Old Wayne County Building

As the City of Detroit grew in size, so did Wayne County, and a permanent location for the county administration was needed. The first was built in 1845 on West Congress and Griswold Streets in downtown Detroit. Having quickly outgrown the modest two-story building, the county began work on a newer, larger one in 1896. The five-story, beaux arts structure was designed by John Scott.

Corruption and graft were significant problems in the construction of the building, as detailed by HistoricDetroit.org, but upon completion the county had a home that rivaled those in other major cities. The Wayne County building featured extensive granite, sandstone, marble, and mahogany details, with a grand staircase at the center and ornate courtrooms. Especially prominent were two copper horse drawn chariot sculptures flanking the center tower, which were added in 1904.

The county used the building until 1955 when it relocated to what is today known as the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on the riverfront. For the next 30 years the old county building was home to the city’s traffic courts, until it was extensively renovated in 1987 and the county moved back in. But in 2007 the county relocated again, this time to the Guardian Building, citing the high cost of leasing the old building. The move was completed in 2009, and in 2014 the building was sold to a group of New York investors for $13.4 million.

Unlike other buildings which have been allowed to fall into decay, the old county building has remained secured an in relatively good shape. Starting in 2016 the new owners carried out $7 million dollars in renovations, focusing on restoring the exterior, roof, and mechanical systems. The chariots were removed and restored. While a tenant for the building has proved elusive, the investment is a good sign that it might not be long before someone lands this incredible gem.