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Hotel Pontchartrain: 1907

Hotel Pontchartrain: 1907

The Hotel Pontchartrain in Detroit circa 1907. By the mid-teens the hotel had been topped off with a huge mansard roof that added five floors of guest rooms. Detroit Publishing Company glass negative. View full size.


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The Flamingo Room

at the Hotel Pontchartrain, from a color post card mailed in Detroit at 4 pm on July 24, 1909. The publisher? Detroit Publishing Company, of course!


I sort of remember the old Webster/Melrose Avenue trolley cars in the Bronx. They had driver controls at either end. At the terminus, 149th Street, the driver then pushed the seatbacks forward (or backward) so that the passengers could sit facing the direction of travel. The conductor then took his operating lever and went to the opposite end of the car, folded his seat down and took control. I also think he reversed something on top of the car, probably the rods that connected to the overhead power lines. During the warmer months the sides of the car were open.


I notice that most of the streetcars seem to have been able to operate in only one direction so I suppose they had reverse loops at the end of the track or else they made complete loops through downtown. In one of the Pontchartrain Hotel photos there is a Birney(?) car with the ability to swap ends with the trolley pole for bidirectional operation.

A Short Stay

A big reason the "Pontch" didn't last that long is that only a few of the rooms had private baths. When it opened in 1907 most high-end hotels still used shared baths.

When the Detroit Statler was completed in 1916 all 1000 rooms all had private baths and central air-conditioning, the first hotel in the country to do so.

Seven US presidents visited its famous long bar.

The picture here is prior to the addition of the top five floors in 1916.

[I think it was the Statler's public rooms that were air conditioned, sometime in the 1930s. - Dave]

The Pontch

Much of the block south of the old Pontch (the Metropole in particular) is still standing, in various stages of use and upkeep.

Build, demolish, replace. Repeat.

Why was this substantial-looking building torn down after only 13 years? I thought that kind of wastefulness only happened in modern-day Las Vegas.


I got curious about the sign MISFIT, and since it is next door to a billiards parlor thought it might be a sleazy bar or something. A Google search turned up this article from 1889.

Seems as though Shorpy should know about that shop!

[This particular Misfit was the haberdashery owned by Sol Berman at 120 Woodward Avenue. There's another Misfit sign shown here, in New York, and here, in St. Louis. - Dave]

Short Life

It only lasted 13 years??


It makes me dizzy looking at this now, being used to seeing tall buildings, but that was 1907! It would have been even more amazing then.

Near Miss

Bottom left corner, near the photo label. Looks like a man might get a chance to try out the pedestrian catcher on the front of the street car, if he doesn't scoot out of the way pretty quickly.

I love the way everyone is "dressed up" back in those days.

Built by George DeWitt

Built by George DeWitt Mason, it was torn down in 1920. His architectural partnership was also responsible for many other Michigan landmarks, among them the famous Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Albert Kahn apprenticed with Mason's firm, and later went on to design many of Henry Ford's auto plants. The current Pontchartrain Hotel is in a different location close to the Detroit River.

The Pontch

The Hotel Pontchartrain stood on the southeast corner of Woodward Ave. (foreground) and Cadillac Square (along left side of the Hotel). According to the book "Detroit Then and Now," the Russell Hotel stood on this site from 1857 until it was torn down to make way for the Hotel Pontchartrain, which opened in 1907. In 1920, the Hotel Pontchartrain was demolished to make way for the National Bank Building at 660 Woodward Ave. It is now known as the First National Building (shown below).

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And Of Course ....

it was torn down in the 1960's, right? There's a Burger King on that corner now, right?

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