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Architect Louis Kamper made Detroit the "Paris of the West"

Sep 17, 2014

Col. Frank J. Hecker House in Detroit
Credit User: Werewombat / Wikimedia Commons

The talk about blight and crumbling buildings in the city of Detroit can easily drown out another fact: The city is home to some stunning buildings that have a long history.

One of the gifted architects who helped Detroit earn a reputation as the "Paris of the West" was Louis Kamper. He envisioned not just office buildings and fabulous homes, but also bridges, hotels, police stations, and even a bathhouse on Belle Isle.

Historian Bill Loomis blogged about Kamper for the Detroit News. He says Kamper helped define the character of city's downtown architecture. 

Kamper was born in 1861 in Bavaria and received training in Germany. He came to Detroit in 1882 at age 26, and the city's transformation began. 

Kamper's first commission was to design the 21,000-square-foot house for Frank Hecker, who owned the Peninsular Car Company in Detroit. Instead of going along with the rusticated stone look that a lot of buildings in the city had, he made a French-style chateau reflecting Detroit's French heritage. That's five years ahead of David Whitney's colossal home built just down the street. 

* Listen to the interview with Bill Loomis above.