Once upon a time, anyone could just waltz up onto the roof of the Penobscot Building, or wander through its 30 or so vacant floors at will. I took advantage of this at least twice, though I accidentally almost locked myself into a desolate corridor on the 25th floor once.
In early 2008, the Penobscot Building offered a limited "Behind the Scenes" tour of the building, through the Detroit Historical Society...I figured why not go and see if I can get access to a few new parts? I am not above taking hand-outs.
Pretty much every office above the 35th floor must have some kind of balcony. I've never seen them except from afar, hence my fascination and desire to check them out in person. But being a private office building, such balconies are rarely seen by anyone except the tenants and owners.
Notice the big Yzerman mural still on the Cadillac Tower:
One of the things our guide specifically mentioned was that the Friend of the Court was located right here, and as such presented unique security concerns. There is a huge atrium on the mezzanine that is two stories tall and has a barrel-vaulted golden ceiling and is just an eye-popping sight of art-deco architecture, but it has been in use for years by the Friend of the Court for their records storage room of all things, and as a result no one is allowed inside. So that's why the Penobscot seems to lack a big decorative lobby space commensurate with a building of its caliber.
A close-up of the Buhl Building, also designed by Wirt Rowland:
View out East Lafayette Blvd:
Finally--access to a balcony. This was at the 41st floor. As it turns out, that small penthouse level at the top of the Buhl Building (right) was the location of the old Savoyard Club (harumph!), once upon a time in the 1920s.
The owner mentioned something about Homeland Security busting his balls about lax security; I wonder if my forays were somehow to blame for that? Maybe somebody stumbled across my photos online and brought them to the attention of Big Brother, prompting tighter security?
The way to get up there was by taking the elevator up to 30, switch over to the other elevator, which in turn stopped at the 45th floor, and then hoof it up the stairs to the last couple service levels. In a central room at the top was a pair of doors on either side of it, going out to the second-highest roof level, and an iron ladder in the center of the room next to a huge sprinkler pipe, that led to a hatch.
The hatch had a padlock on it, but a sharp eye could see that it was left unfastened. Once you pulled the lever to open the hatch you could feel yourself caught up in a tremendous updraft of air rising out of the entire building, which would almost rip the thing out of your hand with tremendous force if you weren't prepared--almost like popping a cork on a champagne bottle, and suddenly looming above you was the dazzling sight of the tall steel spire and the Big Red Ball, stabbing up dizzyingly into the stratosphere.
The day I first was up there on the roof, I was 99% certain I heard someone else up there with me. Somehow we just missed each other. Or maybe it was the wind slamming the door to the lower roof?
When I got back down to the lobby that day I snapped a photo of the super cool Arsenal of Democracy-themed mailbox...the security guard at the front desk snapped at me that there was "no photography allowed in the building." Oh, I'm sorry, sir!
Having some second thoughts about trying that Q-Bert stuff now...
The river had a lot of ice on it this April day:
It's not often you can see Cass Tech and the city of Southfield in the same shot: