Wayne State University Historic District, photo submitted 1978
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Wayne State University Historic District
4735-4841 Cass Avenue (Historical Marker - SW corner of Cass and Warren avenues), Detroit - Wayne County
Property Type district
Historic Use EDUCATION
Current Use EDUCATION
Style Classical Revival
Queen Anne
Architect/Builder FIELD, HINCHMAN AND SMITH
Malcomson and Higginbotham
Narrative Description The Wayne State University Historic District comprises three structures: the Mackenzie House, the Hilberry Theater, and the former Detroit Central High School (Old Main). The Mackenzie House is a two-and-one-half-story Queen Anne house with walls of red brick topped by a slate hipped-roof with gables. A two-and-one-half-story tower topped by a conical turret dominates the structure. The two-story Neo-Classical Hilberry Theater has walls of brick and is fronted by an Ionic colonnade supporting a rectangular entablature and pediment. Old Main, the largest building in the district, is the centerpiece of the campus. Old Main was originally a four-story, T-plan building with two wings projecting from one side, and a rectangular extension on the rear wing. The building rests on a raised, rough-cut stone basement and has walls of brick topped by a hipped-roof which is broken by parapeted gables and finials. The five-bay entrance facade is flanked by projecting corner bays and is dominated by a massive, square clock tower standing on a two-story stone foundation. Two-story arched window frames are separated by the fourth story by a stone bandcourse.
Statement of Significance The Wayne State University Historic District is significant for its adaptive contribution to higher education and is a focal point of growth for the university. Old Main, originally a T-shaped building housing the Detroit Central High School, was built in 1896 from plans by prominent Detroit architects Malcomson and Higginbotham. The building was the first to house junior college classes and later university courses. It has undergone several additions but remains the focal point of the campus. The next building adopted by the university was the Hilberry Theater, constructed in 1917 from plans by Field, Hinchman & Smith; one of the earliest examples of the Neoclassical style in Detroit. The Hilberry, originally the First Church of Christ, was purchased and converted to a theater by the university in 1961. The Mackenzie House, built in 1895 from plans by Malcomson and Higginbotham, was originally a residence and is currently leased by the university to Preservation Wayne and the University Cultural Center Association.
Marker Name Wayne State University
Marker Text Wayne State University Here in the Central High building, completed in 1896, was founded in 1917 Detroit Junior College, from which grew a college of liberal arts. It united with other colleges, some begun here and some bearing notable histories in other parts of the city, to form a municipal institution, which in 1934 was named Wayne University. The oldest college, that of medicine, began in 1868. Wayne, with its ten colleges and schools, was sustained by the people of Detroit through their Board of Education until 1956, when it became a state university.
Period of Significance 1866-1900
Significant Date(s) 1895, 1896, 1917
Registry Type(s) 10/21/1958 Marker erected
06/23/1978 National Register listed
01/19/1957 State Register listed
Site ID# P25280