Architect: Cass Gilbert, Dedicated June 3, 1921
The 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago is considered to be the birthplace of the City Beautiful movement in the United States. Led by renowned architect and urban designer Daniel Burnham, architect of Detroit’s Dime Building (now the Chrysler House), the featured “White City” was stunning, showing how civic places should be prominent and influential in U.S. cities.
Detroit Mayor Phillip Breitmeyer brought the City Beautiful movement to Detroit by establishing a City Plan and Improvement Committee. Frank Day of Philadelphia and Edward Bennett of Chicago were leaders of this committee, and Daniel Burnham consulted on the plan. In 1913, they announced their plans (Plan for a Center of Arts and Letters), and it included a major emphasis upon both the creation of a cultural center and the adoption of zoning regulations.
A competition was held to select an architect for the Detroit Public Library, the first building to be constructed under the new plan, and distinguished architect, Cass Gilbert, was selected. His other notable works include the Supreme Court of the United States Building, the Woolworth Building in New York, and the St. Louis Art Museum.
By Rod Arroyo, photographer and city planner