The El Moore building, built in 1898, has seen its share of economic ups and downs in Detroit over the years. The Great Recession, which officially lasted from December 2007 through July 2009, was the worst economic time for the United States since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The U.S. auto industry and the City of Detroit were particularly hard hit by both the 2007/2008 mortgage crisis and the near-demise of two of the “Big Three” U.S. car companies in 2008/2009. General Motors Corporation (GM) was the largest recipient of the government restructuring package, and the company was forced to close many dealerships, including Dalgleish Cadillac in Detroit, GM’s first Detroit Cadillac dealership, and also its last Detroit Cadillac dealership. Dalgliesh Cadillac closed its doors on November 20, 2009.
Charles Dalgleish began selling Cadillacs in Detroit in 1954, and in 1967 he moved his dealership to the “Cass Corridor” area, purchasing an historic 1927 Albert Kahn-designed building on Cass Avenue and Amsterdam, three blocks from the then-GM headquarters on West Grand Boulevard. Although Dalgleish Cadillac was a top profit-maker for GM, the dealership was chosen for closure by GM without further explanation. The building was sold to nearby Wayne State University (WSU), and all of the remaining car inventory of luxury cars and the office furnishings were sold for pennies on the dollar.
However, the fate of the iconic water tower on the roof of the dealership, another historic landmark, was literally up in the air. WSU didn’t want it, and neither did anyone else, until Tom Brennan, owner and restorer of the El Moore, decided the water tower would be a perfect landmark for the El Moore property at the corner of Second Avenue and West Alexandrine. The water tower was old, it was rickety, it was high up on the roof of the dealership, and it was located about 1.5 miles from the El Moore.
Was Tom deterred by these facts? Of course not! He contracted with a company that detached the water tower from the roof of the dealership with a crane, carefully put it on a flatbed truck, and s-l-o-w-l-y drove the water tower from its old location to its new home.
The water tower will start its next life as the entrance to the Community Park that is being built in the El Moore Gardens on 2nd and West Alexandrine next to the El Moore building.
The El Moore is a restored historic building that is a model of sustainable urban living. Saving the Dalgleish Cadillac water tower, restoring it, and giving it a new life is an example of how historic restoration and sustainable practices just work in the City of Detroit.