A little reuse story – Dalgleish to El Moore

jason peet

A week ago Friday Jason Peet gave a brief presentation on work that has been done on the El Moore to construct a fire escape-type staircase on the back of the building. As with much of our work at the Green Garage, there’s a re-use story behind this staircase. Here’s a summation of Jason’s presentation.

In order to understand the history of the El Moore’s new fire escape staircase, let’s go back to 1908, when Albert Kahn designed the American Beauty Iron Works building. It was built for the American Electrical Heater Company, maker of electric irons and toasters, and was located along Amsterdam, between Cass and Woodward in what is now called the New Amsterdam Historical District. Here’s how it looked from Woodward.

american beauty

In the 1920’s Kahn also designed a Cadillac plant complex adjacent to the American Beauty, part of which became the home of Dalgleish Cadillac, beginning in 1955. Dalgleish closed in November of 2010 shortly after GM announced bankruptcy and shut over 1,000 dealerships nationwide.

dalgleish cadillac

The Dalgleish building was purchased by Wayne State University’s Tech Town, a business incubator. WSU had previously purchased the American Beauty, which had been vacant for almost 2 decades. Wayne State is building a 93-million dollar biomedical research building on the site of Dalgleish, renovating 127,700 square feet of existing space in the former Dalgleish Cadillac building, and constructing a 75,000 square foot new building fronting Woodward Avenue. The space that had been the American Beauty (for it has been deconstructed) will become green space with a small area allocated to visitor parking for approximately five years until WSU has money for phase two of the project. An artist’s rendering of the research center is shown below.

new dalgleish site

In the Dalgleish photo, you might have noticed a water tower on top of the building. WSU had no plans for the water tower, and in fact worked with a number of individuals and organizations to try and repurpose it. But all interested parties ended up walking away for a variety of reasons. In the eleventh hour, we had a conversation with Ned Staebler of Wayne State and Sue Mosey (of Midtown Detroit, Inc) about the possible acquisition of the water tower and it’s steel legs for our project. We came to an agreement after a number of discussions about how to dismantle the water tower in a way to leave it as whole as possible but allow it to be taken by truck a few miles down the road to the El Moore without disrupting traffic.

On February 13, 2013, cranes showed up and began to take the water tower apart. The little green dot you see in the picture is a member of the crew from J.J. Curran Crane Co.


The tower was cut into two sections, and the legs taken apart and stacked next to the tower sections on a flat bed truck, then taken down Cass Avenue, ending up at Alexandrine and Second, the location of the El Moore. Here’s how it looked that day. As you can see, we barely missed the traffic lights.

moving tank

The tank pieces are resting for now on the El Moore property, and will be used as an entrance to the adjacent park. The steel legs were sent to Disenos Ornamental Iron in Detroit to be sandblasted, galvanized and painted. Last month JJ Curran was back, lifting the legs onto the back of the El Moore and forming our back fire escape. The wood portions you see will be replaced with steel.

El moore back staircase 2

So that’s how we got our fire escape. As we continue with the construction of the El Moore, more stories, I’m sure, will follow.


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