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Wayne County Building: 1908

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1908. "Wayne County Building." The Motor City before it got very motorized. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1908. "Wayne County Building." The Motor City before it got very motorized. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Hey buddy, you wanna buy a building?

Unfortunately, the Old County Building, as it's called in Detroit, is now restored but empty. Wayne County moved its remaining offices to the nearby (and breathtakingly beautiful) Guardian Building a few years ago, and the place has been the subject of an ongoing legal dispute between the county and the developer to whom it was sold several years ago. In recent months a sign has been posted in front of the building that states "Historic building, for sale or lease."

The statues

The sculptures were restored and and are back as of 2009.

The Statues are Back

The rooftop statues were returned a year or so ago - they had been removed for cleaning and repair. See them being installed (and close-ups) here.

Quadriga Restored

The two sculptural bronze charioteer groups of figures were removed for restoration, which took several years. They were hoisted back into place last December.

Left and Right

During the early years of the automobile in America, right-hand drive cars were popular for those who had chauffeurs.

Having the driver on the right enabled the chauffeur to quickly get out of the vehicle and open the back door where they passengers would be seated. It would have also enabled someone who was driving his own car to get out on the curb without stepping into muddy streets and also into traffic. In many places it was illegal for the driver to get out of a car from the traffic side, in some places, this law lasted well on into the 1960s.

Interestingly, the habit of exiting on the curb side even from cars with left hand drive, and even in situations where it is perfectly safe to do otherwise can be seen in a number of films. "Psycho" for instance. In almost every scene where a driver exits the car, the do so by sliding across the seat to the passenger side.

War prize from the cruiser Vizcaya

"The prized cannon was taken from the Spanish ship Vizcaya during the battle of Santiago, Cuba, in 1898." (Detroit: A Postcard History.)

It was a 5½-inch (140mm) cannon. Apparently there is a 140mm cannon at Fort Wayne, so maybe that's where it was taken after it was removed from this site. Several of the ten 140mm guns went to places like West Point and Annapolis, according to this page.

[Everyone's grabbing cannons off the Vizcaya, or melting down bits of the ship to make cannon covers! I had no idea of the connection when I posted the very next photo. What an odd coincidence. Which we never would have found out about if tterrace hadn't asked his question. - Dave]

Something Else is Missing

In recent photos, not only is the cannon missing, but so are the rather large and detailed triumphal statues once mounted above the entrance pediment. I have yet to even see mention of that in any of my Detroit links. Many of the statues and the bell tower etc. from the old Detroit City Hall have been "stored" out in the elements for decades at Fort Wayne.

Only 46 Stars

The flag flying over the courthouse in 1910 would only had 46 stars.

[And indeed they are 46-star flags. - Dave]


Those are incredibly large chariot sculptures on the roof.

On the plus side, it's still there

On the minus side, they replaced the spire and got rid of the awesome statues on the roof. (Wonder what they did with those?) Amusingly, the cannon appears to now be a playground.

Wayne County Cannon

My curiosity was piqued by the cannon on the lawn. Was it connected with a significant battle, fort or warship (if it is a naval weapon)? Not there now, and the most recent photo showing it that I've found online is from the late 30s or early 40s. No other mentions that I've located, unlike the War of 1812 cannon formerly on the grounds of the old Detroit City Hall. Wonder if it was a victim of wartime scrap drives?

Creeping mechanization

I count 10 horse drawn vehicles and 11 motorized, so the tide is rising.

[Actually 11 horse-drawn. See lower right between the cars. - Dave]

Interesting that all of the steering wheels that can be seen are still right hand drive. Also another white clad street sweeper in the upper right - did they call them White Wings in Detroit as in NY?

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