Apartments on Davenport, 1905
Chesterfield Apartments at the corner of
Aderna Court Apartments
Naomi Apartments, 1924
This is one of four component historic districts included within the National Register of Historic Places’ Cass Farms Multiple Property Submission. The three others are the Warren-Prentis Historic District, the West Canfield Historic District and the Willis-Selden Historic District.
Compared to the large cities of the East Coast and to Chicago, Detroit is a city of many single-family homes and few apartment buildings. Nevertheless, you find an appealing array of apartment homes in Detroit illustrating many architectural styles—some constructed late in the Nineteenth Century and other much more recently. The city’s population boomed from 286,000 in 1900 when it was the nation’s thirteenth largest to 1.6 million in 1930 when it was fourth largest.
The Cass-Davenport Historic District honors the architectural and social significance of four buildings. The Davenport, facing the street of that name, was designed in the Beaux Arts style and built in 1905. Six years later, the Chesterfield at the corner of Davenport and Cass was completed in the classical style. Both of these provided spacious, even elegant, apartments for prosperous families. In 1924, the other two apartment buildings in this historic district opened. Both buildings included more apartments than the Davenport or the Chesterfield and offered efficiencies as well as multiple room units. The Aderna Court—now known as the Tudor Arms—at the corner of Cass and Martin Luther King was designed as a Tudor Revival Building. Directly across the street is the Naomi building designed in a functional Italian Renaissance style. This is the largest of the four building and originally contained 78 units. Over the years, the buildings—except for the Davenport—went through several name changes. The Chesterfield was renames the Bon Rea around 1920 and, two decades later; the Naomi became the Cass Plaza Apartments.
The Cass Corridor area of Detroit may have sunk to its nadir in the decades following the racial riot of 1967. I believe that three of the apartment buildings—all but the Aderna Court—were abandoned. By 2007, the Cass Corridor Development Corporation had completely refurbished the Chesterfield into a 24-unit building with hardwood floors, marble counters, oak cabinets and ceramic tiles in the baths. The Davenport, which was occupied until the recent past, was for sale and, unfortunately, the Naomi looms over the corner of Cass and Martin Luther King as an abandoned hulk awaiting redevelopment. There are signs of a slow to moderately rapid revival in other neighborhoods adjoining Cass. It will be interesting to see if the gradual populating of downtown Detroit and the repopulating of the Cass Corridor leads investors to convert the Naomi and Davenport buildings into condominiums.
If you are walking in this neighborhood, you can easily see three other buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places that are not more than 100 or so yards from the Cass-Davenport Historic District. The Classic Revival style Architects Building is at 415 Brainard. The Hotel Stevenson—built to house workers coming to Detroit for the World War I boom—is at 40 Davenport while Detroit’s oldest surviving public school building—Clay School—is at 453 Martin Luther King just south of Cass.
City of Detroit Designated Historic District:
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: P26,205
Federal Register of Historic Places: District #97001100 Listed November 7, 1997
Photographs: Ren Farley
Description prepared: March, 2007
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