The Greater Penobscot Building, commonly known as the Penobscot Building, is a skyscraper in downtown Detroit, Michigan, United States. Rising 566 feet (172.3 m), the 47-story Penobscot was the tallest building in Michigan from its completion in 1928 until the construction of the Renaissance Center's central tower in 1977. The tower has 2 basement floors, and 45 above-ground floors, for a total of 47. The building is located in the heart of the Detroit Financial District. The Penobscot is a hub for the city's wireless Internet zone and fiber-optic network.

Upon its completion in 1928, the Penobscot became the eighth-tallest building in the world and the tallest outside New York and Chicago. Like many of the city's other Roaring Twenties buildings, it displays Art Deco influences, including its "H" shape (designed to allow maximum sunlight into the building) and the sculptural setbacks that cause the upper floors to progressively "erode". The building's architect, Wirt C. Rowland, also designed such Detroit skyscrapers as the Guardian Building and the Buhl Building in the same decade. At night, the building's upper floors are lit in floodlight fashion, topped with a red sphere. Although the Penobscot Building has more floors than Comerica Tower (45 above-ground floors compared to Comerica Tower's 43), Comerica's floors and spires are taller, with its roof sitting roughly 60 feet taller than Penobscot's. The opulent Penobscot is one of many buildings in Detroit that features architectural sculpture by Corrado Parducci. The tower is also connected to an older and shorter building, the Penobscot Annex, which is similarly shaped. The two buildings are a part of the Penobscot Block, located at Griswold Street and West Fort Street. This is the last portion of the Penobscot complex developed. There is a Class A conference center located on the 13th floor of this building. The building was designed by Wirt C. Rowland of the leading Detroit architectural firm Smith Hinchman & Grylls. Clad in Indiana limestone with a granite base, it rises like a sheer cliff for thirty stories, then has a series of setbacks culminating in a red neon beacon tower. The ornamentation follows American Indian motifs, particularly in the entrance archway and in metalwork found in the lobby. The Penobscot Building was Detroit's tallest building for nearly a half-century, until the Renaissance Center overtook it in 1977. Upon completeion, it was the tallest building outside New York and Chicago. When it was completed, it was the eighth tallest building in the world. The old framing elevation drawing of this building list is as being 562'-2" to the highest roof, approximately 565'-8" to the parapet wall around the roof, and 654'-2" to the top of the warning beacon atop the antenna. The Smart Detroit Conference Center occupies space on the 13th floor, and includes Class A conference, meeting, or convention space. Once had at its apex "CNB" signs for a local bank that was once headquartered in the Penobscot Building. On holidays, both the Penobscot Building and the nearby One Woodward Avenue light up for the night, with red, white and blue (for Independence Day and Canada Day, and red, white and green for the Christmas season. In addition, during the Christmas season, the Penobscot Building's radio broadcast tower is illuminated bright gold, to resemble a giant glowing Christmas tree topped with a flashing red beacon. The Penobscot Building has become a souvenir item along with other Detroit skyscrapers. The first televisions in Michigan were sold in the retail space on the Griswold level of this building. For a period of time in the 1980s, it was renamed the City National Bank Building, after its major tenant. When City National was acquired by another bank, the historic Penobscot name was revived.

Origin of the name
The building is named for the Penobscot, a Native American tribe from Maine. Native American styled art deco ornamentation is used on the exterior and interior. The following version of the choice of the name of the building is found in an undated publication believed to have been published concurrent with the buildings dedication in 1928 contains the following: An intimation of the Murphy family's early history, together with the expression of genuine sentiment regarding the beginnings of the Murphy fortune, is contained in the name of the Greater Penobscot Building...... Long before the Civil War days, Simon J. Murphy and his partner, then two lads who had grown up in the Maine woods obtained their first employment in one of the logging camps along the Penobscot River - a stream named for the powerful tribe of Penobscot Indians.

The Consulate of Mexico in Detroit is located in Suite 830. The Friends of the Court occupies floors between the sub-basement and eighth floor, making them the current largest tenant of the building.


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Building Activity

  • removed a media and updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via
  • updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator