on the historic..
Lee Plaza Hotel...
~ I present ~
Lion Spandrel Panel Nr 2240
Modelled by Randall
Lee started out as a $1.50 a day furniture store employee to building up a fortune worth over $6 million prior to the crash of 1929. In 1919, Lee left his $50 per week engraving job with the J.B. VanAlstyne Engraving Company to begin investing in the real estate business. Lee began by building apartment houses in Detroit and quickly became one of the most well known builders in that city. By 1935, he had more than 30 buildings to his credit, including his Lee Plaza Hotel. The Lee Plaza's ground breaking started n May 1st, 1927 on the corner of West Grand Boulevard and Lawton Avenue. He chose the architect Charles Noble to design this hotel, and her sister on East Jefferson Avenue few years later named "The Kean."
Both the Lee and the Kean feature interesting Mediterranean and Art Deco elements, warm rusty/orange glazed brick facades, mottled glazed terracotta ornamentation, arcaded ground floor entrances, and capped by a copper gabled roof. The Lee was ornamented by sculptor Corrado Parducci. The ground floor was decorated with marble, expensive woods, bronze elevator tors, wrought-iron fixtures and elaborate plasterwork. “Like a great entrance hall in an old country chateau, the lobby of Lee Plaza bids you an appealing welcome and makes you glow with its warmth of beauty as you pause for exchange of greetings,” a 1931 brochure for the Lee states firmly.
With the onset of the Great Depression, the Lee Plaza was plagued by problems from the start because of Ralph T. Leeʼs extravagant spending. Lee sold the hotel shortly after it opened to the Detroit Investment Co., but by December 1930, the company was delinquent on its payments on a $1.1 million bond issue from 1927. The Metropolitan Trust Co. was appointed the receiver, but quickly went into receivership itself. In 1931, the Equitable Trust Co. took over, and appointed Ralph Lee an adviser. Equitable had Ralph Lee running the hotel as the manager. For about 4 years and paid him $450 per month. They also granted him considerable perks in the form of rent-free apartments in the hotel, food, room and maid services. The court however did not approve of this lavish compensation, so the bondholders asked the court to make Lee repay the compensation he had received without court approval. In July 1935, Ralph Lee admitted in court that he, his wife and a third person operated a hardware company for practically the sole purpose of selling supplies to the Lee Plaza and his other buildings at full retail prices instead of at wholesale prices. The following month, Circuit Judge Harry R. Keidan found Equitable and Ralph Lee in contempt of court and ordered them to pay the bondholders $30,000 cash. The judge also evicted Lee and his family out of the building. Two weeks later, bondholders went after Lee in court over some of his other properties. The Public Trust Commission accused him of “milking” another building named "The Lee Crest" for which he was a co-receiver. The mortgage was in default, but Lee was taking money coming in for his own salary, instead of paying off the debts on the property.
Lee also admitted that when he moved into the Lee Plaza in 1931, he sold the carpets in his Chicago boulevard home to the hotel so he could keep them. In the Fall of 1935, the Lee Plaza Hotel was bankrupt — and so was Ralph Lee. In September 1935, Lee appeared in federal bankruptcy court, trying to explain why he transferred his hardware business and interests in his buildings to his wife. “I donʼt recall now” why he made the transactions and, “I have forgotten that, too,” when asked why the transfers werenʼt recorded. Around 1937, he moved to Florida and attempted a comeback by re-entering the real estate business. But in March of 1940, he became ill and returned to Detroit for surgery. Lee died at age 49 on March 28, 1940.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 5, 1981. It was stated that “the structure is notable for its excellent state of preservation and it has never been redecorated or remodeled, unlike the majority of the cityʼs luxury hotels.” William Worden, retired director of historic designation for the City of Detroit, had led the effort to get the Lee on the historic register.
Decline, vandalism, and theft of the lions
The Lee continued to lose residents and head down hill. At the same time, the cityʼs finances was running dry and budget cutbacks would hit hard. The Lee would close it's doors permanently in 1997. Its entrances and ground-floor windows were sealed up with concrete blocks, but they couldnʼt keep the vandals and scrappers out. Once the chain link barbwired fence was cut, and the concrete blocks in one of the doors were broken out, the vandals and scrappers destroyed the interior, the ornate ballroom and marble, ripped out the wrought-iron fixtures, plumbing, aluminum window frames, and tore the entire copper sheeted roof off.
But the destruction didn't stop there, around 2000, or 2001 approximately 50 large terracotta lion spandrel panels installed below the windowsills on the top floor were stolen one by one over time.
Eventually, the theft of the lions was discovered, and a brochure promoting a new condo building in Chicago touted that the 4 lions on the new building came from the Lee Plaza Hotel in Detroit. Shortly afterwards due to complaints- the police and the FBI became involved as the theft of the terracotta lions took place over state lines. Approximately 24 of the lions and 3 terracotta gargoyles were recovered by the police from Architectural Artifacts- a Chicago salvage dealer who claimed they bought them from some other dealer in yet another state, whom they couldn't remember the name of. (yeah right!)
Lee Plaza by Andred Jameson 2008
Note that the terracotta is ONLY available in brick red and ONLY on a limited selection- the designs in the TERRACOTTA category, not to be confused with the red terracotta FINISH! which is on cast-stone only.
Prices include shipping and are shown on each sculpture on the CART PAGES.
I use FEDEX ground service for all shipments in the lower 48 states. I do not ship outside the USA.
If you are looking for something for the garden or to build into a wall, I offer a growing number of hand-pressed, kiln fired red terracotta works. for many reasons, concrete is no longer available.
All of my interior sculptures have a heavy wire embedded on the back to hang them on the wall.
These hand sculpted models are created from scratch by Randall in water based clay, and typically take an average of 20-30 hours to set up, layout and sculpt each master model.
When the clay master models are finished, they are permanently captured with silicone mold compounds which can pick up even a fingerprint and faithfully transfer it to a cast made in it. From the molds, interior cast-stone as well as a growing number of kiln fired terracotta sculptures are made available for clients to purchase.
Existing savaged pieces are limited to what happens to be for sale at high prices, often damaged, rarely found in pairs and being typically large in scale (meant to be seen from the street from 5 floors below) they are difficult to display in today's smaller homes and apartments. Instead of making molds of these pieces, Randall creates new original models based on authentic 19th century and early 20th century Victorian, Art Deco and Louis Sullivan style architectural sculptures. While I do have a small number of older designs directly molded from antique pieces, these are being phased out over time as I create my own original models.
By no means! keep in mind- your walls weigh thousands of pounds and support the roof. HOWEVER- do not use plastic or self adhesive picture hangars of any kind, or try to simply put a screw into the thin sheetrock-these will not hold, and are not designed to.
Install your mounting hooks or other hangars into the solid wood STUD inside the wall, these are spaced 16" apart. You should use an anchor rated to hold at least twice the shipping weight of the sculpture.
To show what a sheetrock wall can hold, here is a photo of two shelves I installed on my bedroom wall for original sculptures that I couldn't mount any other way, the brackets are screwed into the wall studs with 3" screws. The weight for the stone and terra-cotta shown-the top shelf; 175# and 125# for the lower shelf- 300# total.