When E.M. Statler opened his new hotel at the foot
of Washington Boulevard in 1915 the Book brothers
J.B., Herbert, and Frank were no doubt both pleased
and jealous. They had a vision for Washington Blvd.
that it would become the "5th Avenue of the West."
The Books planned to accomplish this feat with the
construction of a series of new buildings along the
thoroughfare filled with fine offices and shops. The
crown jewel would be a grand hotel to compete with
In 1917 the Book's purchased the old Cadillac Hotel
at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Blvd.
However, the First World War made materials for new
construction hard to obtain. Thus the Books had their
architect, Alvin E. Harley, renovate the old Cadillac
for $60,000. It was a temporary fix. By 1923 the old
hotel was gone and work had begun on the Book-Cadillac.
For the new project the Books hired their favorite
architect Louis Kamper. Though an established architect,
Kamper had little experience designing hotels. To
gain a knowledge of hotel layout he studied the Statler
Hotels in Detroit and New York among others. He had
plenty of knowledge for decoration and choose an elaborate
Venetian style of the Italian Renaissance.
view of the Book-Cadillac
He gave the lower five floors of the exterior a facing
of stone. The ground floor which was given over entirely
to shops had ornate metal storefronts. Above these
were tall arched windows set between massive pilasters.
The upper floors created a 'shaft' of simple brick
occasionally relieved by a band of stone. Above a
ornate cornice rose three copper terraces. These terraces
gave the hotel a unique profile. This was a common
practice for the time as architects sought ways to
make their buildings stand out. Not matter which angle
you saw it from, the Book-Cadillac was a dramatic
addition to the city's skyline.
The interiors were equally impressive. The Book-Cadillac
featured five floors of grand public rooms and shops.
Among the amenities were large lounges, three dining
rooms, a coffee shop, three unique and functional
ballrooms, and a tea room. They were the most richly
decorated interiors found in any Detroit hotel.
All told, the Book-Cadillac was a massive construction
project which required 2 years of planning. At 33
floors it was both the tallest building in Detroit
and the tallest hotel in the world. This no doubt
being the reason that the top floor had a radio station,
WCX. The hotel had a total of 1136 guest rooms There
were 1035 bedrooms, 54 sitting rooms, 8 alcove rooms,
and 38 sample rooms. The silver service contained
50,000 pieces. Three basement levels contained the
most modern boilers and laundry facilities of the
time. The total cost of construction exceeded $14,000,000.
for the new hotel
The Book-Cadillac enjoyed success for 6 years. However,
with the onset of the Great Depression the situation
began to sour for the hotel. The great ambitions of
the Book brothers were cut short, a massive 81 story
Book Tower would never be built. By 1931 the hotel
was forced into receivership and ultimately changed
hands twice in only twenty years. For a time it was
controlled by Ralph Hitz's hotel organization. A chain
renowned for the attentiveness of its service.
To remain competitive in these lean times much of
the public room decor was redone in the late 1930's.
The dining rooms were redecorated in the 'Art Moderne'
style and given new names. The old Venetian Dining
room had outlived its utility and replaced by the
Book-Casino. This new nightclub would become a legendary
nightspot in the Detroit area. Here patrons could
enjoy fine dining, big bands, and dancing.
Another money making scheme tried by the hotel at
this time was less successful. The Cadillac Apartments
were portions of the hotel rooms that had been redecorated
for apartment living. Hoping to cash in on the glamor
of the exclusive apartment hotels as well as downtown
convenience, the Cadillac Apartments offered rooms
starting at $60.00 a month.
The post World War Two hotel industry was ruled by
the big chains. In 1951 the hotel was purchased by
the Sheraton Corporation for $6 million. Sheraton
went about modernizing their newly acquired hotel.
The grand staircase on Washington Blvd. was replaced
by a duel escalator setup and the lobby was converted
to a "ketchup and mustard horror." Only
the ballrooms and Italian Garden were left untouched.
The renovations did the trick and during the 50's
and 60's the hotel was a top money maker for the company.
However, the hotel industry was steadily losing more
and more guest to newfangled motels.
Cafe Cadillac, 1950's
By the 1970's things once again began to sour for
the hotel. By 1974 its one time rival, the Pick-Fort
Shelby, closed, reopened as the Shelby Hotel, and
quickly closed again . Just down the street the mighty
Statler had been sold by the Hilton chain to a group
of local investors. Quickly the Detroit Heritage Hotel,
as it was then on known, flopped resulting in a devastating
loss of up-to-date convention space and facilities.
By 1975 it had closed. Now misfortune came knocking
on the Cadillac's door.
In the late 60's and early 70's the hotel underwent
some more renovations that included a 1974 attempt
at more convention space. The grand Italian Garden
was thus divided. The Book-Casino was renovated into
a one-story room and new lounges added to the mezzanine.
The other public rooms redecorated in pastels. Still,
Sheraton realized the hotel needed major structural
renovations and reconfigurations at a price they were
not willing to pay. In 1975 the hotel was sold to
experienced hotel operator Herbert Weissberg.
Weissberg announced major renovations that would
attempt to bring back some historic character to the
building, which he renamed the Detroit-Cadillac. Despite
economic successes Weissberg lost control of the hotel
when the banks foreclosed. The Radisson Corporation
was called in to supervise another $6 million worth
or renovations and then operate the hotel afterwards.
It was now the Radisson-Cadillac.
The renovations were extensive. The hotel's lobby
and executive offices were moved to the site of the
Book Casino. The old lobby was redone with new marble,
wood, and maroon wallpaper. Hanging from its ceiling
were chandeliers from the Cadillac's old rival, the
Detroit Heritage(Statler). It now served as a restaurant
connected to the cafe which became the Palm Room.
The new lobby also received maroon wallpaper and wood
paneling. While the overall appearance was an improvement,
it failed to fully capture the atmosphere of the hotel's
glory days. The hotel's fortunes did not improve and
it changed hands several times in 5 years. However,
part of its old self did reemerge in this time, it
was once again the Book-Cadillac Hotel.
Operating losses skyrocketed in the late 70's and
by 1979 it was announced that the hotel would close.
Not wanting to see another hotel close, have the city
lose needed hotel rooms, and lose face in the coming
Republican National Convention, the Detroit Economic
Growth Corporation rescued the hotel. Now operated
by a partnership called Book-Cadillac Properties the
hotel was on a limited reprieve. In 1983 it was decided
a way had to be found to make the building self-supporting
and, gasp, profitable. Thus was born the Book-Cadillac
Several renovation schemes were studied. It was decided
that the hotel's best chance was to become a mixed
use property. It was felt that the building could
not survive as a hotel alone. The Book was simply
far to large, even with nearly 500 unused rooms. A
study found that some 92 percent of the hotel's room
revenue was generated by only 528 rooms(53 percent
of the hotels rooms). That added to the figure of
25% percent occupancy for non convention room nights
that Detroit's hotels then suffered meant the Book-Cadillac
could no longer survive with any number remotely close
to its full 1200 rooms or continue to survive with
47% of its rooms generating no revenue. It was thus
decided to upgrade the upper 12 floors into 550 quality
hotel rooms and the lower 11 floors into top notch
office space for nonprofit groups. The 5 public floors
would again be upgraded with an emphasis on the 'historic'.
In 1983 some work on this idea was begun. A portion
of the lower floors were converted into offices. The
9th floor was turned into a fitness center intended
to cater to the office tenants. However, the main
renovation would require the hotel to close for over
That it did in late 1984. The shops on the arcade
remained open as did a few offices but the bulk of
the building was now unused. Soon developers dropped
out. One after another they signed on then abandoned
the project citing economic conditions. Adding to
the trouble were skyrocketing cost of renovation.
15 months passed and still the hotel sat empty. Finally
in 1986 the building was liquidated. Furniture, fixtures,
china, silver service, it was all sold off. With the
hotel portion now truly empty the Book-Cadillac Plaza
scheme was scuttled. The last businesses left their
arcade home. Boards went up. The Book-Cadillac joined
the list of abandoned buildings.
Well, not abandoned yet. During this time the city
posted a guard inside the building. His job was to
keep the vultures who had already gutted so many of
Detroit's abandoned gems of decorative plaster and
brass away. He performed that job well, until 1997.
He was then pulled out and the building was quickly
striped of its decorative pieces. In 1993 Coleman
Young attempted to get money to demolish the building(as
a follow up of the 1992 Tuller Hotel demolition?)
Clearly this never materialized.
In early 1999 the hotel once again became the subject
of the city's attention. This time in an effort by
the city to gain control of the building and see some
action on the site. After years of court proceedings
and feasibility studies a renovation deal was announced
in the summer of 2003. Intended to reopen the hotel
as a Marriott the deal fell apart soon after construction
had started. At the time of this writing the city
is currently seeking another developer to complete
For more photos and information read the book!
The Book-Cadillac: Detroit, Michigan. Chicago:
The Hotel Bulletin, 1925.
The Collections of the Burton Historical Collection
The Collections of David Kohrman
The Detroit News and Free Press.