Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse

Michigan Bell And Western Electric Warehouse
  1. About the Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse in Detroit
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectural style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse is an Art-deco skyscraper designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylls and built between 1929 and 1930 in Detroit, MI.

Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse is not the only name you might know this building by though. The building is, or has also been known as NSO Bell Building.

Its precise street address is 882 Oakman Boulevard, Detroit, MI. You can also find it on the map here.

The Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse is a structure of significant importance both for the city of Detroit and the United States as a nation. The building embodies the distinctive characteristic features of the time in which it was built and the Art Deco style. Because of that, the Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse was officially included in the National Register of Historic Places on December 8th 2009.

The building underwent a major restoration between 2009 and 2013.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Construction completed
Added to the NRHP
years ago
  1. 2009 to 2013 - Redevelopment of the building combining the administrative offices with supportive housing for the formerly homeless.

Architect and team

Smith, Hinchman & Grylls was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design. But there was also one other architect involved, as far as we know. We are talking about Bryant & Detwiler.

The firm was founded in 1853 and under their new name “SMITHGROUP” is the oldest architecture and engineering firm still operating in the US.

During its early days, it played a significant role in shaping the architectural landscape of the city of Detroit, and theirs are some of the city’s most iconic buildings, many of their buildings have been designated as historic landmarks, becoming part of the city’s identity.

Their initial work took inspiration from the Beaux-Arts and other revival movements, however, they were quick to evolve into Art-deco and modernism when those movements were still young, and later on into sustainable design and new technological advances.

Over more than a century of activity, their designs aren’t limited to Detroit anymore, and you can find their buildings all over the country.

Smith Hinchman Grylls

Architectural Style

The Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse can be categorized as an Art-deco building.

The Art Deco movement flourished during the 1920s and 1930s, with many historians marking the outbreak of World War II as its final decline. Even though a couple of decades might not seem as much, the Art Deco movement had a great impact on architecture, and it's widely represented in many American cities due to the development boom that happened during that time.

Art Deco marked the abandonment of traditional historicism and the embracement of modern living and the age of the machine. In architecture, that meant leaving behind the ornaments of Beux-Arts and Neo-Gothic buildings and instead favoring simplicity and visual impact through geometric shapes, clean lines, and symmetrical designs. Ornaments were still an important part of the design, but they became bold and lavish, and were often inspired by ancient cultures or industrial imagery, instead of nature.

The Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse was completed in 1930, right when the Art Deco movement was at its peak, so it kind of went with the trend at that time.

Spaces & Uses

It has a total of 12 floors.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1930, the Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse has mainly been used as Commercial space.

Materials & Structure

The Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse uses a frame structure made of steel columns and concrete slabs.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade is non-load bearing either, as it is common in frame structure type buildings.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features a doble entrance doors located within a two story arched of limestone with decorative reliefs. The main door is sorrounded with aluminum plainted black. As we move higher up the building the facade is mostly made out of orange brick, with some light terraccotta details crowning the tower.

Other materials found at the Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse include, marble, used at the entrance, lobby and first floor stairway, and cocrete, of which the walls of the garage and warehouse are made of.


  • npgallery.nps.gov