The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Detroit Branch Building Annex is an International Style curtain wall structure faced with alternating horizontal bands of tinted green glass and white marble panels supported by a stainless steel grid. The “strikingly modern” buildng was designed by Minoru Yamasaki in 1951 while working for the Detroit, Michigan, firm of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls.
The annex was an expansion of the attached 1926-27 Neoclassical Federal Reserve Bank building, and provided a “fascinating contrast to the heavy masonry of surrounding skyscrapers.”
Some of the then-modern features of the building included: “radiant (floor) heating, air-conditioning, king-sized windows, fluorescent lighting,” music “piped in” to offices where routine tasks were conducted, electrically controlled doors, “a bulletproof-glass gun-turret room”, and “electronic gadgets which convert the brightly colored rooms and fragile-looking glass walls into a downtown fortress.”
Interestingly, when the building was designed, the local building code did not authorize marble curtain wall construction, and the designer had to argue its merits at the Board of Standards and Appeals. The design allowed for the eight-story thin curtain wall to be projected forward three feet beyond the recessed ground floor front’s white marble-faced square-plan piers.
One addition has been made to the 1951 Annex building. For security purposes, the lobby entrance was renovated in 2000 with the addition of a bulletproof glass and steel outer lobby that projects from the front façade of the building, filling the entire bay between the two furthest columns on the eastern side of the West Fort Street facade. After September 11, 2001, the Federal Reserve added concrete aggregate bollards and planters along the sidewalk of the property on West Fort Street as protection. The branch bank vacated the building in 2005 and it currently stands empty.
“Bank Annex.” Architectural Forum, March 1950, 116-118.
Christensen, Robert and Binno Savage, Rebecca. “Detroit Financial District National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.” State Historic Preservation Office, Lansing, Michigan, 2009.
Clanahan, Russell. “‘Gold Palace’ Nearing Completion.” Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), Oct. 23, 1951.