Minifig scale model of original Penobscot Building in Detroit, Michigan.
About this creation
The Penobscot Building
Detroit was already an important industrial city before Henry Ford revolutionized auto production by applying assemly line methods to the manufacturing of the Model T. Prior to 1900 Detroit was known for products such as kitchen stoves and train cars. Also during the late 1800s, Michigan led the nation in the production of lumber (mainly pine). This attracted the Murphy family from Maine where lumbering was past its peak. They built a 13 story office building in Detroit in 1904-1905 to the design of architects Donaldson and Meier and named it after the Penobscot river in Maine where they got their start in the lumber industry. The river had originally been named after an Indian tribe in that state. This first Penobscot building was the tallest skyscraper in Detroit from 1905 until 1909 when the Ford building was completed on the same city block. Later two more Penobscot buildings were added to the original and all three form what is called the Penobscot Block.
The Lego Model
My Lego model of the Penobscot Building gave me the chance to use a number of colors in the construction. Compared to the rather monotonous light blue gray of the 1928 Penobscot, this older more detailed building was a bit more fun to work on. I managed to complete the model just in time for the 2007 NMRA National Train Show which was held at the Cobo Conference Center in downtown Detroit (July 27-29). The real Penobscot block was only about 2 city blocks away from the train show.
Construction Start: May 3, 2007.
Construction End: July 23, 2007.
Current Status: Office buildiing - in use.
Roof: about 100 bricks high (about 3.1 feet/1 meter).
Architectural Top: about 112 bricks.
Foorplate: 65 x 71 studs.
Portability: Building separates into two (should be at least three!) modules for transport to MichLTC shows.
Sand blue - first three stories of front facade.
Light blue gray - side walk, side and rear walls, some entablature details and roof.
Tan - represents terra cotta portion of upper facade and window surrounds.
Dark blue gray - some window frames and details on ground floor.
Dark red - brick portion of middle facade.
Reddish brown - window frames on lower portion of facade.
Black - sealed doorways that will lead to Penobscot Annex.
A couple of general views of the facace showing the dark red 1x2 plates (with a few red-brown ones for variety) that form the exterior of the middle section of the building. Since the building was in the middle of the block, only the front facade got the full fancy treatment.
The base of the building features a blue-grayish granite or similar stone facing. Inside the entrace way is a small lantern hanging from a Lego chain. The first floor now contains several shops.
This beaux-arts classical style building has a variety of ornament. To the left you can see the dentil molding just above the top floor windows. I first developed the technique for this molding on my generic neoclassical bank a few years ago. At the very top is a different kind of molding - egg and dart - that I have applied for the first time in Lego to this structure. This SNOT technique uses 1x1 tiles on the first row that are partially covered by the tooth style plates. The studs of the tooth style plates are then covered by 1x4 panel plates that form the top of the cornice.
To the right is a view that shows how the building relates to the later 47 story Penobscot Building (1928).
A couple of scenes from the 2007 NMRA National Train Show in Detroit. The 1905 Penobscot building, despite being about three feet high, had a rather minor effect on the skyline. That is actually a good thing. MichLTC had such a large number of buildings for the city that its density prevented the observer from being able to see all the buildings at any one time. The building in the foreground in the picture on the left is the Kean Apartments (another Detroit landmark) that was built by fellow MichLTC member Peter Guenther. Chris Leach built the Chase bank building that is also visible in both shots.
Two views of the original Penobscot building in downtown Detroit. And to those who might wonder if I got mugged when I went there to take these pictures, I have never had any trouble during any of my numerous trips downtown (even when I was by myself). For anyone in the area who is interested, an organization called Preservation Wayne provides architectural tours of downtown Detroit and other nearby districts.