Long-awaited hotel's restoration shows value of architectural work
November 4, 2008
I feel pretty good when large media outlets run stories on projects that were prominently featured in Snips.
Of course, I feel our coverage is superior, but it’s nice when a television station or major daily newspaper runs a story that we covered a while ago here.
The reopening of the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit is a good example. If everything goes as scheduled, by the time you see this, the Book-Cadillac should be celebrating its first month back in business after a 24-year absence.
“The Book,” as Detroit area residents called it, was once among the largest hotels in the world, with 1,100 rooms, several lavish ballrooms and numerous restaurants and lounges. It hosted U.S. presidents, world leaders and celebrities as the city’s top hotel from its 1924 opening and into the mid-1960s. It was even featured in a few films.
But as the Motor City fell on hard times, the Book-Cadillac slowly fell from its place of prominence in the hospitality industry. By the time it closed in 1984, stories of water leaking into its beautiful ballrooms and guests having a less-than-stellar stay were common.
More than once, the building was scheduled for demolition, but was saved in part by the city of Detroit lacking the funds to raze it.
The fact that $180 million dollars later, the Westin Book-Cadillac is again welcoming guests is nothing short of a shock to many longtime area residents. Snips featured the hotel’s restoration as the cover story in our February issue.
A Ferndale, Mich., contractor, Detroit Cornice & Slate Co. Inc., won the contract to restore the 33-story building’s signature rooftop copper ziggurats and cornices. For many years, the rusty decorations had been used for target practice by the vandals who had run of the hotel. But Detroit Cornice workers, using original architectural drawings and the surviving scraps of the original ziggurats, were able to recreate the items.
That demonstrates the importance of the work done by architectural contractors, whether it’s on an historic hotel or a ferry terminal in Hoboken, N.J., the subject of this month’s cover story. Well-known restoration contracting company Schtiller & Plevy Inc. has worked on some of the most important structures in the New York City metropolitan area. Without the skills and vision of these special contractors, many long-neglected buildings would be more likely to see wrecking balls than reuse.
When I was writing the story on the Book-Cadillac, Detroit Cornice co-owner Marc Hesse confidently said not many companies could do the work expected at his company.
“People don’t understand how complicated this job actually is,” he told me, adding, “We have artists. People who can hammer out sheet metal and make it look like a bird. Marginal people will leave here and be superintendents other places.”
The Book-Cadillac’s new owners are expecting big things from the landmark hotel. Here’s hoping it succeeds.
Results of snipsmag.com August pollThe Labor Department reported that the jobless rate rose to 5.7 percent in July. With the current economy, have you had to let go of workers?
Yes. We’ve let go of some office staff: 0%
Yes. We’ve had to layoff installers, engineers and/or technical staff: 25%
Yes. Our company has downsized technical and office staff: 6%
No. Our company has not made cuts to staff: 69%