Town Apartments

Town Apartments
  1. About the Town Apartments in Detroit
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectural style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Town Apartments is an Art-deco skyscraper designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylls and built between 1928 and 1953 in Detroit, MI.

Town Apartments is not the only name you might know this building by though. It is common for companies to want to attach their names to iconic buildings when they move in, or for the general public to come up with nicknames, and this one is no exception. The Town Apartments is also known, or has been known as, Pontchartrain Club, Town Residences, or Town House Apartments.

Its precise street address is 1511 First Street, Detroit, MI. You can also find it on the map here.

The Town Apartments 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 Town Apartments was officially included in the National Register of Historic Places on March 4th 2016.

The building underwent a major restoration between 2014 and 2016.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Project cancelled
Construction completed
years ago
  1. 2014 to 2016 - A laundry room, a bicycle storage area, a gym, and a community room were added. In the apartments, the kitchens, floors, and windows were replaced, in addition to the heating and cooling system.

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 Fridy, Gauker, Truscott & Fridy.

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

Smith, Hinchman & Grylls and the other architects already mentioned were in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline involving many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but at the very least we know that there was one other part involved, that was Fridy, Gauker, Truscott & Fridy in charge of Structural Engineering.

Architectural Style

The Town Apartments 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 Town Apartments was completed in 1953, significantly after what could be considered the end of the Art-Deco movement. It was clearly inspired by the movement, but because it doesen't really fit into the movement's timeline it would be considered as a post-movement or neo-movement.

Especially during modern times, there are less imposed rules when it comes to design. Variety and experimentation are welcome, and architects are given the freedom to take inspiration from a wide range of sources.

Looking at the past for inspiration can be a great starting point for an architectural project, and something which Smith, Hinchman & Grylls clearly took advantage of to design the Town Apartments. Architects may choose to look to the past for multiple reasons. It could be that they want the building to merge with an older surounding, give it the feeling of having been there for longer than it actualy has, personal preference or it might even be a requieremnt from the client.

Spaces & Uses

The Town Apartments reaches an architectural height of 194ft (59m). It has a total of 16 floors, 15 above ground and 1 basements, served by 5 elevators.

In regards to parking space, the building has a total of 25 spots available, which roughly equals 2 spots per floor (above ground).

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1953, the Town Apartments has mainly been used as Residential space.

About the residences

The Town Apartments has a total of 250 residential units throughout its 15 floors.

194ft (59m)
1 basements

Materials & Structure

The Town Apartments 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 light colored bricks with some terracotta details in the upper part of the tower.