Blog: Rebecca Binno Savage

It is the work of a historic preservationist to keep buildings out of the graveyard. Well-known preservationist Rebecca Binno Savage, a project manager with AKT Peerless Environmental and Energy Services, has written the book on Detroit area Art Deco architecture. This week, she digs into a few vintage buildings and builds a case for their resurrection.

Post 3: The Brodhead Armory

On East Jefferson Avenue, just east of the Belle Isle (McArthur) Bridge is the historic R. Thornton Brodhead Naval Armory. This building has a very rich history as part of Detroit's military past and holds many memories for Detroiters who trained at the Brodhead in their careers in the Marines and Navy. The Brodhead Armory was built in 1929-30 by the Detroit architectural firm of Stratton & Hyde. building is also significant as having Michigan's largest collection of Works Progress Administration W.P.A. artwork. This includes wood carvings and plaster frescoes done as part of the public art program sponsored by the federal government. No, they can't be removed from the building.

Unfortunately, the Brodhead Armory has been vacant since the military left in 2004. The building has suffered from stolen plumbing, theft, and water damage. It is owned by the City of Detroit.

The R. Thornton Brodhead Armory is on the National Register of Historic Places and is listed as a City of Detroit historic district. It is protected with both an interior and exterior historic designation, which qualifies the building for a 25 percent State Historic Tax Credit.  

The historic preservation opportunity: The Brodhead Armory is situated on the Detroit River adjacent to Gabriel Richard Park and the River Walk. It has a square footage of 107,000 and sits on a parcel of 3.41 acres. There is a large gymnasium-type space that was originally designed as the "Drill Deck" that is approximately 15,000 square feet in size.  

While the City of Detroit has issued two RFPs in the past, they were not well advertised, and the proposals submitted went to the City Council but did not get final approval for sale. With a new administration and new City Council members, perhaps the day for another issue of another RFP could get the Brodhead Armory into the hands of a developer and off the City's vacant building list.

* Brodhead Armory photo by Rebecca Binno Savage