Preservation Detroit has more than 200 books about the history, architecture and neighborhoods of Detroit, and historic preservation. Our archives contain photos, slides, blueprints, newspaper clippings, ephemera, and document collections related to specific buildings and neighborhoods.
If you’re wondering if we have material on a subject you are researching, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have started to digitize our archives. We welcome volunteers, so if you’d like to help, please fill out our volunteer application and indicate your interest in the comments, or email our librarian at email@example.com.
Collections of note:
Mr. Smiley’s Briefcase
Paul Smiley ran his piano business, Smiley Brothers, out of Detroit’s Louis Kamper-designed mansion at Woodward and Ferry Avenue for several decades. Many Detroiters recall having lessons and recitals in the Chateau Chenonceau-inspired structure. When the Hecker-Smiley mansion was restored in the 1990’s, a briefcase from the 1930’s was found and donated to Preservation Detroit. The briefcase is a window into the life of a traveling piano salesman of the era, containing piano catalog photos, advertisements, correspondence, receipts, and accounting records.
Preservation Detroit’s History
See images from Preservation Detroit’s beginnings as Preservation Wayne, a student group formed to save the David Mackenzie House. We fought an intense battle to prevent the house from demolition as Wayne State University expanded in the 1970’s, and we undertook extensive restorations.
Preservation Detroit has always had its home in the David Mackenzie House. David Mackenzie was a pioneer in Detroit education. As Principal of Detroit Central High School (now WSU’s Old Main building), he established the Detroit Junior College, which grew into the College of the City of Detroit, was renamed Wayne University in 1934, and then Wayne State University in 1956.