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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Factory Air: 1912

Factory Air: 1912

"A.J. Smith Construction Co." An industrial building somewhere in Detroit circa 1912. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

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Empty longer than used

Louise's comments are especially true about the industrial buildings built in Detroit in the early 20th century.

The new heavy machinery needed to build autos and their parts needed lots of support, so the buildings were extremely solid.

Many of the buildings used the new reinforced concrete. Because it was new, the concrete was over-engineered to be especially strong.

That's partially why there are acres of abandoned buildings still standing in Detroit. The buildings are so solid that it's very expensive to tear them down.


Good looking, sorry it is gone. Hope those neat supports for the front canopy found a good home, though. Today it would be a great candidate into converting into really cool, loft apartments --- all that glass. Sigh!

"it has been gone longer than it stood"

That seems to be the story with most American architecture. What is always startling is the realization that these buildings were constructed with an eye to longevity. Buildings erected in the late 19th and early 20th Century, especially, seem to have been built with the optimistic purpose of matching the centuries-long endurance of European cities. Stanford White's buildings, such as the long-gone Madison Square Garden, fall into that genre.Of course, their spacial use, and heating and plumbing systems rapidly became considered obsolete.

The dynamism of American capitalism has taught us to build structures with a much shorter lifespan. McMansions, even those with marble kitchen countertops, will probably not survive as long as the A.J. Smith building did.

Unidentified No Longer

The construction work of the A.J. Smith Co. was for the Arthur Colton Co., manufacturers of phamaceutical machines, capsule fillers, etc. Building was located at 2618 E. Jefferson Avenue at the southeast corner of Chene St. and was completed in October 1916 and not ca. 1912. It was torn down prior to 1960, meaning it has been gone longer than it stood.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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