April 16, 2010 by Amy Elliott Bragg
The Free Press Building
I’m not really the kind of Detroit kid that does a lot of scrambling around in old buildings, for better or worse, and not for lack of trying — it was pretty much my greatest dream (besides greatness itself) when I was seventeen. Since then I’ve done a lot of personal tail-chasing about Detroit’s ruins. Ultimately I’ve accepted the mesmerizing reality of places like Michigan Central and the Packard Plant, even though I still have a (sometimes kind of nasty and spiteful) knee-jerk reaction to the national fixation on the city’s decay.
Last weekend, with the team from Single Barrel (and with permission — because I am a nervous person like that), I “did my first building” — the gorgeous Albert Kahn-designed limestone Free Press Building at 321 W. Lafayette. With its 14-story central tower, beautiful carvings and reliefs and many of its elegant mid-century interiors intact — not to mention the imposing weight of its history as home of the Detroit Free Press for 75 years — the Freep is a stunner, and in relatively good condition. It’s been vacant since 1998.
I could hammer out a bunch of facts about the Free Press Building, but I’d rather you just read more about the history of this incredible place (and other incredible places) at Buildings of Detroit. Meanwhile, here are some photos.
Bas relief detail of the archway over the front door. You can’t see the seahorse in this photo. The seahorse is pretty great.
The first-floor Galley cafe.
Halfway to the top, gaping at the spot where the Lafayette used to be.
I like that you can see where the original lettering was painted over on this pretty (and locked) Diebold safe.
A lot of the building’s office doors still look like this. Also: they’re heavy.
The jaw-dropping office of Free Press owner E.D. Stair.
The unreal view from the roof.
The magnificent river.