Albert Kahn designed this massive apartment building early in his career when he was still collaborating with George Mason. This is a 6-story, U-shaped building with an irregular and course limestone façade. Note the four impressive octagonal towers on the corners and the unusual limestone roof balustrade.
The historical significance of this structure lies in its use of reinforced concrete. In the late 19th century, heavy beams and iron were frequently used in the construction of buildings. These materials limited the size of buildings and made them fire risks, so French and US architects sought to use concrete more extensively. In the first decade of the 20th century, only a daring and imaginative architect would use reinforced concrete for the floors of a building. Kahn and Mason agreed to try. In 1903, they completed the Palms Apartment Building on East Jefferson that you see and an Engineering Building on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Both are still in use. These two buildings and an apartment building on Rue Franklin in Paris designed by Auguste Perret were the first large-scale successful uses of reinforced concrete. Kahn quickly developed the effective use of reinforced concrete in the construction of the massive factories needed by Detroit's emerging automobile industry.
Architects: George Mason and Albert Kahn
Date of Completion: 1903
Style: English Renaissance with imaginative embellishments by the architects
Use in 2002: It is still and apartment building.
State Historical Register: Listed August 3, 1979. Local historic district established
National Register of Historic Sites: Listed October 9, 1985
Photo: Ren Farley, August 2002
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