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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.
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.
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