Washington D.C.

A new studio bedroomMeanwhile, Detroit and Cleveland are targeted for massive renovations. The older decor, with its dark thick carpets, heavy furniture, and woodpaneling is old fashioned and worn out. The guest rooms all receive a modern treatment with bright colored carpets and paintjobs. The furniture is stripped and given a light stain. Modern artwork and other decorative flourishes are installed.

Another modification to the guest rooms are studio beds. Studio beds are beds that function as beds at night but in the day are arranged as sofas. Thus the guest room is a spacious parlor. They become extremely popular for their comfort and practical design. Such beds are installed in the other Statlers, and eventually other hotels.

The most significant change occurs on the ground floor. The Washington Blvd. side is completely reconfigured. The magnificent Grill and Men's Cafe are removed. Their wood paneling goes into new meeting rooms on the ballroom floor. Their former space becomes a shopping arcade done in the "modern classical style". The space in the 1916 addition, then occupied by retail, is converted into two modern restaurants. These rooms appeal to the current taste of big band music and dance. They are called the Terrace Room and Lounge Bar. They become famous throughout the world as hot nightclubs. For nearly three decades bands will fight for a chance to perform here.

A park viewThe glass storefronts of the lower floors of the 1916 addition are replaced by a stone facade which matches that of the original structure.

At this time the main dining room becomes the Cafe Rouge and a full service Cafeteria is installed in the basement.

Another important addition is air conditioning to the public rooms. Thus the Detroit Statler becomes the first hotel in the world to offer air conditioning.

The architectural work for these changes is done by Smith, Hinchman, & Grylls. Louis Rorimer supervises the decorations. The firm of Jerome A. Utley is the general contractor.


It didn't get THIS badThe hotel industry is still recovering from the Great Depression when the Second World War breaks out. This is particularly troublesome as thousands of trained staff are drafted to war. At the same time the hotel finds itself serving more and more travelers. People flooding into Detroit with important wartime business outnumber available hotel rooms.

To combat the overcrowding, Statler begins an ad campaign urging people not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary. The campaign also states the importance of booking rooms well in advance.

The Statler makes it through this trying time. Despite the staffing problems most of the Statler services are flawlessly maintained. However, the hotel building itself has endured great wear and tear.


The Statler in the early 50'sThe aftermath of the Second World War leaves the hotel industry in another slump. The Statler company takes measures to restore itself.

Again the Detroit house is renovated and upgraded. Throughout the hotel new carpets, light fixtures, artwork, and paint is applied. The public rooms are redecorated, including the Terrace Room.

In 1952 a modern marquee is installed over the Washington Blvd. entrance.

The Statler company adds a new hotel in Los Angeles in 1951 and starts construction on new hotels in Hartford and Dallas. A nationwide ad campaign with cartoons by Tony Barlow sings praises of a Statler stay. A new corporate logo is designed. Further publicity is gained when Rufus Jarman publishes A Bed For a Night, a inside look at the Statlers. Statler once again is one of the most successful corporations in the nation.

October 27, 1954
At a whooping $111,000,000 Conrad Hilton purchases the Statler organization. It is the largest real estate transaction in history. Thus E.M. Statler's hotel empire is absorbed into the Hilton Hotels. It is the end of an era for the hotel industry and Detroit. Though Conrad Hilton promises Statler's widow, Alice Statler, that nothing about the Statler's uniqueness will change, this is a true takeover. The Statlers will never be the same.
January 1958
Wishing to honor Conrad Hilton, the Directors of Hilton Hotels Corp. order that all Statler Hotels become Statler Hilton Hotels. This minor name change marks the beginning of a process of erasing the hotel's Statler identity.

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Copyright 2001, David Kohrman
Last updated on 11-14-01