Detroit To Destroy Historic Hotel ? Last Rest for Houdini

 

 

Statler Hotel in Better Times

Preservation Online reports today that the City of Detroit has backed out of a deal with a preservation group and will destroy the famous Statler Hotel.  In October 1926, Houdini collapsed after performing at the nearby Garrick Theater (previously destroyed) and was taken to his posh suite at the Statler. 

 

The hotel?s doctor was called to check on the patient and ordered him to go to Grace Hospital.  Houdini refused until the young physician called the great magician?s own doctor in New York to receive a second opinion.  Houdini was immediately taken into the operating theater and would die a few days later on Halloween, 1926. 

 

The Statler Hotel was the crown jewel of the family owned Statler Company and became the model for other high-end hotels in large cities across America.  It survived The Great Depression, World War II, and even the slump in hotel business from the growth of motor inns or motels. 

 

Conrad Hilton was so impressed by the hotel chain that he purchased the business from the widow of its founder for a then record $111,000,000.  It was the largest private land purchase in American history. 

 

The Statler?s fortunes fell in synch with the city in which it once shown.  From 1950 until 2000, Detroit lost half of its population to surrounding suburbs and the once grand neighborhood became unseemly.  Travelers perceived the area to be dangerous and avoided downtown hotels.

 

On December 17th, The Friends of the Book-Cadillac Hotel ? a group committed to preserving historical…

 

 

Statler Hotel in Better Times

Preservation Online reports today that the City of Detroit has backed out of a deal with a preservation group and will destroy the famous Statler Hotel.  In October 1926, Houdini collapsed after performing at the nearby Garrick Theater (previously destroyed) and was taken to his posh suite at the Statler. 

 

The hotel?s doctor was called to check on the patient and ordered him to go to Grace Hospital.  Houdini refused until the young physician called the great magician?s own doctor in New York to receive a second opinion.  Houdini was immediately taken into the operating theater and would die a few days later on Halloween, 1926. 

 

The Statler Hotel was the crown jewel of the family owned Statler Company and became the model for other high-end hotels in large cities across America.  It survived The Great Depression, World War II, and even the slump in hotel business from the growth of motor inns or motels. 

 

Conrad Hilton was so impressed by the hotel chain that he purchased the business from the widow of its founder for a then record $111,000,000.  It was the largest private land purchase in American history. 

 

The Statler?s fortunes fell in synch with the city in which it once shown.  From 1950 until 2000, Detroit lost half of its population to surrounding suburbs and the once grand neighborhood became unseemly.  Travelers perceived the area to be dangerous and avoided downtown hotels.

 

On December 17th, The Friends of the Book-Cadillac Hotel ? a group committed to preserving historical landmarks, agreed to drop its lawsuit against the City of Detroit in exchange for the City?s promise to negotiate in good faith to develop a restoration plan.

 

In a manner all-too-predictable, Detroit reneged on the promise and announced yesterday it intended to destroy the building.  The restoration group asked the city to consider the plan of New Orleans-based HRI Properties.  The developer had plans to turn the hotel into 800 apartments.  Though this plan seemed to be in line with the city?s announced plans to redevelop Detroit by attracting residents to the city center, for some reason they refused fully consider the proposal.

 

Last Houdini Show – Garrick Theater Detroit

Frank Nemecek, a member of the Friends of the Book-Cadillac Hotel, voiced his frustration with the city?s insincerity and duplicity.  “I believe that the City of Detroit mislead the Friends of the Book-Cadillac Hotel about their true intentions in an effort to resolve a lawsuit.”

 

The preservation group intends to nominate downtown Detroit to the National Trust?s List of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. 

 

The city intends to stick to its suddenly urgent plans to destroy the building to make the land available for another developer.  A cynic may wonder if the city?s new found rush to sell the property has anything to do with Detroit hosting the Superbowl on February 5th, 2006. 

 

You can read the full article in the National Trusts outstanding web-based newsletter here.

 

There is an exceptional web page dedicated to the Statler Hotel to be found here.  The page?s author takes you through the whole history of the location and even provides virtual stays at the hotel so you can experience what it was like to visit as a family on vacation, a business traveler, or other customer. 

 

Finally, there is an article in the Stanford Alumni magazine chronicling an alum?s search for urban historic sites, including the now-fenced Statler Hotel.  Check out the article here.

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