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Detroit: Preservation & Perseverance in the Motor City

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Departure Dates

  • Sep 25, 2018 - Sep 29, 2018




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Detroit: Preservation & Perseverance in the Motor City

National Trust Tours is delighted to extend this unique opportunity to experience Detroit on a tour offered with our friends at Architectural Adventures, the official travel program of the American Institute of Architects.

For most of the 20th century, Detroit was our nation’s economic dynamo, a vibrant engine of progress and experimentation. This heritage is reflected in the treasure trove of outstanding historic homes, buildings, and factories that still define the cityscape. And while Detroit has struggled into the 21st century, its role as a center for architectural innovation is undiminished, with countless efforts to preserve hundreds of beautiful, at-risk buildings. This unique travel program designed specially for the National Trust and AIA focuses on these preservation efforts and highlights the innovative works of great architects like Daniel Burnham, Cass Gilbert, Philip Johnson, Albert Kahn, and Mies van der Rohe.

Detroit’s Historic Preservation Movement


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Ship Information

Aloft Detroit at The David Whitney
The Aloft Detroit hotel opened in 2015 in the recently renovated David Whitney Building now restored to its Golden Age glory. The 19-story Neo-renaissance architectural gem, built in 1915 in homage to lumber and shipping magnate David Whitney Jr., features a soaring four-story atrium with gold-leafed ornamentation. The Aloft Detroit blends vibrant, modern décor and an urban chic bar lounge with the architectural legacy of Detroit’s iconic landmark—a testament to successful historic preservation and reuse.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Welcome to Detroit Upon arrival in Detroit, take an independent transfer to the Aloft Detroit hotel, located in the beautifully renovated David Whitney Building. Meet your fellow travelers and local expert guide and set out on an orientation driving tour of the city’s late 19th- and early 20th-century architectural works that have been restored recently, are currently under restoration, or remain at risk of being razed. Also see mid-century architectural projects by innovative architects Philip Johnson, Mies van der Rohe, and others, including Minoru Yamasaki’s One Woodward Avenue, the predecessor of his design for the World Trade Center. Stop for an interior visit of the lavish 1920s Fox Theatre for an
exclusive glimpse into one of Detroit’s most extravagant and fanciful movie palaces. Enjoy a welcome dinner and get to know your fellow travelers at the Parks & Rec Diner, a refurbished private space inside the preserved Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) building, a 19th-century meeting hall that sat empty for 30 years before local businesses restored it in 2011.  (D)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Cranbrook Academy & Boston-Edison
Celebrated as the “cradle of American modernism,” the Cranbrook Academy of Art maintains its role as a leading institution for 20th-century art,
architecture, and design. Begin the day exploring Cranbrook’s expansive campus, making special visits to the Art Deco home of Finnish-American
designer Eliel Saarinen. Then chat with an artist-in-residence about Cranbrook’s long-held tradition of sponsoring promising artistic talent. Step
into the Cranbrook Museum to get a glimpse of the fantastic permanent collection of sculpture and furniture. After lunch in the arts district, tour the Boston-Edison neighborhood, a historic district with homes dating from 1905 to 1925 in a variety of architectural styles. A local entrepreneur invites us into her restored house for a look at its stunning architecture. We return to the hotel for an independent evening and dinner at leisure.
(B, L)
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Preservation Detroit
Spend the day with the preservationists who are the backbone of Detroit’s revitalization. Visit the headquarters of Preservation Detroit, where staff
members will give us a unique look at exactly what it takes to save and restore Detroit’s irreplaceable landmarks. Begin with a stroll through Wayne State University’s campus and see Minoru Yamasaki’s Modernist masterpiece, the McGregor Memorial Conference Center, designated a National Historic Landmark in 2015. Then set out on a driving tour of the city to see some of Preservation Detroit’s success stories including the Art Deco Fisher Building, the recently restored Belle Isle Aquarium, and Howard Crane’s iconic Detroit Opera house. After lunch on the waterfront, continue the tour with special access to buildings under restoration in neighborhoods such as Brush Park, where the city’s Gilded Age mansions still stand. End the day with a reception in at a historic house currently being restored by Preservation Detroit. (B, L, R)

Friday, September 28, 2018
Detroit Institute of Arts & Corktown
Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts for a guided tour of the collection including Diego Rivera’s large frescoed panels depicting scenes from the Ford Motor Company’s plant at the River Rouge, William Randolph Hearst’s armor collection, and works by American artists George Bellows, Frederic Church, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, and others. Enjoy lunch at Traffic Jam and Snug, a local Detroit eatery featuring an in-house bakery, microbrewery, and dairy. Then explore the fascinating rehabilitation projects in Corktown, the oldest neighborhood in the city, and visit local craftsmen working on design projects that are reinvigorating the storefronts and brands that once defined Detroit. After time to freshen up at the hotel, rejoin the group this evening for a festive farewell dinner in a popular downtown restaurant.  (B, L, D)

Saturday, September 29, 2018
Edsel & Eleanor Ford House
Discover the opulent Eleanor and Edsel Ford Estate, tucked along the sparkling seashore of Grosse Pointe. Just half an hour outside of the city, this lavish mansion and expansive architectural style feels a world away. After a private tour of the home’s magnificent interiors, stroll through the estate’s gorgeous manicured grounds before breaking for lunch in the butterfly garden. After lunch, a group transfer will bring travelers back to the hotel or to the Detroit airport for independent flights home this evening. (B, L)