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15 historic American skyscrapers that aren't the Empire State Building

By: Matt Hickman on March 4, 2016, 12:53 p.m.
The Guardian Building in Detroit

Photo: Neeta Lind/flickr

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Guardian Building, Detroit

While New York and Chicago's bounty of beautifully preserved Art Deco skyscrapers tend to get most of the attention, no list of historic high-rises would be complete without mention of the skyscraper royalty residing in Motor City.

Although none surpass the 600-foot mark, the regal Art Deco skyscrapers built during the late 1920s in Detroit are reflective of a certain era — an era when the city was lousy with cash. To name a few, there's the Penobscot Tower, an edifice that reigned as Detroit's tallest from 1928 to 1977; the Albert Kahn Associates-designed Fisher Tower (1928), a 30-story tower that's home to a historic theater of the same name; and the David Stott Building (1929), a 38-story stunner realized in marble and brick. And then there's the Guardian Building, a beloved Detroit landmark boasting a breathtaking, lavishly executed interior complete with intricate tile work and stained glass. Commissioned by the Union Trust Company, this 40-story terra cotta and brick (it was the world's tallest masonry structure when completed in 1929) beauty — nickname: "the Cathedral of Finance" — stands as a riotous celebration of early 20th century American ingenuity. The Guardian Building's architect, Wirt C. Rowland, summed up his design best when he said: "We no longer live in a leisurely age … the impression must be immediate, strong and complete — color has this vital power." Amen. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1989, the Guardian Building is now home to the administrative offices of Wayne County. It's an absolute must-visit.