It is always fun to profile an architect who not only created large, beautifully detailed structures, but could also turn his hand to designing elegant residences on a vastly smaller scale. For many architects who worked in Detroit during the first 30 years of the twentieth century many of them were capable of adapting to this variation in scale – including Albert Kahn, Louis Kamper and George D. Mason to name but a few.
This week we profile the work of Charles Nobel – born 1890, died in 1955. This versatile architect was very productive in the city of Detroit during the 1920’s, creating several iconic buildings.
Possibly his most famous creation was the Lee Plaza Hotel on West Grand Boulevard. Having received the commission from by Ralph T. Lee – referred to by the Detroit Free Press in 1940 as “Detroit’s most spectacular real estate operator during the 1920s” – he made more than $1 million in 10 years’ (around $15m today): Source historicdetroit.org
Nobel began working on the Lee Plaza Hotel in 1927. It was a stunning Art Deco inspired 17-story masterpiece. Its steeply sloped roof of red Spanish tile made a dramatic impact on the Detroit skyline. It featured an abundance of beautiful decorative elements inside and out, including Italian marble in the lobby, ornamental ceilings and elaborate plasterwork.
At the time it was one of Detroit’s most elaborate apartment hotels. When the Lee Plaza Hotel opened it contained 220 luxury class apartments ranging from one to four rooms. It cost $2.5 million to build – around $35 million today: Source historicdetroit.org.
In 1931 Charles Nobel created another Iconic Art Deco building – the Kean Apartments. 16 stories high with four apartments per floor, it was one of the last of the large residential apartments built on Jefferson for many years. Nobel’s attention to detail on the buildings exterior was superb, and the intricate details second to none, as displayed by the photo below.