INTRO: Another historic Detroit building is headed for a landfill. The Hotel Charlevoix came down this morning at 7:30am. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus reports.
Ralph Sachs is a lawyer in Troy. He bought the Charlevoix 32 years ago and failed to fix it. The hotel was built more than 100 years ago. A Wayne County judge ordered Sachs to demolish it. The Charlevoix was is in a popular entertainment district behind the Fox Theatre. Art Dore operates from Bay City. He got the demolition contract. Dore spoke while his backhoes and bulldozers moved bricks and beams.
“That steel was made by Andrew Carnegie back in the day,” Dore said. “1904.”
“How do you know?” I said.
“His name is on it.”
“Doesn’t that seem sad though that this has to go that way?”
“Well it is but the building wasn’t maintained so it got dangerous and you have to do this. So everybody is happy. That’s what it’s all about.”
Some people say there’s more. And they’re not happy.
Detroit Free Press copy editor Dan Austin has authored two books about historic Detroit. He wrote that the Charlevoix (should) serve as a lesson going forward that the city must hold property owners accountable before more pieces of Detroit’s storied past go beyond the point of no return. A famous 26 story department store was demolished in 1998. But it has not been a lesson for most Michiganders. I asked Art Dore Junior about it.
“And how does this compare to the Hudson’s building…the grand daddy of demolition?
“Hudson’s was a lot safer as far as the strength of the columns and that. Much heavier. These columns down here were about a half inch thick on the flanges where Hudson’s were about 2 inch thick at the base. Hudson’s would still be standing without a problem. Yes sir.”
Art Dore Sr. would not reveal how much he’s getting paid. But he said, “not enough. There are too many demolition contractors already here in Detroit.”
Years of demolition and only about a year of construction, thanks mainly to one guy: Dan Gilbert. In February I asked him if he would buy the Charlevoix.
“Where’s that?” Gilbert asked.
“It’s in Charlevoix,” said Matt Cullen, his top real estate man.
“It’s in Grand Circus Park,” I said.
It was there until 7:30 a.m. this morning.