Lafayette Park gains national landmark status

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit—Lafayette Park, the neighborhood northeast of downtown dotted with high-rises and townhouses, and known for its modern architecture, has attained the status of national historic landmark. It is one four sites in the United States awarded the designation Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathon Jarvis.

The designation is intended to “recognize places of national significance in communities throughout the country,” said Jarvis said in a written statement.

Lafayette Park is one of the earliest planned and most fully realized urban renewal projects of the mid-20th century. “It succeeded in creating an ethnically diverse community that continues to thrive today and is generally regarded as one of the best and most successful examples of a residential urban renewal development in the nation,” the Department of Interior said in declaring it a landmark.

Part of Lafayette Park was meant to replace Black Bottom, a predominantly black neighborhood that was demolished to make way for the Chrysler Freeway.

The neighborhood consists of a 78-acre housing development designed and realized by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, considered a master of modern architecture. It was founded by developer Herb Greenwald to help keep the middle class in the city. Alfred Caldwell designed the landscape and Ludwig Hilberseimer was also involved in the urban design.

The neighborhood is a collection of one- and two- story townhouses, a small neighborhood shopping center and two high-rises set adjacent to a 19-acre municipally operated park also called Lafayette Park. The buildings are planned along three roadways that enter the development from the west.

The other historic landmarks announced Tuesday were First Peoples Buffalo Jump, Cascade County, Montana;· George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Alexandria, Virginia, and Red Rocks Park and Mount Morrison Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, Jefferson County, Colorado.

“Though very different from one another, these places reflect the creativity and ingenuity of the American spirit,” said Jarvis.

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