Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

– National Historic Landmark

Buffalo Trace / O.F.C. Distillery (1812-present)

Frankfort, KY

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The Buffalo Trace Distillery is on the U.S. Register of Historic Places and it is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Walking around this complex you can see and feel the history – and it is not a museum. It is an active, working distillery that has been continuously distilling liquor for over 200 years – even through the prohibition years. Not only does it have a real, gritty industrial feel, you can also feel the employee and family’s involvement and presence in the distillery.

I went on the National Historic Landmark Tour of this distillery. Click HERE for additional photos and description of the history of this famous distillery.

For additional photos and descriptions of all of the distilleries on my Bourbon Trail road trip, click here.

Buffalo Trace Website

Mission San Xavier del Bac (1797)

Construction believed to have begun in 1783, and completed in 1797.

Tucson AZ

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Visited November 15 2014

I almost didn’t venture down to this old Mission while I was visiting Tucson, but I am so glad I did. This mission is not only striking from the exterior, but the interior is an amazing display of dramatic, colorful and in some cases astonishing sculptures, paintings, frescos, moldings, carvings, and relics. The Nave and side chapel walls are saturated with these elements. The daylight coming through the dome windows and the hundreds of prayer candles creates a truly religious experience.

Mission San Xavier del Bac Website

While visiting the area I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain Resort

Pima County Courthouse (1930)

Roy Place, Architect

115 N. Church Street, Tucson AZ


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Visited November 15, 2014

While visiting the area I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain Resort

Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center (1963)

Ray Hellman, Architect

University of Nevada, Reno Campus

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Guardian Building (1928)

Wirt C. Rowland, Architect

500 Griswold Detroit MI

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While on my road trips I have my cameras with me at all times to capture the buildings I have made the pilgrimage to experience. While home in Detroit, I go past some of America’s great architectural treasures nearly every day. I have been in each of them countless times over the years and almost take them for granted. I do take visitors through them to show them off, but rarely do I think to bring my own camera.

Yesterday I was downtown and walked into the Guardian Building to be inspired. Of course my “big” camera was back home, but I took out my phone and tried to capture the experience with the camera in my phone. Consider these as just snapshots of this amazing colorful “Art Deco Mayan Revival” space. Hopefully this will be enough to tempt you to experience this for yourself the next time you are in Detroit. It is well worth the trip.

Check back for my description and comments on the building, but in the mean time enjoy the photographs.

Click here to view the Guardian Building’s website

Farnsworth House (1951)

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Architect

14520 River Road, Plano IL 60545

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Visited July 5, 2013

This is a great opportunity to experience a preeminent example of the International Style embodied in a small weekend house hovering over a vast green lawn on the banks of the Fox River. It is said that Mies personally designed the house after meeting Dr. Edith Farnsworth at a dinner party ( and obviously made a good impression…).

The pavilion is raised above the Fox River flood plain supported by 8 steel columns. The perimeter walls are composed of large floor to ceiling panes of plate glass. There is a core area which houses two bathrooms, the utility room, kitchen cabinets and  fireplace. This core area does not engage the perimeter glass walls at all, and in fact does not even go to the ceiling except a small portion which is stepped back from the core walls. The core is clad in beautiful Primavera wood veneer, a rare wood from Central America, said to be Mies favorite. All of the utility connections and the roof drain all go through the floor plane to the ground in a relatively small cylinder inconspicuously placed under the utility room.

From the lawn, wide marble steps lead up from the lawn to an elevated terrace offset to the west of the pavilion. From this terrace, the marble steps continue to lead you up to the porch at the floor level of the house. The entrance is a pair of very narrow aluminum framed full height glass doors, slightly offset from the grid to the living room side of the house to direct visitors in that direction upon entry.

It is really a one-room house ( not including the bathrooms and utility space), with spaces arranged around this core. They all have a broad view of the river and the lawn through the vast windows. It is a spectacular experience, if only I was there without the other people on the tour, living in the house for the weekend – oh well, I can dream…and to think I could have bought this one-room house 10 years ago for only $7.5 million…

Here is a link to the floor plan

Click here for the Farnsworth House Website

Thorncrown Chapel (1980)

E. Fay Jones, Architect

12968 U.S. 62 Eureka Springs, AR

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Visited April 29, 2013

A Masterpiece. This building received the AIA’s 25 year Award, and is a truly spiritual place. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains outside Eureka Springs, this proud tall structure is exquisitely detailed, even though it is constructed mostly of 2×4’s and other common stock lumber. Although quite small in size, the proportions of the structure and view of the forest all around provides an experience that rivals some of the grand cathedrals – a pure, calm, reflective experience that was both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time..if that makes sense. It is one of those experiences that is hard to put into words. Just sitting there and watching the hawks or eagles ( I am not a ornithologist) soaring in the blue sky through the tree branches, with the ferns and moss covering the rocky outcropping of the forest floor it was really quite fantastic. If you are lucky, ask the host if she is the musical director of the chapel. She may go up to the altar and sing Amazing Grace – It was an extra beautiful bonus. Sometimes I wonder how I happen upon these moments…it seems it happens more often then I deserve.

Old State House (1836)

Gideon Shryock, Architect

300 W Markham St, Little Rock, AR 72201

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This Greek Revival building served as the Arkansas State Capitol until the  current State Capitol Building opened. It is currently a museum of Arkansas history and culture. Inside, the pair of symetrical curved wood staircases are beautiful, dynamic sculptures. Not bad for being over 175 years old.

When in Little Rock and looking for a place for dinner, if you are up for a fun and colorful place, go to Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro

John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge (1866)

John A. Roebling, Engineer

Spanning the Ohio River

Cincinnati OH / Covington KY

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In 1866 when the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge opened it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was completed just a year after Abraham Lincoln’s death.

John A. Roebling was also the designer of the better known Brooklyn Bridge in New York (1883).

Still in use today by both pedestrians and automobiles, it is amazing to think that automobiles were not even around when the bridge was built. Henry Ford did not sell his first car, the Quadricycle, until 1896, and the assembly line for the Model T was first used in 1913 – 47 years after the bridge was built.

Michigan State Capitol (1879)

Elijah E. Myers, Architect

Capitol Square, Lansing MI

Aerial View and Directions

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Photos Taken July 5, 2012

I am proud to say that this is my State Capitol. I have not been inside since I was a child. I remembered that the rotunda floor was glass, which fascinated me at that young age. Well the glass floor is still there, and it is a simple surprisingly understated highlight. And of course, from the center of the rotunda floor, looking up you get an amazing view of the dome ceiling. I recommend taking the elevator up to the fourth floor where you get a closer view of the dome ceiling. Then work your way down floor by floor on the wide stairs and just explore. The Senate and House chambers are both interesting, beautifully restored, and each unique. You can get into the galleries of both houses off the third floor and get an overview of the chamber floor below. On the second floor you can get into the doorway of both the Senate and House chambers. While in the center corridor look up at the chandeliers. They are converted gas light fixtures,  and there are bronze deer and other native animals amongst the light globes. The original Supreme Court chamber was open, and I was able to walk through a corner of the space.The grand wood door to the Governor’s office was closed. Looking back on it I didn’t check to see if it was open…maybe I should have knocked?

I highly recommend a visit, even if just for a few minutes to walk into the rotunda. This is a special building,  our special building.

Click here for a video of the history and restoration of the Capitol.

Cincinnati Union Terminal (1933)

Paul Philippe Cret with Fellheimer & Wagner, Architects

1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati OH

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Last Visited March 19 2012

Visible from I-75, you may think this building is the Hall of Justice from the DC Comic’s Justice League – which it did inspire. An image of this building also appeared in the movie Batman Forever as the “Hippodrome”, where Dick Grayson’s family is killed by Two-face.

In reality, it is the Cincinnati Union Terminal for train service in Cincinnati. Designed by Paul Cret, the same beaux arts architect as the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The Art Deco facade has bas relief sculptures flanking a huge arched window assembly with a stepped fountain out in front greeting travelers.

Inside, the halfdome lobby is vast and surprisingly colorful, with bold stripes of yellows and oranges in the ceiling, and amazing colored glass mosaic murals, each 22 feet high and 110 feet long depicting the history of Cincinnati.  From the lobby floor you at first do not realize they are composed of thousands of small glass mosaic pieces, but once you realize that, there are all the more impressive.

Carew Tower (1930)

Walter W. Ahlschlager, Architect

W. Fifth Street and Fountain Square, Cincinnati OH

Aerial View and Directions

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Last visited March 19 2012

This 49 story Art Deco/Art Moderne office tower is part of the complex that includes the Netherland Plaza Hotel. Be sure to explore the street level shopping lobby to see the silver leaf ceiling and the colorful Rookwood pottery tile archway surrounds with a bold floral theme.

Netherland Plaza Hotel (1931)

Walter W. Ahlschlager, Architect

35 West Fifth Street, Cincinnati OH

Aerial View and Directions

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Last Visited March 18-19, 2012

The Historic Netherland Plaza Hotel Building opened it’s doors on January 28, 1931 to rave reviews. The 800 room Art Deco hotel has one of the most beautiful hotel lobby restaurant/bars anywhere, the Palm Court. Built as part of the Carew Tower Complex, this hotel has hosted the likes of Winston Churchill, Elvis, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bing Crosby and John and Jackie Kennedy. Make sure you stop by the consierge station and pick up the “Walking Tour & Pocket History” brochure. Take the meandering path leading up through the Palm Court, Apollo Gallery, Continental Room, Hall of Mirrors, the Julep Room, Pavillion Caprice and the Hall of Nations. Grand staircases, each different, make the “climb” from street level up to the fourth floor Pavillion Caprice a most pleasurable journey. The Pavillion Caprice hosted 16 year old Doris Day’s first professional appearance. Even the coat check room off the lobby has the most interesting art deco door surround.

This is the first building that has a post on all 3 of my blogs, check out the Hotel and Restaurant posts for additional photos of this grand old dame.

Irwin Union Bank (1954)

Eero Saarinen Architect

500 Washington Street Columbus IN

Aerial View and Directions

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Photographs taken March 16 2012

As luck would have it ( although I say this with a sad heart ) the day I visited the Irwin Union Bank and walked in the front door…was the last day that this building was open to the public. At least as a bank. All of the employees were packing up their desks, and carting off their belongings. I was able to take lots of interior photographs, probably the last opportunity in a long time. I asked several of the bank employees what they were going to do with the building. They all hedged a little, and I got the feeling they have been asked that question a hundred times and were uncomfortable because they did not have an answer. The consensus was that it may become a museum sometime in the future…a hopeful result but an unconvincing delivery.

Even if it does open as a “museum” it will not have the same feeling as being what it was designed as…a bank. When I was there, even on the last day, people were coming in and cashing their checks, and doing their banking, just as they did the first day the bank opened in 1954.

The building is an interesting low glass box with a thin white roof plane. The roof plane has 9 domes projecting out above the roof in a 3×3 grid. These domes are actually the light fixtures for the bank interior – reflectors for the suspended uplights flooding the bank with warm light. The only walls that go to the ceiling are the perimeter glass walls. The interior “walls” stop short of the ceiling. They actually look like part of the file cabinet system, with the conference room/private offices enclosed with the cabinets.  This keeps the overall ceiling plane pure and uninterrupted.

Still worth a visit….the exterior walls are all glass so you can still peek in.

First Christian Church (1943)

Eliel Saarinen Architect

531 Fifth Street, Columbus IN

Aerial View and Directions

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Photographs taken March 15 & 16 2012

For those familiar with the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, MI, elements of this building should feel “familiar”. Eliel Saarinen the architect lived at Cranbrook. He designed many buildings at Cranbrook with similar brick detailing, and interesting asymetrical placements. The First Christian Church shows an interesting mix of contemporary, Art & Crafts and  even a feeling of the old cloister and gothic places of worship skillfully integrated. His wife Loja, an acomplished textile artist, created the tapestry “Sermon on the Mount” hanging on the side wall of the alter. And keeping it in the family, the hanging light fixtures were designed by his son Eero, who also designed the St. Louis Arch, the TWA terminal at JFK, and the North Christian Church in Columbus Indiana.

North Christian Church – Interior (1964)

Eero Saarinen, Architect

850 Tipton Lane, Columbus IN

Aerial View and Directions

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Photographs taken March 16, 2012

The interior of this landmark church is as exceptional as the exterior.

It is intimate, simple, focused…


Click here for photos and description of the exterior.

North Christian Church – Exterior (1964)

Eero Saarinen, Architect

Daniel Kiley, Landscape Architect

850 Tipton Lane, Columbus IN

Aerial Photos and Directions

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Photographs taken March 16, 2012

This is one of my favorite buildings. I have visited this building 4 times, and each time I am more impressed with it’s “complex simplicity” (this term is borrowed from a business associate who summarized my rambling passionate description of the building concisely).

Saarinen’s path he creates for the faithful (and tourist alike) is a sequence of carefully and subtly planned discoveries. Starting with Dan Kiley’s landscaping, each parking area is separated with rows of hedges just high enough to screen the cars, but the hovering hexagonal church is visible just above the hedges. The procession takes you through the only opening in the hedges on axis with the church’s  exceptionally tall and slender steeple and main entrance. Past the last row of parking spaces, there is a stairway taking you up through the center of a bank of flowers approaching the church. Here you see that the hexagonal structure is centered in a recess in the ground, raised on a bunker-like base with a landscaped bank surrounding the church. You then drop down a series of low and very deep steps, “ducking” below the low metal eave, revealing the tall glass windows tucked up in the shadows of the steeply sloping soffit. The series of glass entry doors open up the glass perimeter wall allowing entry to the interior. See the next post for photos of the interior of this landmark church.

The hexagonal form is stretched in the east/west direction creating a bit of dynamism, but maintains it’s pure simple presense, floating slightly above the earth, and pointing directly to the heavens.

J. Irwin Miller House and Garden (1957)

Eero Saarinen Architect

Daniel Kiley, Landscape Architect

2760 Highland Way, Columbus IN 47201

Aerial View and Directions

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Photos taken March 16 2012

My first stop in Columbus was the tour of the recently opened J.Irwin Miller House by Eero Saarinen. This modern masterpiece is well worth the trip. The 6,838 sq. ft. single story pavilion overlooks a 12 acre site designed by Landscape Architect Dan Kiley. The structure is organized in a grid formed by 16 cruciform steel columns connected by linear skylights. There is a 50 foot long display and storage wall, a cylindrical fireplace, and the quintessential conversation pit. The exterior walls are large glass panels which slide into pockets in the wall, opening the living room to the terrace and the yard beyond. Magnificent.

The house is now owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and is open for tours. The house is meticulously preserved and maintained, none of which I can show you in my blog – as cameras, cell phones, sketch paper and pencils (or any other writing utensil) are prohibited. After the tour, you can buy a small book with photos of the house for $25 in the gift shop. I understand that this is one of the reasons that the house is (and will continue to be ) in “original” condition. ( I am also sure the rule helps with book sales).  I would have paid an additional $25 if I could take my own photos.

The house is not visible from the street hidden behind Kiley’s hedge row.

I do hope that they add a special tour for photographers to capture the angles and elements they find interesting (following strict rules and supervision to not disrupt the house and its contents). If they do….I will add my photos of the building to this post

Lincoln Tomb (1868-74)

Designed by Larkin Goldsmith Mead, Sculptor

Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield  IL

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From my archives, visited October 15 2004

Taliesin West (1937)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Scottsdale, AZ 95261

Aerial View and Directions

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From the archives, Visited September 24, 2009

This is a “must see” destination for all Architecture Tourists – Frank Lloyd Wright’s own winter home and studio in Scottsdale AZ at the foot of the McDowell Mountains in the Arizona desert. Visiting you really can sense that it feels more like a camp than a permanent complex of buildings. As you would expect from Wright’s best buildings, the building is -as he would put it-  “of the site”, not on the site. With the inclusion of the native american petroglyphs at the entrance, and the native materials used in the “Desert Masonry” walls, it feels as though it has been there forever – and I hope it remains there for many more generations to experience in person. Photos do not capture that sense of place and discovery that you experience walking through in person (and I have seen hundreds if not thousands of photos of Taliesin West over the many years). Taliesin West houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and still teaches architecture to its “apprentices” at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

There are many types of tours available for Architectural Tourists. Check out the Taliesin West Tour Webpage for details.

I took the 3-hour Behind the Scenes Tour, but there are also less expensive 1-hour tours, 90 minute tours, and Night Light tours. Take your pick and I am sure you will not leave disapointed with any of them.

Not only is Taliesin West worth the trip to tour the complex, it also has a great bookstore and gift shop. The Frank Lloyd Wright Archives are also housed there for scholars and researchers to study the principles of Wright’s work. Checkout the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Website for details.

This is truly a working/living facility, not a mothballed museum behind plexiglas – come and experience it for yourself!

After exploring Taliesin West, I recommend you stay on theme and head to the Arizona Biltmore and relax over a drink and dinner at Wright’s at the Biltmore, a Traverse360Restaurant recommendation.

Price Tower (1952)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

510 Dewey Avenue, Bartlesville, OK 74003

Aerial View and Map

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From my archives, Photos from October 17 and 19th, 2004; and November 16, 2008

One of my favorite buildings, anywhere, anytime, by any architect.

I have visited the Price Tower 3 times, and it has never disappointed, in fact each time I visit I see something new and appreciate it more.

Originally the Tower was conceived as a mixed use “skyscraper” for the Price Company, with offices, apartments and retail space. It still functions as a mixed-use tower, but with some different uses.  It is currently houses a gallery, gift shop and arts center on the first and second floors, offices and a boutique hotel in the tower, and a restaurant and bar near the top. Mr. Price’s office on the top floor ( and the rest of the building infact ) is a museum open to the public for tours.

The reinforced concrete structure of the building is concentrated in the core area of the building, with the floor plates cantilevered out from the building’s core. Wright compares the structure of the tower to that of a tree, and calls the tower “the tree that escaped the crowded forest”. There is a tap root foundation, the building core or trunk rises up and the floors are cantilevered out like the branches of a tree. The curtainwall system is applied to the edge of the floor slabs with a series of horizontal and vertical copper sunscreens providing both shade, and a complex facade design which makes each side of the building appear unique.

To appreciate how exceptional and complex this building is, you should study the floor plans. The integration of the various uses in really small floor plates is complex. The apartments are two story spaces, with the second floor angled across as a mezzanine overlooking the living area. This not only provides a dramatic two story space for the living room, but also creates an intimate exterior balcony for the bedroom as the angled mezzanine continues beyond the curtainwall in the corner. Private offices are located in the other 3 quadrants of the tower floors.

The design and construction of the building is documented in a book by Frank Lloyd Wright called “The Story of the Tower” (Horizon Press 1956). If you can get a copy of this book, you will be able to understand the design through drawings, construction photographs, and Wright’s own words describing his intentions with the design.

The last two times I visited, the Inn at Price Tower was open and I was able to stay over night in the tower. I highly recommend it. The two story apartments are available as suites, with some of the offices converted into guest rooms as well. There is nothing like spending a few days in the building. You can go on the tour, see what exhibit is in the gallery, have a drink and dinner in the 15th floor Copper Bar, and watch the sunset over the Oklahoma plains through the two story windows in the living room of your apartment hotel suite.

The Price Tower Arts Center

Boston Avenue Church (1929)

Bruce Goff of Rush Endacott and Rush, Architects

Adah Robinson, Designer

1301 South Boston Avenue, Tulsa, OK

Aerial View and Map

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From my Archives – Photos taken October 16 2004, last visited November 14 2008

This National Historic Landmark is considered one the finest examples of  Art Deco architecture in the country. There seems to be some controvery about who should be credited with designing the church, Adah Robinson, Bruce Goff’s high school art teacher, or Bruce Goff himself, an architect who became principal in the architectural firm responsible for the building.

A great glorius Art Deco masterpiece, this church and tower has bold forms and decoration. They appear in some parts as minimal sculptural forms, and in other areas applied elaborate decoration.

The Church can be toured when the building is open during regular hours and is well worth a stop.

Church Website Building History Page

Tulsa Preservation Commission web page on the Church

I am taking the time to go through my archives and posting some of the buildings I have visited prior starting this blog. While some of the photographs are taken with early low-resolution digital cameras, hopefully they capture the general feeling of the buildings…prompting a visit of your own.

Bagley Memorial Fountain (1887)

H.H. Richardson, Architect

Cadilliac Square at Bates Street

Detroit MI

Aerial View and Map (note aerial photo was taken before the fountain was installed in Cadilliac Square)

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Photos taken October 8, and October 22, 2011

The fountain was a gift bequeathed to the City of Detroit by John Bagley, a local businessman and former Governor of Michigan. The elaborate granite structure is actually a drinking fountain, with 4 lions heads spouting water. It was reported that Bagley’s will called for the design to provide “water cold and pure as the coldest mountain stream”. During hot summer months, two of the lions heads had their water chilled by blocks of ice dropped into the base of the fountain packed around the pipes. I do not see any indication of how this was accomplished, but will take the reports at face value. The fountain was actually moved several times, and perhaps the ice access was eliminated during one of the moves. Originally it was located at Woodward and Fort street, then was moved to Campus Martius in 1926. It was put in storage in 2000, and then reinstalled at the eastern end of Cadillac Square, just down from Campus Martius.

Appearing at first glance as just a stately monument, this beautifully restored fountain is one of Detroit’s historical treasures. It is Michigan’s only structure by H.H. Richardson, one of America’s most important architects of the 19th century (the only other structure in Michigan by Richardson was destroyed by fire in 1946). 

U.S. Post Office, Saginaw MI (1897)

William Martin Aiken, Architect

500 Federal Avenue, Saginaw MI 48607

Aerial View and Map

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Visited September 25, 2011

I stayed on the outskirts of Saginaw after my visit to the Alden B. Dow buildings in Midland. Sunday morning, after a quick brunch, I decided to take the “Business Route” through downtown Saginaw, rather than just hop on the expressway and bypass the city center.

In the back of my mind, from who knows what source, I thought that there was a historic Post Office that had been turned into a museum in Saginaw. A quick internet search on my phone verified that this in fact was the case, and there was a historic Richardsonian Romanesque library just next door as well.

The Post Office is a large elaborate French chateauesque building. Some quick research revealed the architect was William Martin Aiken who was the supervising Architect for the US Treasury. Currently known as The Castle Museum, the building is open to the public.

Resplendent with all of the gargoyles, finials, and assorted goo-gahs you would expect in a high Renaissance style building, this old post office still stands in a downtown where obviously many buildings have dissapeared over the years.