Lew Tuller, born in Jonesville, Michigan in 1869, completed elementary school there and attended secondary school. His father was an architect and builder from New York who constructed many buildings in Jonesville—a Hillsdale County town located four miles northwest of Hillsdale. In the Nineteenth Century, Jonesville was a more important location than today. The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad’s main Michigan line passed through Hillsdale and Jonesville on its way west toward Coldwater, Sturgis and then down to Elkhart and on to Chicago. At Jonesville, one branch line led north to Lansing, another northwest to Jackson and a third south to Fort Wayne. Lew Tuller left Jonesville for Detroit where he completed school. He learned the building trades, became a contractor and then a real estate developer. I believe that Detroit’s Thomas Palmer, the real estate investor who owned the lands now occupied by Palmer Park, Palmer Woods and the State Fair Grounds bankrolled the first contracting firm Tuller established. By the end of the 1890s, Tuller had constructed three apartment buildings: the Wetherell, the Valencia and the Saragosa. I do not think any of these remain.
Around 1900, Tuller bought property facing Grand Circus Park with the hope of reselling it at a profit. He found no purchasers so, in 1905, he decided to build a large hotel; one he named The Tuller Hotel. Apparently, many of his competitors expected him to fail since Grand Circus Park was far removed for the city’s major business district and not close to any of the city’s three major rail depots. But Tuller built at the opportune moment since motor vehicles were about to make boost Detroit’s economy and population. Tuller expanded his hotel at Grand Circus Park four times between its 1906 opening and the Depression.
In the early 1920s, Lew Tuller decided to expand his operations as one of Detroit’s leading hoteliers. He contracted with the distinguished Detroit architect Louis Kemper to design three thirteen story hotels: the Royal Palm Hotel at 2305 Park (180 rooms) and two hotels at the intersection of Park Avenue and Spoat: the Eddystone (156 rooms) and the Park Avenue Hotel (252 rooms). Presumably these hotels—and Lew Tuller—prospered in the 1920s as business people came to Detroit to serve the needs of the automotive industry and the city’s numerous prosperous financial institutions. Lest there be confusion, the Royal Palm Hotel was renamed the Park Avenue House and continues in operation under that name in 2017. You will also find people calling the former Royal Palm hotel the Park Avenue Hotel. It is confusing.
The elegant Book Cadillac displays the peak of Louis Kemper’s architectural skills in hotel design. Presumably, Lew Tuller had fewer dollars to invest in his three new hotels than did the Book brothers. Nevertheless, the Park Avenue Hotel was a very upscale place with a Tudor lobby and all the amenities that urban hotels of the 1920s could offer. It was a 13-story building with a total of 252 rooms when opened. Apparently it had an elegantly wood paneled dining room which must have been quite appealing. The picture above shows the Park Avenue Hotel in the foreground shortly before it was imploded. The hotel to the rear is the Eddystone which will be rehabilitated as part of the project that will be a new hockey arena on this site.
Apparently Tuller borrowed much more money than he could repay. I believe the courts foreclosed on the Park Avenue Hotel in 1928 and, by the time of the Depression, he lost control of all of his four hotels. He—or the courts—may have sold one or more of them to the Albert Pick Hotel chain. I do not know what Lew Tuller did after he was forced out of the hotel business. He died in Pontiac in 1957 at age 88.
The need for downtown hotels in Detroit fell sharply after the exodus of business, manufacturing and population began in the 1950s. In 1957, the Salvation Army took over the Park Avenue, renamed it the Eventide Residence and used it as a home for senior citizens. After about 25 years, the Salvation Army renamed it the Harbor Light Center—a rehabilitation location for drug addicts and a residence for the homeless individuals. In 2003, the Salvation Army moved out and the building was vacant after they departed.
In 2014, the IIitch Holdings firm that controls the Detroit Red Wings hockey team announced their intention to build a new arena in a 45 block area west of Woodward and north of the I-96 expressway just across Woodward from Brush Park. The masterpiece will be a very modern and innovative 20,000 seat stadium for sports contests, concerts and other events. The total cost of the arena may be about $450 million. Approximately $250 million will come from bonds backed by the credit of the state while the other $200 million will be from bonds issued the by Ilitch firm. The arena will be at the center of an urban village. That is, there will be residential construction, hotel facilities and shopping venues arrayed around the arena. These will be financed, in part, by Detroit Development Authority tax increment financing. Construction on this huge project started in 2015 and is scheduled to be completed in 2017. The former Park Avenue Hotel was torn down in July, 2015.
There is a Park Avenue Historic District in Detroit but it includes only those buildings on Park Avenue near Grand Circus Park including the former Royal Palm that now operates as the Park Avenue House—the only one of Tuller’s hotels still in business. That historic district did not extend to include the Eddystone and Park Avenue hotels. Interestingly, the quite similar Eddystone Hotel just across the street from the Park Avenue Hotel is a City of Detroit Designated Historic District. That may why the Ilitch Holding group that is building the new arena for the Red Wings hockey team will renovate the Eddystone but razed the Park Avenue.
Architect: Louis Kamper
Date of Completion: 1925
Use in 2017: Imploded at 8 AM on July 11, 2015.
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places: Not listed
Photograph: Ren Farley
Description updated: January, 2017
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