< UNITED STATES | DETROIT: The Westin Book Cadillac
With its location facing Washington Boulevard which was once considered the “Fifth Avenue of the Midwest,” The Hotel Book-Cadillac was built and
owned in 1924 by the Book brothers, J.B. Jr., Herbert, and Frank. Frank was born and raised in the old Hotel Cadillac which the Hotel Book-Cadillac replaced. Built in
the 1830s, old Hotel Cadillac hosted presidents Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
Architect Louis Kamper’s design for the Book-Cadillac was inspired by the Italian Renaissance. During this era he also designed and oversaw the construction of four other Detroit hotels: Carlton Plaza, Park Avenue, Royal Palm, and the Eddystone. Construction on the Book-Cadillac took 17 months at a cost of $14 million. During this time gasoline was 21 cents per gallon, bread nine cents a loaf, and the average new car cost, $ 398.
When the hotel opened it was the tallest building in Detroit and the tallest hotel in the world. The 1924 grand opening of the hotel showcased 1,136 of the most modern
rooms of the time, all with private baths (an enormous luxury for that era); the most technologically advanced heating and electrical systems; five restaurants
(including the men’s only English Grille); an eight-seat woman’s beauty shop; a 20-seat men’s barber shop; tea room; cigar stand and a team of 36 telephone operators
to handle calls for 1500 telephones. The opening night gala entertained 2,000 people with a feast from a team of 200 French chefs.
Radio station WCX (580 AM) broadcast from offices on the top floor of the hotel using a 5,000 watt transmitter. In 1925 the station became WCX/WJR. Although no longer broadcasting from the Book-Cadillac, today located at Detroit’s Fisher Building, WJR (760 AM) is known as the Great Voice of the Great Lakes.
The hotel went in a downward tailspin when America was in its economic dilemma in the late 1920s and 1930s. New ownership pumped up the property and the Book Cadillac continued to flourish through the 1940s and early 1960s. However the grand lady of Washington Boulevard fell on hard times again and struggled through ownership changes and was re-flagged a Sheraton and later a Radisson, until the doors closed in 1984 and the hotel was liquidated in 1986.
Following a two year restoration at a cost of $200 million by owner and developer, The Ferchill Group, Cleveland, Ohio, The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit opened its doors on October 6, 2008. The 453-room hotel also includes The Westin Residences, seven floors of luxury living.
The hotel is featured in the 1947 film “State of the Union” with Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn (no actual filming was done in the hotel). Significant portions of the 1973 cult-film “Detroit 9000” were filmed in the hotel.
The hotel’s US presidential guests included: Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Reagan and Bush (while campaigning as Ronald Reagan’s vice-president). Other notable guests included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt and Lady Bird Johnson; Irving Berlin, Ted Williams, Errol Flynn, Danny Thomas, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Joe Louis, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and Tommy Hearns among many more.
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