Historic Structures

Buhl Sons Company Complex (Adair Street Warehouse), Detroit Michigan

Date added: October 13, 2013 Categories: Michigan Industrial

The oldest and largest segments of this warehouse complex were designed by the Detroit architectural firm of John Scott & Company in 1919 and completed the following year. The principal building is a reinforced concrete L-shaped structure, with the main axis running north and south, just east of Adair Street, and an ell extending to the east along the Detroit River. The original construction includes a single-story, steel-framed building extending east and north from the six-story concrete building and attached to it.

Three additional buildings of later vintage make up the rest of the Buhl warehouse complex. The first is a single-story, steel-framed rectangular brick building at the southeast corner of Adair and Wight, and measures 133 feet by 180 feet (Building Permit No. 18203, September 1, 1923). It was designed for use as a garage. The Detroit architectural firm of Talbot & Meir designed the building, with construction begun in 1923 and completed at a cost of $54,000.

The second building, linking the garage with the main warehouse building to the south, was erected by the H. F. Campbell Construction Company in 1957 for $250,000. This one-story steel and concrete block building measures 170 feet by 260 feet and provided loading docks on Adair Street and additional office space (Building Permit No. 91577, April 25, 1957). Third, there is a single-story Quonset Hut, attached to the northeast corner of the large steel-framed building erected in 1920. The Quonset, measuring 60 feet by 200 feet, was built by Steel Structures, Inc., of Detroit in 1949, at a cost of $18,000.

Christian H. Buhl (1812-1894) had a remarkable career in business and public service in addition to his involvement in the hardware business: he was a co-founder of the Michigan State Bank in 1845; invested heavily in plank road companies linking Detroit with Howell, Mt. Clemens and Utica, Michigan, in 1848-1852; served as Mayor of Detroit in 1860 and 1861; was vice-president of the Second National Bank in 1863-1883; and became a major patron of the arts in Detroit during the 1870s and 1880s. In 1855, Christian Buhl became a partner in the hardware firm of Du Charme & Bartholomew (founded in 1849), which then changed its name to Buhl & Du Charme. They operated a store on Woodward Avenue, near Atwater, until 1872, when they built a larger store on West Woodbridge. Du Charme died in January 1873, and the firm's name was changed to Buhl Sons Conpany. Christian Buhl's son, Theodore DeLong Buhl (1884-1907), not only served as president of the hardware firm for many years, but he also founded and headed the Buhl Stamping Company (established in 1888), the Buhl Malleable Company (established in 1889) and the Buhl Land Company. He became a major stockholder in Parke, David and Company in December 1896, and following the death of founder Harvey Parke in February 1899, Theodore Buhl served as president of the pharmaceutical firm until his death in 1907. Theodore's son, Arthur H. Buhl, took over the management of most of the family enterprises, including the hardware wholesaling operation.

The Buhl family success in the iron and steel manufacturing industry brought about enormous growth in their hardware business. At the turn of the century, several Buhl enterprises moved into the near east riverfront area of Detroit. In 1899, the Buhls acquired the block bounded by Walker, Wight, Adair and the Detroit River, immediately west of the warehouse complex treated in this report, and established the Buhl Malleable Company manufacturing complex there. The southernmost third of this block was a lumber storage yard until 1918, when the Buhl Sons Company erected three steel-framed warehouses just west of Adair Street. The land immediately east of Adair, south of Wight, was occupied by the W.A.C. Miller Lumber Mill in 1881-1896, by the Sailing, Hanson & Company lumber yard in 1896-1916 and, finally, by the C. W. Kotcher Company, also a lumber dealer, from 1916 until 1919, when construction of the surviving warehouse-office complex began. Buhl Sons Company remained there from 1920 until the early 1960s.