Guardian Building Tour: Best of Detroit

Guardian Building Tour: Best of Detroit

Any other architecture nerds out there? While neither David nor I have any background or training in architecture, we both love touring historic houses (Biltmore, Edsel & Eleanor Ford House) and buildings. One of our favorite getaways at our last duty station was a weekend in Newport, Rhode Island, touring the mansions on the coast. All that to say, we had a feeling that a Guardian Building tour in downtown Detroit might be right up our alley!

Guardian Building tour

The Guardian Building is located near the heart of Detroit in the financial district. When it was completed in 1929, it was the tallest brick building in the world, and its distinctive brick exterior is still easy to pick out of the city skyline. The interior is a unique mix of Mayan and Art Deco styles, two passions of architect Wirt Rowland, one of Albert Kahn’s top designers. (Albert Kahn is known as the Architect of Detroit, having designed many buildings throughout the city.) Once the home of Guardian Bank, the building now houses Bank of America and several shops on the first floor with other businesses and county offices occupying the rest of the building. The Guardian Building is sometimes called “the Cathedral of Finance” and it’s easy to pick out the cathedral-like accents when you take a tour, from the apse-like front of the banking hall to the stained glass windows near the elevator.

Guardian Building tour
Tile in the lobby

Because the building is a place of business during the work week, tours are only available on the weekends. Pure Detroit, who has a shop in the banking hall, offers these tours free of charge. The tour walks you through the first floor, explaining the history of the building as well as some of the fixtures you’re seeing, takes you outside to talk about the exterior and surrounding buildings, and ends up on the 32th floor, where you get to admire the view.

Guardian Building tour view
View from the top

We thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Guardian Building, though we’re still getting the kids on board. I feel like our eight year old got something out of it, even if the youngest three are still a work in progress. Really, who could have predicted that the guide saying, “see that __ across the street?” would set our three year old off into singing “I see London, I see France!”? Fortunately, the kids can be bribed with baked goods (we checked out Avalon Breads on this particular outing). 😉 With any luck, we’ll soon convert them to our architecture-loving ways!

Know before you go:

  • There is a set of stairs on the first floor between the main lobby and the banking hall. Other than that, the tour was stroller-friendly.
  • Check the tour schedule here and reserve your tour online ahead of time – it’s free!
  • Bring cash to tip your guide!
  • Parking was easy to find nearby and it seemed like most lots had reduced rates ($10-15 flat rate) for the weekend.
  • Pure Detroit also offers weekend tours of the Fisher Building. It’s on our list!


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