Who was AC Varney?

Almon C. Varney

So the thing I want to know now is how and when did A.C. Varney meet up with Charles W. Moore, and what was the nature of their relationship in the creation of the El Moore? One question leads to another question, which might lead to an answer, but then that answer leads to another question and…well…you get the idea. A little bit like M.C. Escher’s never-ending stairwell.

You can’t really talk about the history of the El Moore without mentioning Varney, who designed the El Moore (and many other buildings in Detroit) and Moore, an extremely interesting man who was responsible for the building’s construction in 1898. And by the way, I’m guessing I’m not the only one who might have noticed the ‘Moore’ in El Moore, and the ‘Moore’ in Charles Moore…? And when you consider that ‘el’ in Spanish means ‘the’ in English, and that the design style of the building is considered to be what’s known as “Spanish Medieval”…

I’m just saying.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, there are any number of places you could start in beginning to piece together the El Moore story, and the story of the surrounding area, but whatever story and beginning you choose has got to pass through these two guys. So in an earlier post I shared some information I found out about Moore, and what I did find out made me want to keep digging. But I also wanted to learn some more about A.C. Varney, so I figured the logical place to start was with information already collected on the Green Garage’s El Moore History wiki page where I found a link to a rather huge book titled “History of Michigan, Volume 3,” which was published in 1915. Sure enough there is lots of good information there on page 1257 of this 2,297-page volume about Almon C. Varney. For example, Mr. Varney “drew the plans, supervised the construction, and furnished the capital for the erection of the first flats or apartment building in Detroit [bold italics mine], this pioneer structure being known as the Varney Apartments.”

Because what else would he name it, right?

There’s more, such as a list of other impressive buildings designed by Varney, such as the Oriental Hotel. But then I took a closer look at who wrote this massive book in which Varney was described as “one of the best known and most successful architects in Detroit.”

It was a man by the name of Charles Moore.